Volvo's nifty little C30 hatchback, with its glass tailgate, is a lot like a contemporary version of the P1800 ES from the early 1970s because it has the function of a hatchback, the handling of a sports car and sharp styling.

Volvo touts the C30 as a four-passenger car, and it is, as long as those who choose the back seat are small or young. The back seats are pleasantly comfortable, but leg-room is tight.

Folding rear seats open up the hatch for large items, although the size of the hatch opening restricts the items that will fit inside.

Volvo's entry-level hatch is based on the S40 sedan. The turbocharged, 227-horsepower five-cylinder drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual or an automatic transmission. The Geartronic automatic transmission can be shifted manually.

The turbo gives the C30 brisk acceleration and a spunky personality that is accented by a nicely buttoned-up suspension and handsome 18-inch wheels.

Competitors of the C30 include the Mini Cooper S, Mazda3 and Volkswagen GTI.

For 2011, Volvo's designers have given the C30 a new front end with bigger headlights, a new grille and a more aggressive front fascia.

Prices for the 2011 model begin at $24,600. The R-Design model begins at $26,950. Standard features on the R-Design include premium leather seating surfaces, a special front grille, matte-finished outside rearview mirrors, a distinct instrument cluster, aluminum inlays, a sport steering wheel and sport pedals. It gains standard Bluetooth, fog lights and trip computer.

Aside from its handy size and urban maneuverability, the C30's strength is styling. The sleek roofline, large tires and glass hatchback quickly draw attention. Many people think of Volvo as a producer of sedans, wagons and SUVs, and the availability of a hatchback may come as a surprise.

Spunky performance is a key ingredient to the C30's personality, and a turbocharged, five-cylinder engine gives the C30 a high-energy character. While this engine can feel a bit sluggish in bigger cars, it feels right at home in the C30. It only has to pull around 3,201 pounds, and that brightens its performance.

Comfortable, supportive seats are something for which Volvo is known, and the C30 shines. Manual or power adjustments allow the seats to be configured to fit almost anyone.

The instrument panel has simple gauges, and the center stack that contains the heat and audio controls is not much more than half an inch thick. Digital readouts have stair-step blocks representing temperature and fan speed, but I think using colors for the temperature settings would make adjusting them more intuitive.

The C30 is small and agile. Large tires and a sports suspension give it nice moves in urban traffic or on country roads.

Safety items include anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control, traction control and side-curtain airbags.

Price

The base price of the test car was $26,950. Options included a power sunroof, power front seats, Sirius satellite radio, automatic transmission, heated front seats, headlamp washers and Xenon headlights. The sticker price was $32,950.

Warranty

Four years or 50,000 miles.

2011 Volvo C30 T5 R-Design

Engine: 2.5-liter, 227-hp 5-cyl.

Transmission: automatic

Front-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 103.9 inches

Curb weight: 3,201 pounds

Base price: $26,950

As driven: $32,950

Mpg rating: 21 city, 30 hwy.

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