THE RIDE: Two-door, four-passenger 2008 Volvo C30 2.0 version hatchback.
DOWN THE ROAD: The smallest car in the Volvo lineup shares its design with the S40 sedan and V50 sedan. Weighing less than the rest of its siblings gives the C30 snappy acceleration. The rev-happy car can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds in manual and 6.6 in automatic transmission mode. Set on a unibody construction, the front-wheel-drive hatchback has plenty of punch to maneuver peak-hour traffic or cruise along at ease on the highway.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.5-liter inline turbocharged 5-cylinder engine cranks out 227 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 236 pounds-feet of torque at 1500 rpm. Mated to a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic, the C30 gets MacPherson struts with coil-over springs and stabilizer bar in the front and an independent multilink rear suspension. A power-assisted, electro-hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering offers a solid on-center feel. And if you tap on the gas pedal a little too excitedly, the 11.8-inch and 11.0-inch disc brakes in the front and rear respectively will inspire confidence. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels lend further steadiness to the vehicle.
LOOK & FEEL: The front fascia of the C30 is striking, thanks to angled headlights that slot in a low and wide trapezoidal grille with the traditional Volvo insignia. The horseshoe-shaped taillights join up to a large body-colored spoiler at both ends with the rear-glass hatch in between. The interior is airy and accommodating despite the car's small exterior appearance. The instrument panel with white-on-black speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges is clean-cut. Leather and aluminum share space on the three-spoke, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel and shifter knob. For all you music lovers who like to hear those favorite tunes loud and clear, the powerful 650-watt sound system with 10 Dynaudio speakers is a hoot. Best of all, it is standard on the 2.0 version of the C30. If a weekend outing is on the agenda, just fold the rear seats down to open up room for luggage.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbag, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction and stability control, tire pressure monitoring system and Volvo's WHIPS protection system, which helps to reduce head and neck injuries for driver and front passenger.
OUT THE DOOR: $25,700, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 215/45/18; wheelbase, 103.9 inches; length, 167.4 inches; weight, 3,201 pounds; fuel capacity, 15.9 gallons; highway, 27 mpg; city, 19 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Automobile magazine picked the C30 as its 2008 All-Star winner. We will let its editor in chief Jean Jennings justify the pick: "The Volvo is whisper-quiet, perfectly composed and has a 6-speed manual that you could teach your grandma to row flawlessly in 15 minutes. It is madly Scandinavianly mod inside to go with its fresh exterior."