There's just the one mainstream petrol engine – a 2.0-litre unit – but the smart money goes on one of the 1.6- or 2.0-litre diesels. Even the least powerful one is quite punchy - quite an achievement given how economical the DRIVe versions are.
Short-travel suspension keeps body movement in check, so the C30 remains composed on twisty country roads. The pay-off, though, is a rather firm ride – but that improves with speed. The steering is well weighted, but it has a rather numb feel. R-Design models have quicker steering and lowered and stiffened suspension.
The C30 is a decent motorway cruiser, although some wind noise does build up around the door mirrors, and it lets in road noise on rougher roads. The petrol engines are pretty civilised, but the 2.0-litre diesels emit a telltale rattle around town.
The C30 undercuts mainstream models such as the Ford Focus on price. Fuel bills are reasonable unless you choose the T5 flagship. The DRIVe model, however, is amazingly frugal when paired with Volvo's engine stop-start system. Resale values are pretty strong, too.
The C30 may be Volvo's smallest car, but that doesn't mean it has skimped on the interior fittings. Dense, soft-touch plastics cover the upper dashboard, the switchgear operates with precision and it generally feels built to last. Volvo also has a good reliability record, and the C30 was awarded the maximum reliability score in the 2012 JD Power survey.
Volvo is famed for safety, and the C30 is said to perform just as well as the larger S40 in a rear-end shunt, despite having a significantly shorter rear overhang. Every model has stability control, six airbags and active anti-whiplash front head restraints, while deadlocks, an integrated stereo and a visible VIN number all help to deter thieves.
The C30 shares its dash design with the S40, V50 and C70. There's the same simple dash and 'floating' centre console that's attached top and bottom, but has open space behind. It looks great, but the narrow strip of switches on it are fiddly. A wide range of driver's seat and steering wheel adjustment means it's easy to get comfortable.
There's plenty of head- and legroom upfront and enough space for a pair of adults to get settled behind. However, most rivals are roomier in the back, and the C30 has two individual rear seats rather than a bench, so you can't squeeze in a third. The boot is small and shallow and the luggage cover is fiddly.
Every C30 comes with climate control, an MP3-compatible stereo, front electric windows and alloy wheels; SE models have plusher upholstery and cruise control. SE Lux models have leather upholstery and heated front seats, while R-Design versions are the sportily-trimmed ones. Bluetooth connectivity and satellite navigation are extra-cost options.
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What with this model's cheap running costs and the fact that it's well equipped despite being one of the cheapest C30s, it's one of the best models in the range.