Could, but failed: Volvo C30

Volvo C30

Stylish and peppy retro hatchback, which was the first to fall under the rink of crossover invasion

We continue to remember the wonderful losers of the past years in the rubric “Could, but failed.” Today, our course lies in Sweden – the home of one of the most unusual and cute premium hatchbacks of the 2000s. Why did the car that knocked down design in the year of its debut never become a bestseller? Now let’s figure it out.

Who is it?

Formally a three-door hatchback, but in fact, almost a spiritual heir to the Volvo P1800 ES sports wagon of the early seventies, the Volvo C30 debuted in 2006. And while it has a lot in common with the V40 sedan and V50 station wagon, the hatch was perceived as an exotic independent model.

Volvo P1800 ES, 1972
Volvo P1800 ES, 1972

At the stand of the Paris Motor Show, the bright and unusual hatchback looked like a serious player in the premium golf class. He had everything for success, but the fate of the “thirty” was very difficult.

What is good?

First of all, we must remember that the C30 was created at a time when the owners of Volvo cars were driving the company not yet from Hangzhou, but not from Gothenburg anymore. In the 2000s, the Swedish brand was part of the premium brands of the Ford Motor Company. Among other things, this was fraught with a wide unification of model lines.

Volvo C30

“Thirty” is built on the Ford platform C-1. Which in and of itself is not bad at all. The sibling of the Swedish hatch, the second-generation Ford Focus was considered one of the best in the mid-noughties golf class. On the C-1 cart, such bright cars as the Mazda3 and even the Mazda CX-7 grew up. All of them were united by decent reliability and a very lively driver’s chassis. Despite the fact that there is no external similarity between single-platformers of different brands.

What did it look like?

Sensational design is generally the main trump card of the C30. A fairly calm front in the corporate style of peers from older Volvo model lines and a wild feast of style in the rear. Massive, as if carefully clasping the stern, lanterns, a sharply littered rear roof pillar and a small lifting window instead of a full-fledged third door. Bravissimo!

 Volvo C30 T5
 Volvo C30 T5

Ready to endure a hail of wrath darts from Alfa Romeo fans, but in our opinion it is the C30 that is the most imposing and stylish hatch of the first decade of the new century. Sorry 147th…

What did they say about him?

“Quite possibly the most beautiful car from Gothenburg since… the beginning of time! With a Custom Build program that allows buyers to customize color schemes and options, it will appeal to any type of hipster. Its turbocharged “five” rides well, but the suspension lacks density. The Volvo C30 is more about style than sport.”

Car and Driver

“I like him. Love its tinyness. The way he looks. Actually, there’s something delightfully silly about buying a three-door Swedish car made in Belgium. So, is the Volvo C30 really that good? No. Would I consider buying? Definitely yes.”

Jeremy Clarkson

“If you want a golf-class car, you don’t have to buy a Golf. Our photographer is now driving a C30. Because VW drivers are rarely flirted with at traffic lights. Volvo can make a big impression for little money. A real jewel of the compact class!”


“The success of the Swedes in design is obvious. In a solid chassis, safety dominates, its combination with the capabilities of the engine is perhaps optimal.”

Behind the wheel

The most important feature

The brightest appearance, as we have already noted, is the main talent of the youngest Volvo. But we also note the stylish inner world. Especially the famous floating console.

Volvo C30

In fact, it appeared a little earlier on the second-generation S40 sedan, with which the C30 is in the same family. But the boring “forty” did not leave vivid memories of himself. The hovering console, perhaps even dissonant with his more “adult” profile. In the interior of the C30, a thin strip of the center console, behind which you could put a mobile phone or glasses, on the contrary, looked extremely harmonious.

How much did it cost?

Volvo C30

Generally adequate. Playing the premium card, Volvo, of course, moved the price list closer to the territory of the German premium, but did not invade it. Let’s just say that the C30 was just as much more expensive than democratic classmates like the Golf and Focus, it was so much cheaper than the Audi A3 and the Bavarian penny. Yes, the options and surcharge for more powerful motors were rather big, but for a premium this is a common thing.

Why didn’t it work?

Volvo C30

Of course, the C30 wasn’t perfect. Like any other car. Counting on trifles – so the fingers of the hand are not enough. The lack of options for choosing a body – a five-door would not hurt – this time. More expensive options, finishing materials that do not extend the real premium level, not the most successful restyling that spoiled the appearance of the model. Plus, of course, family “Ford” sores like the terrible PowerShift robot.

Still, the main reason for the weak – not catastrophic, namely, lower than expected – sales of the Volvo C30 is an external factor. Starting from the second half of the 2000s, all cars fell under the rink of crossovers and SUVs, and expensive premium hatchbacks were under the wheels in the first place.

Retrofuturism suddenly ceased to enter, but passenger crossovers rose to their full height. Who would have thought that by 2010 the unpretentious Nissan Qashqai in the eyes of the mass consumer would look more desirable and trendy purchase than the classic Swedish hatchback. Therefore, in 2013, the Swedish dude was written off to the shore, without even bothering to think about the second generation of the model.

You can often hear the phrase, they say, the car appeared on the market ahead of its time. With the Volvo C30 it turned out the other way around. Debut a model four or five years earlier, and the column “Could, but failed” would happily do without a retro hatchback from Gothenburg.

Will it become a classic?

Volvo C30

We think yes. Of course, the status of the Ferrari 250 GTO or even the related Volvo P1800 ES, the “thirty” is not worth even dreaming of. Nevertheless, the bright and distinctive hatchback will eventually take pride of place in the garages of youngtimer fans.

However, this is still a long way off. There are enough offers for the Volvo C30 on the used car market, from which it is quite possible to choose an unusual, bright and quite reliable hatch for every day. Life is too short to drive boring cars.

The main thing is to stay away from cars with Powershift.