2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery: 2007 Volvo C30

A “gateway drug” is commonly defined as an addictive substance that’s easy to find and makes users prone to more dangerous addictions. Tobacco’s a common one, and almost everyone partakes of the other obvious one, alcohol. And the way Volvo’s marketing its new C30, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company start a petition to get its least-expensive model added to the list.

Volvo’s not ashamed to call its newest model a ploy of sorts to attract new customers. The plan, of course, is to rope in those young buyers who might consider a C30 as their first “nice” car, with the hope that they’ll become hooked and stay in the Volvo family when the need – or want – for a larger vehicle arises.

Volvo’s certainly on the right track: the C30 is a looker, with lines that give the car a unique profile on the road. That, combined with the car’s relative newness, garnered my Passion Red tester plenty of positive comments and appreciative looks from bystanders.

2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5. Click image to enlarge

Slotting in below the S40 sedan and V50 wagon, the C30’s starting prices ($27,495 for the 2.4i and $31,995 for the turbocharged T5) are well within what a 20-something, upwardly mobile professional type might budget for a car. But watch out how many option boxes you check: like that addiction you said would never take over your life, it’s all too easy for the price to get out of control if you go for too many extras. Case in point: my Passion Red T5 tester had the $1,000 DynAudio Package, which plugs a six-CD changer and a 650-watt surround amp powering 10 speakers into the C30’s dash. Then, there’s the $3,400 Sport Package, which adds a firmer, slightly lower suspension, 17-inch wheels, heated front seats with power adjustment for the driver, bi-Xenon headlights with washers, Homelink and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass. Pile all of that, plus $1,500 for a sunroof, onto the C30 T5’s $31,995 base price, and you get a car worth $39,610 including a $100 A/C tax and the rather high $1,615 freight charge.

2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5. Click image to enlarge

But hang on: that’s just for the factory options. My test car sported a dealer-installed, $4,000 body-coloured side skirt and fender kit (which replaces the black lower body trim that all C30s come with standard) and a set of $2,000 18-inch wheels (replacing, in this case, the 17-inch wheels from the Sport Package). Altogether, it looks hot, but those dealer extras added an unbelievable $6,000 to the bottom line, and I didn’t get to ask if that included installation (or tires, which some manufacturers like to charge extra for after you’ve opted for aftermarket wheels). All of a sudden, you’re driving a $43,610 compact hatchback when, for a few hundred bucks less, you could’ve had a BMW 328xi Touring. And, for about $34,000, a VW GTI can be fitted with leather, a sunroof and 18-inch wheels, never mind its strong turbocharged motor and six-speed transmission.

Suddenly, that monkey on your back doesn’t look like such a good deal.

My advice? If you must have the C30, don’t bother with the bigger wheels and fancy skirts. Cost aside, the plain black skirts would hide minor bumps and scratches better (and it wouldn’t be that hard to get the black pieces painted yourself for much less money), and larger wheels and attendant lower-profile tires generally tend to increase road noise and ride harshness on less-than-perfect roads.

2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5. Click image to enlarge

As it is, the Sport Package’s suspension tweaks bring all the extra firmness needed, in my opinion, and might be a step too far for drivers who value comfort over the ultimate in ride control. Fellow tester James Bergeron surmised that the optional suspenders might be the cause of some unseemly clunking over rough roads. However, the up-rated suspension does all but eliminate excess body motions over bumps and body roll in turns, and allows impressive handling with the summer-biased tires my test car wore.

The driving experience lives up to the C30’s premium compact label. Road noise was a little more pronounced than I expected, but I put much of the blame for that on the non-standard wheel/tire combo. Noise from rough road surfaces was well-muted (aforementioned clunking aside), as were wind and engine noises. Those looking for a truly involved driving experience might lament the lack of mechanical sounds; the Mazdaspeed3 costs less than this turbocharged T5 and trades some of the Volvo’s refinement for a rawer feel. That GTI I mentioned feels about as quick as the C30, but fits somewhere in between the Volvo and Mazda in terms of refinement and how well it connects the driver to the road.

2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5. Click image to enlarge

Unsurprisingly, Volvo has put the emphasis on luxury here, rather than a purely sporty driving experience. While the steering and brakes are pleasant and generally fun to use, responses aren’t as direct as they could be; I’d go so far as to say that Volvo put a little too much effort into eliminating noise and vibrations and as a result, took out some of the fun that many drivers shopping in this class might demand.

The six-speed manual’s shifter moves nicely through its gates, but again, the feel tends toward the rubbery. The clutch is lovely, though, with a positive engagement, and makes smooth driving a cinch.

2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5. Click image to enlarge

Naturally, the Mazda’s 45 extra horsepower make it the more potent choice, of course, and this brings up one of my criticisms of the C30: it doesn’t feel as quick in the lower gears as I’d expected it to. I suspect, though, that a combination of tall gearing and the hushed engine note – it’s practically inaudible till about 3,000 rpm – contribute to making the car feel slower off the line than it is. Nevertheless, there’s lots of power for passing, and the car is plenty of fun in point-and-shoot city driving.

While the C30’s hatchback profile appears practical, be careful what you try to fit in the back: happy-go-lucky Ikea excursions may end in cursing and a phone call to your friend with the pickup truck. The car will accommodate some bulkier items with the rear seats folded, but what fits will likely be limited by what gets through the hatch. My new barbecue-in-a-box wouldn’t go (though I figure there was enough room in the car for it) and Bergeron complained that his curling broom didn’t fit cross-wise in trunk, though it does in his Mazda3 Sport.

The way the C30’s body tapers towards the rear means the coach accommodations offer space for two only. While front-seat space and comfort should be fine for most (the seats are near-perfect, like most Volvos), those in the rear will find space tight, even if overall comfort isn’t bad.

2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5
2007 Volvo C30 T5. Click image to enlarge

The materials used inside are top-notch, though some might find the T-tec seat upholstery kind of cheap-feeling (I liked it fine, though); leather is $1,450 extra.

Ergonomics are great, mostly thanks to the clean centre stack and simple controls on it. Only Volvo’s steering wheel-mounted cruise control buttons are a little confusing at first, with their somewhat unintuitive markings.

Smitten as I was by the C30, my money and I would head to a VW dealer and bring home a GTI. Perhaps Volvo’s counting on the C30’s looks to suck people in, and it might work: appearances can mean a lot to buyers in this segment, and a Volvo badge is more likely to impress your friends than the VW symbol. But you can’t ignore VW’s strong foothold in this segment, where the GTI fits in perfectly as a car that drives like one more expensive than it is. The C30’s problem is that while it’s wonderful to be in and drive, it simply doesn’t feel that much nicer than the GTI to justify the extra cost for many of the same features.

Of course, addictions are rarely tempered with financial reason. It’s easy to be tempted by Volvo’s upscale image, the super-comfortable front seats, the terrific sound system, and the C30’s distinctive looks. Let this drug get under your skin and it might be one you get hooked on, no matter the cost.


Pricing: 2007 Volvo C30 T5

  • Base price: $31,995
  • Options: $11,900 (Sport Package of auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, Homelink, 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, sport suspension, bi-Xenon headlights with headlight washers and power driver’s seat with memory, $3,400; Dynaudio package of six-disc CD changer, 650-watt amplifier with 10-speakers, $1,000; sunroof, $1,500; dealer-installed body kit, $4,000; dealer-installed 18-inch wheels, $2,000)
  • Freight: $1,615
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $45,610 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Mazdaspeed3
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Saab 9-3 SportCombi
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 VW GTI


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