Volvo has long been lauded for its propensity to take radical design concepts to production nearly unaltered. You would struggle to tell the XC40 from the 2016 Concept 40.1, and electric performance brand Polestar’s first two models still look like they’re from another age entirely.
Then there’s the 2001 Safety Concept Car (SSC), which took elements from the timelessly elegant P1800ES estate and found its way into dealerships five years later in the form of the radical C30. This three-door premium hatchback returned Volvo to a segment it hadn’t touched since production of the divisively styled 480ES ended in 1995. It also strengthened the firm’s reputation for prioritising safety with innovative functions including a ‘Blind Spot Information System’ and software that detects if the driver is distracted.
Sitting atop then-parent company Ford’s front-wheel-drive C1 platform (as found under the contemporary Focus and C-Max), the C30 could be specified with a comprehensive array of petrol and diesel engines, topped by the 227bhp T5 2.5-litre five-cylinder that also powered none other than the C30’s unruly Focus ST cousin. This gave it a 0-62mph time of 6.7sec and a top speed of 149mph when fitted with the Getrag six-speed manual gearbox. Be warned, though: you’ll pay upwards of £3500 for this hot hatch, and don’t expect to see its economy climb much above 25mpg.
More frugal and accessible are the 2.4-litre petrol straight five, the range-topping same-sized diesel variant (which still offers pleasing amounts of pep) and an array of Ford-and Mazda-developed four-cylinders ranging from 98bhp to 176bhp. Every C30 is as mechanically durable as you would expect, if not particularly poky.
If hypermiling is your thing, your best bet is a good example of the diesel-powered C30 DRIVe, produced from 2009, which came fitted with a tweaked ECU, an aerodynamically enhancing bodykit, low-resistance tyres and taller gear ratios in the name of improved efficiency. The result was figures of 73.4mpg and 99g/km of CO2, making it more efficient than even the second-generation Toyota Prius.
Once you’ve selected your motive power, the C30’s foolproof trim level structure makes it easy to choose the car with the right kit. Standard fitment across the range included ABS, alloy wheels, electric mirrors, sports seats and an adjustable steering wheel, but fork out the extra for mid-range SE Lux or top-rung R-Design cars if you want options such as leather upholstery, cruise control and child seat anchor points.
The C30 is a popular car with tuners, who claim to have eked out as much as 310bhp with the aid of some electronic fettling and mechanical upgrades. Don’t be put off by modified cars, because many additions – like suspension lowering kits – will be reversible, but do make sure the insurance company is aware of any changes and check they have been carried out to a good standard.