2012 Volvo C30 R-Design review: 2012 Volvo C30 R-Design

Despite the premium class, the tech in the C30 R-Design is only average, the curse of a smaller, independent car company. Ford launched Sync while Volvo was still in its portfolio, but that technology did not make it across the Atlantic. Although the C30 R-Design has a Bluetooth phone system and iPod integration, there is no voice command.

Volvo C30
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The navigation device Volvo embeds in the C30's dashboard shows maps in 2D or 3D views, but street names are sparse. Josh Miller/CNET

The navigation system, included as part of the Platinum package, is basically an add-in, a portable-like device engineered as a flip-up screen at the top of the dashboard. Meanwhile, phone and stereo information shows up on a separate radio display. Buttons mounted on the back of the right steering-wheel spoke control navigation, and another set of buttons on the center dashboard control phone and stereo. It took some time to get used to the various buttons. I would much rather see a single integrated interface.

However, Volvo's navigation system is not bad. I didn't recognize the interface as being from Garmin or TomTom, but it had a similar look and feel to devices from those makers. The maps, stored on flash memory, offered 2D and 3D views with traffic data overlaid. Programming in an address was tedious using the minimalist buttons, and made more difficult because they were hidden behind the steering-wheel spoke.

Under route guidance, the system showed rich graphics for turns with lane guidance for freeway merges. The voice prompts could be set to male or female voices, but in CNET's car these prompts were unusable, as, for some reason, possibly a loose wire, the prompts were terribly distorted. It was an odd problem, likely isolated to CNET's review car.

When a large, color LCD is available in the car, it is annoying to be forced to resort to a small monochromatic radio display to look up phone numbers and browse the music library for a connected iPod. A small four-directional button navigates through lists of artists and albums on the display, two at a time. With an iPod connected to the system, it is not immediately apparent how to find artists and album lists. Volvo buries these categories under the Playlists menu item.

Volvo C30
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Hidden behind the steering wheel are buttons that control the navigation system, forcing the driver to operate them by feel. Josh Miller/CNET

As to audio sources, Volvo keeps the C30 R-Design modern. Not only does it offer Bluetooth audio streaming and satellite radio, it also has HD Radio. The optional Platinum package also brought in an upgraded audio system, using 10 speakers and a 650-watt amp. This system produced very palpable bass and distinct highs, but the midranges sounded muddy, reducing the impact of music. The audio reproduction fit the car's premium class, but did not reach audiophile quality.

Little of Volvo's vaunted safety technology finds its way into the C30 R-Design. Lacking advanced features such as City Safety, which comes standard on the XC60, adaptive cruise control, or even a backup camera, the only driver assistance option is blind-spot detection.

In sum
The 2012 Volvo C30 R-Design is a very fun car to drive and the hatchback makes it quite useful. The sport suspension handled cornering very well and the manual transmission shifted well. The cabin offers some solid tech features, such as the navigation and audio system, but the confusing interface doesn't live up to the premium tone set by the interior design.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Volvo C30
Trim R-Design
Power train Turbocharged 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 24.5 mpg
Navigation Optional flash memory-based with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player MP3-compatible single-CD
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio Bluetooth streaming audio, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system 650-watt, 10-speaker system
Driver aids Blind-spot detection
Base price $27,450
Price as tested $35,720

What you'll pay

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