Fat guy in a little car: Nathan reviews the 2011 Volvo C30 and calls it a little gem


I love small cars. I love thrashing something that is built for logic and economy while feeling rewarded for it. I love hearing small engines strain near the red-line as the next gear is selected. I love tossing a small car around a corner and feeling its wee-little tires scamper to find traction where chunky vehicles fail. The problem is: I like to eat.

Yup, I’m one chunky monkey and I love wringing out cars that struggle to hold me. That’s why this itty-bitty 2011 Volvo C30 is such a treat. It holds all 250 lbs of me, three friends (rather comfortably) and is endlessly entertaining. Despite being over six-feet in height, headroom and legroom are quite good.

Backseat space is better than the Mini Cooper while cargo space is more useful than the Mini Clubman. Why mention the Mini? Because it is the best vehicle to directly compare against the C30. I especially like the direct link between the Mini Clubman given its extra length.

My testing time consisted of a few models over the course of a few days. As such, my evaluation was limited to a race track, city streets and back-country roads; however, I have a friend who owns one and provides feedback – all positive. It is this, mixed with my time driving the 2011 Volvo C30, which forces me to beg Volvo for a longer stint in a 2011 C30.


Driving the 2011 Volvo C30 is great fun. There is very little turbo lag and torque-steer is less pronounced than most FWD, turbocharged competitors. There is a hint of interior quake when potholes and road imperfections are hit hard, but it’s not horrific. On the whole, the ride is quite good for a vehicle with such a short wheelbase.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2011 Volvo C30:

• The base price is for the 2011 C30 is $24,600. If you load it up, prices top out at about $35,000.
• With its updated design, it is one of the few cars that appeals to men and women equally.
• Despite the massive, glass rear hatch – rear outward vision is only so-so.
• Handling between the regular C30 and the C30R is notably different. The ‘R’ is much sharper and feels more connected; yet, road comfort is surprisingly close to the regular C30.
• Back seats are scalloped for two people only. Room is better than most coupes but those seats are tight for big people and baby seats.
• You will look like an idiot if you eat an In-and-Out Double-Double while driving a C30 if the sauce from that burger dribbles down your arm. Shifting the six-speed is hard to do with one hand. Harder still when eating a succulent burger. See? Food is an issue.
• This is a beautifully balanced machine, but the interior is a tad plain given the C30’s playful personality.
• The only engine available is a 227 horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that makes 236 lbs-feet of torque.
• 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.
• The Volvo C30 is rated at 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
• Cargo space is 15.3 cubic feet with the back seats up and 33 cubic feet with the seats folded. These are respectable numbers.
• The six-speed manual transmission is standard with a sophisticated five-speed, “Geartronic” (semi-automatic) transmission.
• A 650 watt, ten-speaker, Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound stereo system is available and worth every penny.


Do I have gripes? Well, this is not a car for everyone. Getting people in the back is difficult and its packaging is not as creative or visually interesting as Mini’s. Options and package choices are very limited and pricey. Cars from Mini and (soon) FIAT offer tons of personalization whereas the Volvo C30 does not.

Other than that, this is a little gem – just avoid drippy cheeseburgers.

Nathan Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com page HERE.


If you like Volvo you may also like the small Mazda and Golf. Check out our video review below:

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