The least welcome development at Geneva, for me at least, was the announcement of the death of the Volvo C30. I remember seeing the SCC concept car - a very thinly disguised version of the final production car - being unveiled at the Detroit show in 2001. The rear-end styling - lifted wholesale from the Volvo P1800 ES - with the tiny glass tailgate and huge rear shoulders really floating my aesthetic boat.
Still does, to be honest. Before Christmas I spent a few hours on the used car websites, checking out used C30s. OK, it was never a great car to drive, but as a mix of a compact urban machine and safe and capable long-distance motorway machine, it is very clever. And I like the idea that the C30 might keep me alive, should I have a big shunt on a rain-strewn M40.
My enthusiasm for this kind of car might be a throwback to my teenage days. A close relation had the conceptually similar Reliant Scimitar for 12 years, and I was transported up and down the country in the passenger seat. I also loved the VW Corrado and can still remember driving the superb last-of-line VR6 Storm model.
These sort of three-door hatchbacks-cum-coupes are something of a Brit weakness, with this country hoovering up more than its fair market share over the last couple of decades. The 1980s and 90s Audi Coupes were very big here, as was the Corrado and the mad Fiat Coupe.
I’ve always thought that the three-door versions of hatchbacks are also markedly more attractive. Think of the Mk1 Focus three-door or the three-door Audi A3. But the market has moved massively against the idea. Volvo sources told me that the European C-Segment market accounts for 320,000 sales annually and only 35,000 of those were three-door. Worse still, only 13 per cent of the European C-segment is premium (the bigger C/D segment is 50 per cent premium), so Volvo had boxed itself in with the C30 concept.
Launched in late 2006, C30 global sales have been surprisingly limited, peaking at just short of 40,000 units in 2008, so its demise - along with its S40 and V50 sister cars - is not a surprise. And the more ostentatiously ‘premium’ five-door V40 will undoubtedly do better. Volvo thinks it should shift 90,000 per year.
But I’m sorry to see the C30 go. It was subtle and smart and deserved to do better.