Strengths and weaknesses:
- rear seats difficult to access
Volvo sets designs on Mini and GTI
PHOENIX, Ariz. - Volvo’s 2012 C30 R-Design offers a hefty shot of performance for every one of the cars in the C30 line-up – from the base mode to the top of the heap.
I remember when the C30 first came out; it raised some eyebrows with its hatchback design and smallish size. The immediate reaction was that Volvo was taking aim at Mini and Volkswagen’s GTI.
Its aim is good. In terms of attitude, performance, style and safety, designers certainly hit the mark with the R-Design.
The big design changes for C30 came last year with a radical new front and rear providing a curvier, more aerodynamic look, so the eye appeal is unchanged.
What has changed for 2012 is the model line-up. Volvo has added Premier Plus and Platinum trim to the mix for 2012 and every model in the stable can be fitted with R-Design performance features.
The curvy body with its aero-kit sits firmly planted on 18-inch alloy wheels. It has a ready-to-go stance, a look that is borne out when I get going.
On the inside, I’m looking at an R-Design watch dial gauge cluster and wrap my hands around an R-Design steering wheel while my feet rest on R-Design sport pedals. It’s all understated cool.
Volvo has boosted the cool factor this year by adding a streaming audio connection to the standard Bluetooth system. Using Pandora or Grooveshark, drivers can create playlists and synchronize with their compatible cell phone.
The Premium Plus level includes a power glass sunroof, power front seats and new LED running lights.
Tech lovers can go with the Platinum trim which adds Volvo’s 650-watt Premium 10-speaker sound surround system along with a navigation system to help you get around.
There are a few stand-alone options available, like climate package, blind spot information system and five metallic paint hues.
It’s all fodder for a driver’s daydream.
Under the hood is a 2.5L turbocharged five-cylinder engine hooked up to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with sport shift. The engine puts 227 horsepower and 236 lb. ft. of torque to the front wheels – with enthusiasm.
This little rascal is a ton of fun to drive. The only downside to its performance, I find, is a slight tendency to torque steer – not enough to be disconcerting, but it’s there.
The handling is crisp, even exhilarating.
C30 has a wide front and rear track and a relatively long wheelbase for its size, contributing to stable, predictable driving habits. The suspension—MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear axle – provides a smooth, compliant ride while at the same time, granting a feeling of total control.
R-Design’s sport chassis dynamics are set up for spirited driving. Springs are 30% stiffer than the standard C30 while mono-tube shocks build pressure more quickly for better low-speed damping. The steering ratio is 10% quicker and it shows when I find a spot to try some quick right/left manoeuvres.
Weather and icy roads won’t hold drivers back, either. The C30 has standard dynamic stability control and traction control.
And if things go completely pear-shaped, you can take comfort in knowing you’re riding in a Volvo’s cocoon of safety, starting with a front structure with crush zones designed to deform at different rates as collision forces approach the passenger space. The system uses four different grades of high-strength steel which are also used in the rear section of the car to protect occupants in a rear-ender.