Chipped and tuned, Volvo C30 shows Swedish performance

In R-Design trim with the Polestar power upgrade, the Volvo C30 becomes a real hot hatchback.

Volvo C30
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Volvo long staked its reputation on safety, so you would not expect a hot hatchback to come from the Swedish automaker. But fit the little C30 with Volvo's R-Design trim and give it the new Polestar engine software, and the car becomes a delight to shoot down a twisty road.

The car did not make any more noise than a standard C30, the only things announcing the extra power being a blue badge on its butt and ample response to the gas pedal. The side-grip shifter for the six-speed manual slipped through the gate with European precision, but the most surprising thing was the handling. Banging the car through a series of tight turns, I found it held on well, and had plenty of overhead to go even faster.

The C30's cabin appointments reflect Volvo's premium car position, a big step up from other hot hatchbacks on the market. It loses some practicality with the split rear seats, limiting passenger room to four, but who really wants to stuff a fast little car with an extra 200 pounds of human?

It falls down a bit on the cabin tech, with a navigation system that is basically a portable device attached to the dashboard, and a completely separate interface for the stereo and phone system. There are some useful features here, including an iPod port and a Bluetooth phone system, but it lacks many newer features found among competitors.

Check out CNET's review of the 2012 Volvo C30 R-Design .

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.


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