20 June 2013 Last Updated: 29 October 2013

Full Volvo C30 (07-12) Model Review

by Graeme Lambert, Senior Road Test Editor

  • After seven years the Volvo C30 is finally retiring for good
  • C30 started modern Volvo design trend
  • Five-cylinder turbocharged T5 offers hot-hatch performance
Volvo C30 (07-12) T5 R DESIGN Lux 3d - Road Test
The last ever Volvo C30 hatchback has just recently been built, the Swedish maker finally retiring the model line after seven years of kick-starting the Volvo range. So before it’s consigned to the vaults of history, we thought it best to re-acquaint ourselves with a final drive in the hot T5 R-Design.

The last ever Volvo C30 hatchback has just recently been built, the Swedish maker finally retiring the model line after seven years of kick-starting the Volvo range. So before it’s consigned to the vaults of history, we thought it best to re-acquaint ourselves with a final drive in the hot T5 R-Design.

Save for the wild 400bhp Polestar concept model, which never made it to the showroom, the 227bhp T5 was the top of the range production example. A familiar designation, the T5 badge dating back to the 1994 Volvo 850 T5, the T simply alluded to this car’s turbocharger and the ‘5’ the number of cylinders. Innocuous enough yes, but in reality it made for a distinctive combination.

Distinctive enough to be celebrated certainly, as the T5 engine really is at the heart of this particular C30’s appeal. Along with that 227bhp it also produces 320Nm of torque, making for solid and surprisingly brisk performance. Claimed fuel economy is 32.5mpg, but enjoy the performance on offer and that’ll soon drop below 27mpg with ease.

C30 T5 R-Design Engine

Still, thanks to a long second gear 0-62mph only requires 6.7 seconds, which is around the same time as the new Volkswagen Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST. Just like the old 850 the C30 tugs and pulls at the steering wheel though, the front rubber scrabbling for meaningful grip. It’s certainly a good idea to keep a tight hold on the rim and commit to the car’s abilities.

Sure the C30 lacks the finesse of the RenaultSport Megane, understeers more than the Vauxhall Astra VXR and has far more noticable bodyroll than any other conventional hot-hatch rival, but in its seven-year history it’s never claimed to be a scalpel-sharp hooligan.

C30 action

Think of it as a refined, fast luxurious hatchback and you’ll be bang on the money though.

The handling always errs on the safe side of secure - as you’d expect from the firm that introduced the three-point seatbelts we’re now familiar with - and there’s always plenty of grip. However you’ll struggle to predict exactly what the front wheels are doing – except desperately seeking traction under full throttle – as the lightweight steering offers little direct feedback.

The interior does its best to isolate you from any un-wanted action too, with seats that – as the cliché goes – are some of the most comfortable in the business. Cosseting and quiet, the cabin helps the C30, and its occupants, cover long distances quickly and without stress.

Volcvo C30 T5 R-Design interior

It’s here that the C30 gives its age away though; the switchgear and displays are hopelessly outdated compared to those found in this car’s rivals or even other members of the Volvo family.

There’s still the signature Volvo elements, including the floating centre console with cubby hidden behind and clustered control stack. And the remote-controlled sat-nav that swings out from the top of the dashboard is frustratingly difficult to use.

Save for the racy blue instruments, it’s all a bit monochrome. The leather seats, dashboard, steering wheel and carpets are all finished in black - even the metal trim is darker than normal. At least the quality is obvious, the soft-touch material on the dashboard extends into the doors and every control operates with precision.

The packaging isn’t quite up to modern Volvo standards either; the chunky door pillars make for a particularly wide blindspot for many drivers and the pair of rear seats lack headroom for adults. To make matters worse, for a company once famed for its estates, the C30 can only accommodate a paltry 251 litres of luggage.

Volvo rear seats

But while the cabin is the very definition of sober-suited, the exterior remains something of an extrovert – and not just because of our car’s Rebel Blue paintwork. Despite this car’s age, the C30 showcased the firm’s modern design philosophy and it remains one of the most distinctive models in the whole Volvo range.

Its style is especially apparent round the rear where the sharply tapered passenger area finishes in a steeply-raked glass rear screen sat in the middle of the C30’s broad shoulders. Complete with 17-inch wheels and our car’s R-Design bodykit this particular C30 might be the last of the line, but that doesn’t mean it has any less impact.

Volvo C30 T5 R-Design rear tracking

It certainly wasn’t without impact in terms of sales; the firm sold over 200,000 examples since its 2006 introduction, with one in seven of those being sold here in the UK.

So while it’s clearly the right time for the rakish V40 to take over as entry-level model, both the sales figures and our week with the car prove that, for some, the Volvo C30 T5 R-Design is as relevant today as it was when it was first launched.

Read the full Parkers Volvo C30 review here.

Also consider:

Audi S3

Almost as safe and secure as the Volvo, the Audi uses the firm’s Quattro four-wheel drive system and powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder to great effect.

BMW 1 Series

Rear-wheel drive, the BMW 125i M Sport hatchback already starts off on the right foot – especially for enthusiasts. Better economy and emissions help seal the deal.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

The defacto hot-hatch, and with good reason – the VW Golf GTI is probably the consummate all-rounder of the automotive world.