Used Vehicle Review
By Justin Pritchard
Blending funky styling and Scandinavian sensibility was the job of Volvo’s entry-level model, the C30. Now discontinued, this unique three-door four-seater combined tried and tested Volvo attributes with a look and style not easily mistakable for anything else on the road. With two available engines, plenty of options and a unique, one-of-a-kind look, the Volvo C30 will easily impress those of the “different is good” mentality, as well as premium car enthusiasts. The design came from Volvo’s Simon Lamarre, who studied design in Quebec before joining Volvo in 1995.
Look for a used copy of the C30 between 2007 and 2013, with features including a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a sunroof, automatic climate control, Volvo’s unique waterfall console, antilock brakes, full power accessories, a driver computer, and an eight-speaker stereo with satellite radio. Bluetooth connectivity, a universal remote and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror were available, too. Numerous accessories and trim packages let shoppers fine-tune the C30 to virtually any taste — so finding a model just right for you shouldn’t be a problem. Note that motorized front seat adjustment and a remote switch made it easier for rear-seat occupants to enter the C30’s rear seating area, which features two seats, not three, to preserve passenger comfort.
In the used market, shoppers can consider one of two engines for their C30 candidate. Standard was a 2.4L inline five-cylinder backed by a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. This C30 designation was named the ‘2.4i’, and it developed 168 hp. The C30 T5 got a turbocharged 2.5L five-cylinder unit that was good for 218 hp and fitted with a six-speed manual. Newer models got a slightly increased 227 hp.
What Owners Like:
Commonly, owners of the C30 praise its liquid-smooth powertrain, the fun-to-drive performance of the turbocharged models, distinctive looks, decent fuel economy and an overall nice-to-drive character. Many owners say the C30 is sporty to drive around town, and shines on the highway too, with good noise levels and overall comfort. A nice manual shifter mechanism rounds out the package.
What Owners Dislike:
Heavy doors, a relatively quiet-looking cabin and a complicated-at-first climate control interface are among the common complaints. Note, too, that some owners wish for a quieter and smoother ride on rough roads, especially in models with larger wheels and thinner tires.
The Test Drive:
This one looks solid from a reliability standpoint, though given relatively low sales volumes, shoppers are advised to start a conversation with a private seller about having the model brought to a Volvo dealer for a pre-purchase inspection before agreeing to purchase, if the model in question is short-listed for consideration. This helps with maximum confidence. Conversely, seeking out a used model from a Volvo dealer’s Certified Pre Owned program is a good bet, too.
A common problem with numerous cars is present here, relating to a leaky sunroof drain. Plastic tubes drain water away from the sunroof assembly and down through the body of the car to the ground beneath, though these tubes can become plugged, back up, and allow water to find its way into the cabin. Dampness or puddles in the front footwell areas are typical signs of this leak, which can be remedied by clearing the drain tubes with a blast of compressed air, or by fishing a piece of wire through.
Lock the C30 using both remotes, and start the engine, after unlocking, using both keys, several times. You’re on the lookout for fussy remote, alarm and immobilizer systems here, which could prevent the C30 from starting, or even set off the alarm when you open the door. This issue can also come about as a result of a poorly-charged battery, or a battery that’s past its useful life. Be sure the battery and charging system in the C30 you’re considering are healthy with the help of a mechanic, and consider a trickle-charger if you won’t drive the car every day. A poorly-charged battery can cause a plethora of niggling electronics issues.
Your correspondent found a few gripes about broken floor-mat anchors, easily-chipped paint, a rattly rear window and a trim-piece around the parking brake that likes to become loose and makes an irritating rattling sound. These issues aren’t serious and should be easily uncovered and fixed if present. More importantly, the C30 seems to be almost totally free of the typical electrical-related complaints that plague many of its German competitors as they age. If these reports are any indication, the C30 should actually prove more worry-free than key competitors from Volkswagen and Mini.
Be sure to have the tires and brakes inspected for wear, thereby ensuring the seller isn’t trying to pass a fried set of brakes and tires onto you. Avoid any model with a manual transmission that exhibits grinding or slippage, which could indicate a problem with the clutch or gearbox. Finally, be sure to scrutinize the vehicle’s paint, upholstery and interior trim for signs of excessive wear. If you find any, call it into pricing negotiations.
Check for signs of smoke during start-up or acceleration on models with the turbocharged engine — which could indicate worn-out oil seals within the turbocharger assembly. A turbocharger should last the life of the vehicle, though neglect and missed oil changes will reduce its life. Further, avoid any model with extensive modifications via aftermarket parts unless you’re familiar with the C30 and comfortable with the quality and installation of the parts in question. Exhaust and intake systems are typically safe, but nitrous, engine internals or modified turbo systems or increased boost levels can cause headaches.
Used-car shoppers after a flexible three-door with available turbo power that’s sporty, unique and relatively rare should consider the C30 a priority test-drive in their shopping exercises. With solid-looking reliability and virtually no serious problems reported, this one looks like a confident buy.