2008 Volvo C30 review: At least she can dream

2008 Volvo C30

2008 Volvo C30

Without question, we’ll admit that it isn’t often that we see a teenaged girl twitterpated over a Volvo. OK, we’ve never seen a teenaged girl twitterpated over a Volvo. But recently, seated by the window of our favorite diner, we saw one of the aforementioned individuals not only stop and look at the Volvo C30 but circle around it. And circle again. Then she walked over to her mother who, along with her husband and brother, were also looking at the Volvo approvingly, and made hand-clasped pleading motions.

All this over a Volvo.

Of course, it wasn’t a Volvo sedan, wagon, crossover or SUV, none of which would likely have received a second look. It was Volvo’s new C30 two-door coupe. The Volvo S40 compact sedan? The V50 compact wagon? They’re driveway camouflage. But Volvo, you’ve aced the youth vote with the C30.

2008 Volvo C30 interior

The center stack of the 2008 Volvo C30 looks like a large strip of chewing gum between the dash and center console. (click to enlarge)

But we (ahem) older guys like it too.

It is a slick little piece of work. And dwell on the little for a moment. The C30 is the smallest vehicle in Volvo’s lineup. Compared to the Volvo S40, the C30 is almost a foot shorter though with a slightly longer wheelbase (103.9 inches vs. 103 inches).

It is unmistakably a Volvo. The C30 continues the upright rectangular grille with the diagonal slash, but aero’s it up with swept back headlamp clusters and a pronounced wedge profile. The roof tapers back for a teardrop effect, but ends with a forward-leaning diagonal slice. The C30 also has the strongest shoulder line of any current Volvos, particularly noticeable at the chopped-off rear.

The C30 has been compared to the 1800ES sport wagon of the early seventies and no doubt was designed with that in mind. The 1800ES had a glass rear hatch and so does the C30, although the C30’s hatch has a structural ring around the glass. It can’t be seen, however, because of the opaque black tinting.

The size of the rear glass, however, is like a picture window into your trunk. There are two optional covers; a roll-type fabric cover like those used on SUVs and wagons, and Volvo also has a hard cover, too. Our car had neither, but we suspect that the hard cover would look better longer but it would get in the way more during daily usage. Choose one or the other or have whatever’s in your cargo area be the topic of discussion in the car behind you.

2008 Volvo C30 cargo area

Baggage in the cargo area of the 2008 Volvo C30 is exposed to the following car unless one of two cargo covers is used. (click to enlarge)

The rear seats fold separately for more cargo capacity, from 12.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up to 20.2 cubic feet with the seats folded. Volvo makes no pretense of anything but room for two in back, with individual buckets rather a bench. Rear seating is comfortably comfortable, or perhaps vice versa. The seats fit well and the headroom is superb for a two-plus-two. There’s no tapering glass that an even medium height passenger would headbutt, but the seat bottoms are low so passengers wind up with their knees in the air and have limited legroom. It’s a two-door, too, so getting in and out offer additional challenges.  The Volvo C30 is not something you’d want to use for a double date to a black tie event. Shorts and sneakers, fine, though a trip of several hours will require swapping off with the front seat occupants

Up front the C30 certainly lives up to Volvo’s tradition of orthopedically approved seats, and they’re nicely bolstered for sports car driving while not having the giant side bolsters of quasi-road racing buckets. It’s an easy in and out for driver and front passenger alike.

The interior styling kicks Volvo’s Scan design up a notch from that of the sedans. The center stack is the same giant curved stick of gum laid atop the dash proper and extending to the console with the HVAC and audio controls affixed to the front. It’s a remarkable piece of styling legerdemain. The C30’s stick of gum looks even thinner than those in the sedans, however, and the console runs even farther forward so that the gum is suspended even farther out in space, and there’s a small tray for oddments tucked in behind it. To emphasize the effect after dark there’s a green LED that illuminates the area behind the gum. It’s cool styling flourish and something that no other manufacturer will be able to copy without looking too much me-too.

The console on our test 2008 Volvo C30 housed the classic in-line shift quadrant for the optional automatic transmission—a six-speed manual is standard and seems much more appropriate to this car—and also the handbrake lever. The lever is not hinged on the console however, but saves space by the handle pulling up a curved bar that slides out of the console in an arc. Clever thinking out of the box, so to speak.