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Volvo's Zippy C30

Volvo's sporty new front-wheel-drive compact offers speed, safety, and style in a small, fuel-efficient package

If you're curious about the future of the American automobile, take a close look at the new Volvo C30. I suspect as gasoline prices rise inexorably to $4 or $5 per gallon, this is the type of car many more shoppers will turn to, especially if they want a sporty model that's fun to drive. In other words, more Americans are going to be buying European-style rides.

The appeal of Volvo's new front-wheel-drive entry model is that it's small, quick, and relatively fuel-efficient, yet also safe and practical. The C30 is only 167.4 in. long, almost exactly the same length as such diminutive rivals as the Volkswagen (VLKAY) GTI and Audi A3. Like those models, it's a bigger—yet still compact—alternative to BMW's Mini Cooper, which is 21 in. shorter.