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2008 Volvo C30 T5

One look at the Volvo C30 and you may think hot hatch, but Volvo actually considers it a luxury coupe. Perhaps it doesn’t appear luxurious at first glance, but spend some time with this Swedish coupe and it will make sense. After a day out in the C30, I got it. The subtle, but elegant styling cues, as well as its spirited driving characteristics makes this an excellent choice for those who want a zippy car that also exudes luxury.

The resounding opinion of the Volvo C30 is that it is just a great-looking car. Perhaps it is because people are so used to the, must I say bland Volvos of the past. But aside from that cliche, this beautiful piece of machinery is truly wonderful to look at. Coming straight from the factory, the car already has a lowered body. As a proponent of cars that are mildly-lowered, I was delighted to see such this kind of stance on a factory-made vehicle. The forward-rake of the vehicle not only makes this car appear more aggressive, but also increases down-force which contributes to its performance.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review
2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

The C30 was available only as a T5 trim (turbocharged inline-5 engine) in the U.S. that boasts 227 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Additional features include bixenon headlights, numerous interior/exterior color options, and 17 inch alloys. Overall, Volvo has done a superb job outfitting the C30 with all the right parts to complete the look. It’s easy to tell that Volvo considered the entire look of the car when designing the entire car.

Looking straight-on at the front-end may lead you to believe this is just another Volvo of this generation, but almost any other view around the car will surprise you with its incredibly unique styling. The rear-end exhibits interesting body lines and a one-of-a-kind frameless hatch, which is borrowed from its ancestor, the P1800 ES.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review
2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

A unique feature that separates the Volvo C30 from its competition is its frame-less glass hatch. At first glance, it might be confused with any other hatchback lift gate. But upon closer inspection, it’s apparent that the hatch is truly frameless. It’s incredibly easy to open and close the hatch; not heavy and requiring some brute strength to operate like the others.

Once the glass hatch is opened, a compact storage space is available. There’s not as much space as you’d see in a typical hatchback, but you can fold the rear seats down to get additional room for your things.

The C30 lends itself to being the perfect commuter. It’s compact size makes it ideal to zip around in traffic, park in smaller parking spaces, and store the owner’s daily essentials. The interior is quiet and gives off that upscale vibe, so it’s quite comfortable to drive in for long periods of time.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

This Volvo C30 has a 6-speed manual transmission. The automatic version may not be as fun, but obviously would be more bearable if you have to regularly deal with traffic. For sport-oriented vehicles, I prefer to drive a stick. In regards to the 6-speed, I would much rather have five gears than six since it was a bit tiresome shifting so through so many gears during normal driving. Still, it’s pretty easy to shift through the gears while driving.

Maximum torque comes on at only 1,500 RPMs, so you can really feel the pull of the turbocharger early on in the revs. Basically, there is almost no turbo lag. The torque makes the car feel very quick considering the car weighs about 3100 lbs. For a car of this size, one would think it’d weigh less. However, the C30 does a great job of disguising its additional weight.

Although there seems to be extra weight that affects the nimbleness of the car, everything does feel a bit more solid all-around. It feels less Japanese-tinny, and more European-sturdy. The cabin is quiet and the car moves about in a very anchored fashion. Road noise is also pretty good at lower speeds, however it is more noticeable at highway speeds.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

The gearbox felt more vertically-oriented. What I mean by this is the shift knob had very little side-to-side movement while shifting from neutral towards 1, 2 and 5, 6. Yet, there was more movement when moving the knob forward and backward. This characteristically made it a bit harder to upshift and downshift at times. The shift knob also has a non-contouring feel; it felt like holding the handle of a frying pan.

Rev-matching was also incredibly difficult to do due to the delay in throttle response. It took me hours of driving before I could consistently do it; I basically had to stomp on the accelerator for it to blip. Another thing that took getting used to was the high clutch engagement. It wasn’t until my foot was cocked all the way back before the C30 would reach the engagement point of the clutch.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review
2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

In terms of steering feel, there is not much of it. Since the steering has a muted feel, it feels like there is a disconnect between driver input and the actual steering of the car. However, the handling of the C30 is good. It’s very much capable around the corners at medium speeds, but take it closer to the limit and it begins to feel out of its element. The front end begins to feel heavy as the front tires clamor for more grip. With it being FWD, it does follow the reputation of having understeer especially when going on more spirited drives.

It is very comfortable to ride in the Volvo C30. The suspension absorbs the bumps in the road quite well. While accelerating, you can hear a slight growl of the engine, but the exhaust is almost inaudible. For those who want to turn a stock C30 into a more sporty version, suspension and exhaust would likely be the first mods to get you there. But if you like something quiet and comfy, this will surely keep you content.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review
2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

The front seats should fit taller individuals comfortably, however head space in the rear is lacking. There’s also little lumbar support, however the seats look very nice and feel quite cozy to sit in.

Passenger side visibility is great, but looking around the drivers side is tough. It doesn’t help that the side-view mirrors are positioned lower than the side door panels and therefore adds to the visibility problem.

There’s nothing terribly impressive about the interior, but the simple styling of the cabin is beautiful in that way. It’s not upscale, yet materials appear to be of higher quality. Interestingly, this works for the Volvo C30. Think of it as simplistic and polished functionality.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review
2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

Storage space is tough to come by. The number of storage compartments and shelves are plentiful, yet the actual storage volume that is available is scant. The storage in the armrest is pretty small and many of the other storage locations can hold only small to medium-sized items.

Volvo’s signature floating stack design was carried over into the C30. The entire center console encompassing the radio and climate controls are all positioned within this thin center stack. Looking at it from the side view, one can see that it truly is a flat slab that hides additional storage behind it.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

Turning on the sound system, the dot-matrix screen lights up and comes to life. I didn’t think much of it when I started to use it, but after playing with it after a while I really found it splendid to use. I just love the feel of each of the buttons and the physical response they give when you push/turn them. You can just feel the high quality of the controls while operating them. The electronic response of the buttons is also quick with little lag between input and output.

The Dolby Pro Logic II sound system is a listening pleasure. And, if you turn up the volume, it can get really loud. The digital radio display is cool retro: it looks like an analog radio in which the tick mark moves left and right while tuning. It’s just like the old days of finding a radio station on an analog stereo, minus the static in between stations.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

Right out of the box, the Volvo C30 T5 is an excellent daily driver. It’s a quick car that handles pretty well for day-to-day driving. It’s quiet, feels sturdy, and is great for parking due to its compact footprint. Its rear frameless hatch is perfect for throwing in a bag in the rear and easily retrieving it later.

There’s not going to be a car that looks like this one for some time. The exterior is just lovely to look at, especially the rear end. The wide rear fenders gives the C30 a very nice stance. With that said, there is certainly some semblance of a hot hatch, yet it rides does indeed ride like a luxurious coupe.

I would love to pick up one of these given that they can be found in the used marketplace for a nifty bargain. The great thing about buying a used one is that the Volvo C30 hasn’t been sensationalized as some other makes/models. This means finding one that is affordable, well-maintained, and unmodified is more likely than not.

If I could own one, I’d use it as my daily driver. A stock C30 would be absolutely perfect for that purpose. If there ever was an itch to modify, I’d look towards a beautiful example of an upgraded one: the Volvo C30 Polestar. Aside from the amazing Polestar Blue color (a.k.a. Swedish Racing Green — only Swedes get a chuckle out of that), there is an ECU upgrade that eeks out extra horsepower and torque that doesn’t require any other upgrades to the car.

2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review  2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review
2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

Specifications 
Vehicle TypeFront-engine, FWD, 4-passenger, 3-door hatchback
Engine2.5 Liter DOHC 20V I5 Turbo
Transmission6-speed manual
Output227 hp @ 5000 rpm, 236 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
0-60 mph6.4 sec. (Car & Driver)
1/4 mile14.5 sec. (Car & Driver)
Curb Weight3120 lb.
Wheelbase103.9 in.
Turning circle38.1 ft.
Length x Width x Height167.4 x 70.2 x 57.0 in.
Tires205/50R17 All
Brakes4-Wheel Disc with ABS
Vented in front
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Hwy)19/28 mpg
Fuel TypeGasoline: Unleaded Premium
Fuel CapacityFuel Tank: 15.9 gal.

Scott enjoys fixing and improving cars, motorcycles, and his home in his spare time. He does his best to transcribe his journey as he navigates across unknown territory, finds himself in peculiar predicaments, and figures out how things work in the process.

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