Consider the platypus.
At the front, you have a duck's broad bill. At the rear, a beaver's hairy body. It's one of nature's most interesting amalgamations, taking features from two disparate sources and combining them into a weirdly compelling and perfectly functional form.
Now, consider the Volvo C30.
At the front, you have the hawk-like nose of the Swedish brand's stylishly successful S40 sedan. At the rear, a hatchback's lift-up glass. It's an amalgamation, all right, combining two disparate body types into one weirdly compelling and totally Volvo-ish form.
Though one has to assume that, as a car name, ''Platypus'' would not fare well in focus groups.
The C30, however, fares very well. One of the singular pleasures of owning a new car is to have people notice it. My own time with the C30 garnered plenty of appreciative or curious stares, and quite a few questions -- mostly, ''What is that?''
The pleasures go beyond attracting attention. Much like the small S40 sedan it resembles, the C30 offers a highly competent ride and handling along with a stylish interior package. The turbo-charged 5-cylinder engine, paired with a six-speed manual transmission, makes for some fun on the open highway (though you'll burn through more gas than you'd like in city driving). It stays tight to the road and keeps a sporty feeling that still maintains some of a Volvo's storied practicality.
With two doors for entry, the rear seats are a tight fit. But folded down, they provide a reasonably sized cargo area suitable for most urban, hauling trips. The sharply raked hatchback reduces the overall volume a bit, but the style trade-off seems equitable.
Otherwise, the C30's interior is pretty much a direct lift from the S40, meaning that it's comfortable without being luxurious. Like its slightly larger sibling, the C30 feels a little tight -- there aren't quite the number of door pockets and cubbyholes drivers have gotten used to in years past.
Still, that's a minor consideration compared to the real test: ''Is the driver in the next lane starting at me?''