Safe and sporty? When you’re dealing with Volvo’s C30, that’s it exactly


SWEDE RIDE | Turbo-charged and small with many luxuries, Volvo’s C30 is an eye-catching way to be fun and practical at the same time.

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

Volvo is well-known as the nerdy Swedish automaker that makes safe sedans and blitzin’ wagons. But how would it build a sports car?
Turns out, much like Mini makes Coopers and Volkswagen makes GTIs: Take a box, slap on a sexy hatch and rev its motor with a turbo. Sounds like a great little sports car with a wide safety net.

Responsible sensibilities do not mean a completely boring partner. Strong shoulders and Volvo’s traditional grille are obvious bids to tradition, but the P1800 ES-inspired rear glass hatch, which opens up to a cavernous rear compartment, is a practical and stylish solution to a small wagon design. It’s more custom Jaguar “shooting brake” than a boxy mommy wagon — perfect for trend-setting urbanites. Contrasting color ground effects and 17-inch alloys fit some stylish kicks.

Although it’s becoming a little dated compared to newer S60 sedans and XC60 crossovers, the C30’s interior still makes a comfy locker room:

Very Swedish, with a thin metallic console with hidden storage behind. Canvaslike seats are comfortable, safe (includes WIPS whiplash protection headrests) and scrubbable should you make a mess during late night pleasures (it’s easier if you just put down the roomy rear seats).

When erected, rear bucket-style seats provide enough room for humans on shorter drives, but plenty of room for canines on longer ones.

44754_1_5Luxury touches include a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and telescope functions, premium speakers, USB port for iPods, Bluetooth and auto up/down power windows. Bunker-thick doors are fortified with side/side curtain airbags that protect outboard passengers.

When the C30 was developed, Volvo was part of Ford’s global empire, so it was based on the same small car architecture as the Ford Focus and Mazda3. Like its platform-mates, the car feels athletic and sturdy, rumbling over rough pavement like a much larger car, but still cutting a rug through twisty corners and fast on-ramps. DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control), four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, automatic panic assist and brake force distribution fortify Volvo’s reputation for active safety controls. Even in ice and snow, the C30 is unbothered.

Part of the C30’s ability to gobble pavement comes from a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine that generates 227 horses. A 5-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmissions put it to good use. There’s plenty of torque to roast the front wheels off the line — at least until the electronic nannies step in to quell the fun. It is a joy to drive on the highway where the turbo is wound and screaming. Fuel economy is rated 21/30 mpg when driven more reasonably.

It would be easy to overlook the C30. It is as safe as Volvo’s bigger cars and shares styling traits with its ancestors, but steps out with more spunk and a more energetic driving experience. And, like the trapeze artist you enjoy at the circus, comes with a wide safety net just in case the fun turns to tragedy. I’d say that makes it the perfect Scandinavian sports car, ripe with protected pleasure.

Base price is $25,500, but the aggressive R-Design can be yours for under $28,000. Or go all-in for the 250hp Polestar edition for a bit more.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 18, 2013.