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Economically challenged
Economically challenged
The Volvo C30 is a great little car with one big problem: ownership cost.

The C30 gets good gas mileage, especially considering its performance, but it relies on turbocharging to make that happen. That means expensive premium fuel is recommended, although it's not required.

A lot of the C30's competitors - like the Audi A3 - have that problem, too, so you could just call that part of the price you pay for getting more out of a small engine.

Then there's resale value. The C30's expected resale value after five years, according to automotive Web site, is a sad 37 percent. So even though the 4-door Audi A3 might cost you $3,000 more initially, it should cost you about $4,000 less in the long run.

A lot of that has to do with Volvo's poor reputation for reliability. In the car market, perception costs just like reality. The fact is that Audi and Volvo nearly tie in J.D. Power and Associates rankings of both initial quality and long-term dependability. (Both brands are below average, with Volvo scoring just slightly better than Audi.) But Volvo is still perceived as the dicier buy.

With that big caveat kept firmly in mind, the C30 does a great job of balancing everything you could want in a small luxury car, including performance, comfort, style and safety.

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Last updated April 17 2008: 11:43 AM ET

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