Volvo’s cute little runabout is sexy, sporty and sophisticated. The perfect wheels for the young executive gal just starting out.
By Jeanne McDowell
The Big Picture
I learned how to drive when I was 20 years old in Dallas, Texas, and my first car was a standard, or what I affectionately called a “stick shift.” I loved the vroom of accelerating onto the freeway and hearing the sound of the engine as it kicked into high gear. I was a powerful young woman roaring down the Texas highways, Queen of the Road (yes, I know I’m dating myself here), in charge of my own journey and fate. Still channeling my Macha, all the cars I purchased after that also had standard transmissions. Then I became a Mom and traded my passion for a sensible automatic station wagon that didn’t seem so perilous when I stopped on an incline with my baby in the back seat.
Now daughter dearest is off to college, and I’m channeling my pre-Mommy road-warrior self again. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to review the Volvo C30 T5 (R-Design), a sporty, iced white (that’s what Volvo calls it) six-speed turbocharged model with a sloped glass hatchback and a very peppy clutch. I was flooded with memories, not the least of which was the challenge of getting that clutch-accelerator balance right the first time I learned. It took a few hours and numerous pops of the clutch, but happily my memory muscle is still intact and it all came back to me. Clutch gently out, easy on the gas pedal, a synchronism that yielded a purringly smooth gear change. “Ooh, I’m still good at this,” I boasted to myself.
But enough sentimentality. Here’s the big picture: the 2013 Volvo C30 is comfortable, energetic and damn fun to drive. Serious sports car drivers (like our Ms. Tara, editor of VroomGirls) undoubtedly prefer the hardcore manual transmission of a pricier models like the Porsche or Ferrari. But for me, the 2013 Volvo C30 offers all the fun of driving a manual transmission (though the car is available in an automatic version) sporty (I didn’t say sports) car with numerous comfort and safety features.
An Inside Job
The interior design of the 2013 Volvo C30 I tested is downright awesome. The seats are two-toned black-and-crème-colored fabric with stitching (in the opposite hue) that suggests racecar driving. The front seats are extremely comfortable with plenty of leg and headroom. All good. But the back seat falls down on the job.
Volvo was clearly determined to create a vehicle that could only seat four, and squeezing a third in here is not really an option. As it is, whoever sits in the back seat hopefully doesn’t have very long legs. The backseat space is pretty cramped. So is the trunk space in this model, only 13 cubic feet with rear seatbacks up and 20 cubic feet when both are down.
On the bright side, the 2013 Volvo C30 interior has plenty of cup holders, pockets and spaces for stuff, and the dashboard is easy to figure out – not so packed that it feels like you’re in state-of-the-art cockpit. The hatch is also where the fun comes in. The large sloped glass makes for a terrific view out the back with no blind spots, and gives a driver a sense of airiness in the otherwise tight space.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the 2013 Volvo C30 a score of “Good” in frontal offset, rear and roof strength safety tests and side impact. Like all models that come off the Volvo assembly line, the 2013 Volvo C30 features an impressive list of standard safety equipment including anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and traction control. The Volvo C30 also features whiplash protection in which the front seats cradle the spine and neck of passengers in the event of a rear-end collision, reducing the possibility of whiplash injury.
A turbo 2.5-liter engine makes for good power and a nice ride, once you master changing gears, should you opt for the manual transmission over the automatic. The R-Design amps up the power and has quicker, more precise steering. I particularly enjoy the C30’s peppiness, and the car handles well, especially when I kicked it into high gear on the highway. An all-around fun ride.
A Climate package on the 2013 Volvo C30 allows you to create your own interior habitat: heated front seats, electronic climate control, headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers. No, it can’t solve global warming.
Although the 2013 Volvo C30 isn’t a family car, it’s a thoroughly fun, sporty drive that will make you feel young again (unless you are young, in which case you’re lucky). And I do recommend the stick shift rather than automatic if you want to truly feel the car and yourself in the driver’s seat. While an automatic transmission is convenient and easy, in a C30 with a stick shift you will experience the joy of driving.
The supercharged six-speed manual transmission.
Comfortable front seats with just the right contours for neck and back support.
The back seat is too cramped for most adults with over-45-year-old tushies. Great for a double date, not so good for a family with three kids.