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The New Volvo C30 - Legendary Safety in a Small Car

The New Volvo C30: Legendary Safety in a Small Car


With the new C30, Volvo makes its debut in the two-door premium-car segment. The sporty design, with four individual seats and a unique glass tailgate, aims to give a young and dynamic group of customers "a Volvo of their own." But, as with all Volvos, safety is a top priority.


Volvo's Intelligent Vehicle Architecture (VIVA), first introduced in the XC90 SUV, is a key component of Volvo's smallest car. It is a unique approach to building a car that integrates everything from its crashworthiness to its dynamic styling and exciting driving characteristics. This is possible due to several interacting units, including a very stiff chassis, front and rear structures with unique energy-absorbing properties and, as always, a focus on crash protection for the occupants.


"We strive to build the safest cars in their class. This applies to all models, including the new Volvo C30," said Ingrid Skogsmo, Director of Safety, Volvo Car Corporation. The safety systems have been developed and tested in the Volvo Cars Safety Center, the most advanced facility of its kind in the world.


Crumple zones built from different grades of steel


A smaller vehicle such as the C30 has less room for large energy-absorbing structures. Precise deformation modeling is the key to helping bring large-car safety to the C30. Thinking about how combinations of different metal characteristics can enhance energy absorption became necessary.


The frontal body structure of the C30 is divided into several zones, each with a different task in the deformation process. The outer zones are responsible for most of the deformation. The closer the collision forces get to the passenger compartment the less the materials used deform. The intention is that the passenger compartment should remain intact in most collisions.


In order to give each zone the relevant properties, different grades of steel are used in different areas. Four different steel grades are used. In addition to conventional bodywork steel (mild steel), three different grades of high-strength steel are employed: High Strength Steel, Extra High Strength Steel and Ultra-High Strength Steel.


Engine Compartment Challenge


Traditionally, a vehicle is designed to fit an engine family. The C30 borrows structural design technology from S40 and V50, two vehicles that put engine compartment space as a high priority.  The S40 went through a series of computer simulated frontal crash tests without the installed engine. The engines were then designed to fit within the empty space that remained after the simulated crash test. In a real collision, the engine may be shunted rearward 5.9 inches before contacting the bulkhead.


When visualizing this front architecture, picture a suspension bridge with a lattice structure that distributes forces to many different locations. The C30 front structure is designed to channel forces down along the floor pan, to the sides around the A-pillar, and across the firewall to lessen force loads placed on the human body.


This zonal system enables the collision forces to be absorbed in a highly controlled manner:


Low-speed deformation zone


The front bumper incorporates an extremely rigid cross member of mild steel welded to Ultra-High Strength Steel. The attachments to the longitudinal members of the body are designed in the form of ‘crash boxes', which absorb the forces generated by a low-speed collision without damage to the rest of the body structure. The crash boxes can be replaced easily at reasonable cost.


High-speed deformation zone


The straight sections of the side members are made of High Strength Steel, a very ductile grade of material with preformed deformation areas that are optimized for high-energy absorption. This zone accounts for most of the deformation in a high-speed collision.

In addition, Volvo has opted to include upper side cross-members since they provide essential protection if the vehicle should collide with a roadside barrier.


Back-up zone


The section of crossmember that turns outward toward the A-pillar is designed to act as a barrier protecting the cabin space and as a back-up against deformation. The design also helps minimize the possibility of the front wheel from penetrating the interior, the wheel instead helps to absorb the collision forces. This section is extremely rigid and is made of Extra High-Strength Steel.


Three-way attachment


A rigid cross member connects the two A-pillars and lower side members. On each side they form an extremely rigid three-way attachment which helps to preserve the passenger compartment.


Door and B-pillars


The doors of the new C30 carry two horizontal cross members of different steel grades. By using one of Ultra-High Strength Steel and one of High Strength Steel, accident intrusion can be controlled to reduce impact forces on the occupants. In addition, the B-pillar also uses a combination of steel grades and multiple layers of mounting brackets to make this structure more rigid and help channel impacting forces through the vehicle body.


Well-designed engines contribute to crash safety


Owing to efficient packaging, the transverse mounted 2.5-liter turbocharged engine features reduced width to create greater space between the engine and passenger compartment. In a frontal collision, the engine can be pushed up to 5.9 inches rearward before the crankshaft comes into contact with the crossmember near the bulkhead.


During a frontal collision, the three-piece steering column can be deformed up to 5.5 inches and moves horizontally to provide optimal airbag positioning. With an unbelted driver the steering column deformation is delayed to allow the occupant to contact the airbag and slow down the column's inward movement. This allows forces to be absorbed by the airbag and steering column earlier than would be with a belted driver. With a belted driver the steering column takes less force to compress completely as the seatbelt pretensioner and spool-out system absorbs the occupant's acceleration forces. The steering column separation is controlled by a pyrotechnically charged separation bolt which is controlled by a seatbelt-position sensor.   


More safety solutions in common with other Volvo models:

  • Dual-stage airbags
  • Seat belt pretensioners for the front seats and rear outer seats
  • Force limiter for the front seat belts
  • Belt reminder for the front seats


Side Impact Protection System (SIPS)


The new Volvo C30 is 0.5 inches wider than the S40. This creates added space for deformation in a collision. In other respects, the Volvo C30 has the same type of side impact protection as found on the S40, with SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) side-impact airbags for the front seat occupants and inflatable curtains for the front and rear occupants. These curtains are designed to provide enhanced protection in side impacts. The side airbags are scaled to provide more effective protection at the hips and chest.


Several features contribute to the C30's solid body structure and help prevent the side from deforming in a collision:

  • The reinforced, transversely installed tubular beam between the A-pillars
  • The diagonally installed beams of Ultra High Strength Steel in the doors
  • The B-pillars, which have been significantly reinforced and are dimensioned to help provide enhanced protection


Rear Impact Energy Absorption


The new Volvo C30 is designed to help provide the best possible protection in a rear-end collision.


Volvo designed the rear section to deform in a downward/inward movement and allows the trunk-mounted spare tire to rotate upward in a controlled manner. The concept is to move the body structure and forces away from the rear seat occupants. Volvo tests at 35 mph have shown this methodology to be effective in displacing impact forces, controlling metal deformation and helping to protect the rear seat occupants.


Volvo's system for avoiding neck injuries - WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System) - is one of the most effective on the market. In the event of a severe impact from the rear, the seat backrest and head restraint accompany the movements of the seat occupant's body. The seats and backrests are of a particularly robust design. They are designed to withstand high loads from items such as unsecured luggage.


Protection for other road users


The design of the new Volvo C30 has a front characterized by clean, smooth surfaces and rounded corners. The curves and panels are shaped to help reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of an accident. Furthermore, the front has an energy-absorbing structure ahead of the bumper so as to help reduce the risk of leg injuries. The hood and front fenders are designed to absorb collision energy. This helps reduce the risk of head injuries.


Stable driving properties


High torsional rigidity contributes to the Volvo C30's stable, predictable and consistent handling characteristics. The car's chassis, with its broad track and long wheelbase, also helps the C30's impressive road manners.

  • The front track is 60.4 inches
  • The rear track is 60.3 inches
  • The wheelbase is 103.9 inches


The C30 is dimensionally similar to the S40 yet curb weight has been reduced by approximately 330 pounds. All combined, this makes for a stable, agile hatchback with surprising performance.  

The suspension is fully independent, with spring struts at the front and a multilink system at the rear. The rear suspension provides a certain degree of passive steering to counteract the tendency to skid.


Also standard are:


  • Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), which helps to keep the car in its intended direction in the event of a skid.
  • Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS) minimizes distracting information from the car's other systems when it determines the driver is busy (more information below).


Available as an option is Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) which helps to prevent lane-changing accidents. BLIS uses cameras beneath the outside mirrors to detect cars that might be in the blind spot and relays that information to the driver.  A small orange light is illuminated at the base of the A-pillar to warn the driver when a vehicle is in the C30's blind spot.


Excellent braking


The C30 has extremely powerful ABS brakes - with electronic brake-force distribution to the rear wheels and automatic panic-braking assistance - EBA (Emergency Brake Assistance). The front wheels feature 11.8-inch ventilated discs and the rear has 11.0-inch solid discs.


Projector-type headlamps


The headlamps feature projector-type low beams. The concentrated beam of light is surrounded by a "halo" which helps oncoming drivers judge the distance to the car. Bi-Xenon gas discharge lamps (GDL) for the high and low beams are available as an option. Additional side-mounted turn indicators in the door mirrors and integrated side-marker lights in the front and rear lamps make the C30 easy to see as well.


Ergonomic driver's environment


An ergonomically designed seating position with all the instruments and controls in just the right position makes for safer progress. In this respect, the Volvo C30 continues a renowned Volvo tradition. It has a comfortable and conveniently operated driver's seat, an adjustable steering wheel and a logically laid out instrument panel. As with all Volvo vehicles, the buttons are easy to read and placed logically around the instrument panel.


Intelligent Driver Information System


IDIS is a feature influenced by fighter-aircraft technology. The system helps the driver avoid being distracted while driving.


When the traffic requires the driver's full attention and concentration certain peripheral information such as a warning lamp indicator are delayed until the situation is calmer.


The IDIS function continuously registers the driver's activity by monitoring steering wheel movements, the accelerator pedal, turn signals, braking and so on. This information is processed and at a given activity level, information that is not essential to safety is held back.




Volvo's holistic view of safety encompasses not just protective and preventive safety, but also personal security. The C30 is designed to provide effective protection for the car's occupants and their property, both while on the move and when the car is parked. The C30 is equipped with a number of protective functions, such as:

  • Electronic immobilizer
  • Electronic anti-theft "marking"
  • Uniquely identified control modules
  • Audio system as an integral part of the on-board electrical system making them less appealing to the would-be thief.
C30, Safety, 2008
Descriptions and facts in this press material relate to Volvo Cars' international car range. Described features might be optional. Vehicle specifications may vary from one country to another and may be altered without prior notification.

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