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Hipster on the go

One of the more intriguing automotive designs on the road today comesfrom Volvo — an automaker known more for its functional safety thanvisual delights.

One of the more intriguing automotive designs on the road today comes from Volvo — an automaker known more for its functional safety than visual delights.

The C30 two-door hatch, introduced here as a 2007 model and penned by French Canadian Simon Lamarre, draws much of its inspiration from the 1972-73 P1800ES sport wagon

The obvious cue is the all-glass, raked hatch that is flanked by vertical taillights and muscular haunches that sweep the full length of the car. While the C30’s nose looks like its S40 cousin, the two cars only share the hood and windscreen.

Adding to the visual grooviness, my 2009 C30 T5 tester (with a base of $32,195) wore the $4200 R-Design Package that features 18” alloys, body kit, Xenon headlights with washers, chromed mirror caps, large rear spoiler and twin chromed exhaust tips.

The R-Design package extends to the interior with embossed heated leather and powered seats, sport aluminum inlays and blue-faced dials.

The Volvo signature floating console here featured a way-cool swirled dark metallic finish, looking like it had sprung right from the pages of a Bang and Olufsen catalogue.

Typically of Volvo, the seats are excellent. With its low cowl line and rakish hood, the driver has a good view down the road. The R-Design multi-function steering wheel, which tilts and telescopes, feels as good as it looks.

The two rear seats are contoured like the fronts, and despite the rakish roofline, I found I could “sit behind myself” comfortably with sufficient headroom. Ingress and egress is made easier by a rocker switch atop the front seats that has them sliding forward.

The back seats easily flip down, greatly expanding the hatch capacity, but not into VW Rabbit or Mazda3 territory. The opening is a bit small too — all in the name of fashion, of course.

Sitting sideways under the hood is a 2.5 L turbocharged five-cylinder that generates 227 hp at 5000 r.p.m. and 236 lb.-ft. of torque from 1500-4800 r.p.m. It’s a smooth and flexible unit that makes a nice five-pot growl and just a hint of turbo whistle. It’s not an enthusiastic revver, however, and has a somewhat elastic throttle response.

You won’t mistake this engine for VW’s zingy 2.0L direct-injection turbo-four found in the GTI.

While a decent six-speed manual transmission is standard in the C30 T5, this car was fitted with the optional $1500 Geartronic five-speed auto. To swap cogs manually, nudge the shifter over to the right gate and tap forward for upshifts and back for downshifts.

There are no paddle shifters, which would have added a modicum of sportiness, but truth be told, the tranny is pretty casual about shifting when asked, so paddles wouldn’t be much of a benefit anyway. As with many of these things, it’s best just to leave the shifter in D.

Down the road, the T5 R-Design has plenty of poke, good grip and a balanced poise in the turns. The ride is surprisingly good too, even with the 18-inch footwear.

However, the C30’s personality leans away from the hot-hatch and more towards the touring side of the equation.

As would be expected of a Volvo, the C30 looks out for your well-being with a full complement of airbags, whiplash protection system (WHIPS), dynamic stability and traction control (DSTC), electronic brake distribution (EBD) and an energy absorbing body structure.

The obvious C30 T5 R-Design competitors are the Mazdaspeed3, VW GTI, and Audi A3.

If the Mazda is the delinquent X-Gamer and the GTI the all-round high-school athlete, the trim Volvo is the metro-sexual post-grad who cuts a mean profile but doesn’t like to get his Prada duds too sweaty.