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2012 Volvo S30 Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

2012 Volvo C30 Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 Compact Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks

Chevy Sonic


Fiat 500 C

Mini Cooper

Nissan Versa

Honda Civic Si

Hyundai Accent

Take your pick when you describe the 2012 Volvo C30 compact. It's a kinda car. But then it's a kinda crossover with its butt-lifted rear end with a baseball cap visor kinda spoiler over it all. It's definitely in-your-face so to speak. And if we were to be honest in describing it, we'd probably use the "W" word that borders on profanity for many American drivers. Apparently in Volvo's Swedish heritage, saying wagon doesn't offend anyone at all.

Retracing a bit of Volvo history, this is the original, dominant, inventive safe car company that was saving lives at a time most people didn't like being reminded that driving can be a dangerous preoccupation if you're not properly protected inside. For that sterling, well-earned reputation, Volvo gained one of the most loyal fan clubs to ever populate autodom. It also gained some criticism for being; well, not as upbeat as some of its competition. And pair that with the idea -- maybe a decade or two ago -- that a hatchback in the U.S. was mostly limited to expanded use minivans or some subterranean inspired compacts that didn't pretend to fire up our senses, and the result would be a resounding "eh." Right?

Well, no. Fast forward to 2012 and the Volvo C30 for a sleek, chic and definitely tweaked confirmation such an impression is all wrong. Of course Volvo is still in the life saving market with its continuing top safety pick ratings. But in a nod to the contemporary jungen buyers who are the target of EVERY auto company around, it wears a blatantly contemporary exterior that's every bit as intriguing as its Euro neighbors'. And its scoot-ability, especially with a manual transmission, is equally as agile.

Visually, this stylish Volvo appears to lunge forward at a standstill, thanks to a smooth design that flows rearward from a revised and dominating front. Elongated headlamps follow the slant-eyed trend that can have a deer-in-the-headlamps impact on anyone in their path. They just look so intimidating, especially with sporty fog lamps just below. Volvo's iconic offset emblem in mid-grille let's you know they're watching out, however, not trying to run someone down. Dual exhaust tips peak out from beneath the glass-laden rear hatch for punch. 

Checking the insides we wonder about some of the fuss we've heard about. Sure there are multi-hued color treatments of seating and such. But who needs more "blandom" in an auto world already populated by far too many gray upon gray autos with multi-toned gray or bore-me-with-beige interiors.

The instrument panel retains the Scandinavian sense of simplicity rather than complexity. As usual, there's the latest version of Volvo's trademark center console that flows cleanly down and rearward in a design somewhat reminiscent of a TV remote. (Volvo's description, not ours.)

While the front seats can slide fore or aft with plenty of track, climbing into the back seat of any tiny two-door can be a challenge for anyone older than 12. The C30 is no exception. And staying there for the duration is best restricted to the more diminutive. A six-footer might suffer a tinge of cabin fever on a long journey.

But restricting the front-drive C30 to travel-duty interstates would be a shame. Powering through playful road curves and the hill crests one can encounter when avoiding express roads, the C30 demonstrates its ability to have fun. That's thanks to the 2.5-liter, turbo-charged inline 5 generating 227-HP that's on all six trim levels. The three available transmissions are a six-speed manual, five-speed automatic or six-speed automatic. EPA mileage ratings are 21/30 5-speed automatic and 21/29 manual.

For 2012, Volvo has made Bluetooth, rear center armrest and security alarm standard. A new Premiere Plus edition includes power glass sunroof, and power driver's seat with memory and power front passenger seat. New top-line Platinum trim adds LED daytime running lights and optional fog lamps.

With popularly-equipped C30s running from $24,950 (T5) to $29,350 (Platinum) this isn't a cheapo auto. But the priciest option is the $1,250 six-speed "Geartronic" automatic transmission with "Auto-stick" manual function that's available on all models. No matter how it's equipped, we think the C30 is the kinda car that's simply a blast to drive.

Visit the Volvo website, click here.