Volvo V60 review
The Volvo V60 estate takes on rivals from BMW, Audi and Mercedes with its stylish looks and strong engines
Featuring eye-catching looks, an upmarket cabin and diesel engines that blend strong performance and excellent efficiency, the revised Volvo V60 brings the fight to some excellent rivals in the compact executive class. Unfortunately, it’s a battle that too often leaves the Volvo wounded, primarily because its driving experience is significantly less engaging than the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4.
On the plus side, the V60 features a range of modern and efficient engines, as well as an optional eight-speed automatic gearbox. Although, as a £1,485 option, it's disappointing that it doesn't shift as smoothly as its rivals.
The Volvo also boasts a unique Scandinavian style that makes it a refreshing alternative to the Germanic offerings. Unfortunately - and perhaps surprisingly - it’s more compromised on cabin and boot space than most other estates in its class too.
The Volvo V60 Estate was built to rival estate versions of compact executives such as the BMW 3 Series Touring, Mercedes C-Class Estate and Audi A4 Avant. It appeared first in 2011, but a facelift in 2014 gave the model a newly contemporary feel – as well as heralding a new four-wheel-drive V60 Cross Country derivative on raised suspension. That car is designed to bridge the gap to Volvo’s XC60 ‘crossover’ SUV.
A new 2.0-litre D4 diesel engine was made available in the recent model update, and it's rated as one of the cleanest engines in its class. A plug-in hybrid version, which returns a claimed 155mpg and CO2 emissions of only 49g/km, is also available. Topping the range, there's a performance model, the V60 Polestar, which features a 345bhp turbocharged straight-six as well as four-wheel drive.
Built in Volvo’s Torslanda factory in Sweden, the V60 shares all its underbody engineering and mechanical parts with the S60 saloon. That means it runs transverse engines powering the front wheels in all guises except the 4x4 Cross Country and Polestar models. There are two petrol engines and four diesel options, and most of them share the same 2.0-litre cylinder block – part of Volvo’s bold decision to save money (and help the environment) by consolidating around a single basic design. Different engine outputs are achieved by ECU tweaks and turbocharging, while gear changes are handled by a six-speed manual box, or an eight-speed automatic.
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The Volvo V60 comes in five specifications – Business Edition, SE, SE Lux, R-Design and top-of-the-range R-Design Lux. All are pretty decently equipped – for example the Business Edition gets seat height-adjustment, cruise control, hill assist, parking sensors, climate control, driver’s seat height adjustment, city braking, DAB radio and Bluetooth, web connectivity and sat-nav.
SE does without the standard internet and sat-nav (which are optional) but adds cosmetic trim items, while SE Lux adds leather seat facings, a powered driver’s seat and active headlamps. R- Design brings sporty body styling, while the Cross Country features extra ground clearance, chunky wheel-arch extensions, and side scuff plates.
Engines, performance and drive
Volvo's estate cars of old aren't known for being especially sporty, but the Volvo V60 is a decent car to drive, if not, as fun as the BMW 3 Series Touring. The accurate steering helps it to feel agile and there's a decent amount of grip, too, but the Volvo doesn't really excel in the corners.
The car's soft suspension set-up means there’s a lot of body roll and keen drivers will also be disappointed by the lack of steering feel and both the manual and automatic gearboxes aren't up to the standards of the competition. For drivers who just want a comfortable motorway cruiser, however, the V60 could be a great choice.
The V60 is heavy, though, tipping the scales at 1,628kg - over 100kg more than the 3 Series Touring. This heavy kerbweight is the car’s undoing in corners. Where the BMW is sharp and agile, the Volvo can’t disguise its greater bulk as it rolls through the bends. The suspension crashes over rough surfaces, and never feels very settled at any speed, although the car is fairly refined when cruising the motorway and the seats are supremely supportive.
The steering needs a fair amount of effort and the Volvo has a large turning circle, while the long brake pedal doesn’t feel as responsive as those in its rivals.
All models have good performance, with none feeling weak and the V60 excels on the motorway thanks to the quiet engines as well as super-comfortable seats. If you want a fast estate, then the V60 Polestar is an attractive alternative to the Audi S4 Avant. It has plenty of power and sounds great, but the slow-shifting auto is a let-down. However, four-wheel drive provides it with lots of grip, and the tailor-made Ohlins dampers deliver a surprisingly comfortable ride that's far more accomplished than the standard R Design model.
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The Volvo V60 also gets a good range of diesel engines, but there’s only one mainstream petrol choice – that’s the 150bhp 2.0-litre T3, which does 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds and 127mph.
There’s also a 345bhp 3.0-litre straight-six in the V60 Polestar which does 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, but that’s such a different kettle of fish that we’ve reviewed it separately.
Most of the diesel engines share a cylinder block with the T3 petrol, so you get 2.0-litre 119bhp, 148bhp and 188bhp versions that are badged the D2, D3 and D4 respectively. Even the D2 isn’t too sluggish with an 11.5-second 0-62mph time and a 121mph maximum. The D4 cracks 7.7 seconds and 140mph, with the D3 somewhere in-between.
Confusingly, there’s a 188bhp 2.4-litre five cylinder diesel that’s also badged D4 but that’s limited to all-wheel-drive models. The plug-in hybrid version also shares the 2.4 litre diesel engine but adds a 67bhp electric motor to spice-up performance further with a 6.0-second 0-62mph time.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
For the ultimate V60 when it comes to running costs, the diesel-electric plug-in hybrid V60 is the model to have. It gets an incredible 150mpg (at least that’s the figure claimed by the manufacturer), and it's undoubtedly the most economical car in its class. With the incredibly high £45k+ asking price, however, it definitely won't make sense for the majority of buyers. At the other end of the spectrum the V60 Polestar performance model is £5,000 more than the Plug-in, yet only manages 27.7mpg and has emissions that are nearly five times higher than the hybrid's.
We think that the 2.0-litre diesel D2 makes a lot of sense for company drivers, thanks to 74.3mpg economy, CO2 emissions of only 114g/km - or 76.3mpg and 98g/km if you opt for the Business Edition - and strong residuals. If you've got to have a more powerful engine, then the D4 manages to produce emissions of just 104g/km, but also packs 188bhp so it could be the choice for company car drivers in a hurry.
The T3 2.0-litre emits 135g/km of C02, and musters 48.7mpg on the combined cycle which isn’t bad for a petrol model. All the models in the current line-up feature Start/Stop technology to help save money and cut emissions.
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As for value for money in the showroom, the Volvo offers plenty of standard kit with cruise and climate control, DAB radio, Bluetooth and auto wipers all included. Heated front seats are a £300 option, though – surprising on a car with Scandinavian roots.
Insurance costs for the V60 should fall roughly into line with those of the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series, on a like-for-like performance basis. The only stand-out is the hybrid V70 which falls into Group 41 – the same as the wickedly fast Audi RS4 – because of its high replacement cost. The D2 offers the least performance in the range and is rated lowest in Group 20.
You should be onto a winner when it comes to reselling your used V60. A couple of years back we rated the model in our top 10 lowest depreciators and while the performance may have slipped just a little, demand should still keep used prices relatively high.
Interior, design and technology
The second-generation V60 made its debut four years ago, yet the sleek styling still stands out among its rivals, with its steeply raked front and rear windscreens, small side windows and raised rear end.
The recent facelift added a wider grille and new headlights up front, although the pedestrian-friendly humped bonnet still appears a bit ungainly. At the rear, the look is largely unchanged, which means you get the same distinctive tail-lamps and gloss black trim insert at the base of the rear screen. The SE Lux model has 17-inch wheels, a twin-exit exhaust and rear spoiler as standard, but buyers wanting even sportier looks can opt for the R Design version, which is actually slightly cheaper. The top-spec Polestar gets huge 20-inch wheels and an aggressive bodykit to help it stand out from sporty R Design spec.
Climb inside, and the V60 uses Volvo’s familiar design cues. The trademark ‘floating’ centre console has a bank of buttons and features a central keypad flanked by four rotary controls, while lower down is Volvo’s traditional air distribution pictogram that allows you to select which air vents to open.
Overall, the cabin looks smart, features high-grade materials and feels solidly screwed together. Some models get Volvo’s crystal-clear TFT instrument pod that lets you customise the display’s graphics and colour schemes.
However, some controls do take a bit of getting used to, and it’s easy to reach for the wrong dial – for instance, retuning the radio instead of adjusting the temperature because the two controls look identical at a glance.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The ‘Business’ or ‘Nav’ editions are the V60s to go for if you want to feel ‘connected’ as they’re the only ones to include the Sensus Connect package as standard. It brings you access to web apps and an internet browser on a 7-inch display, as well as voice activation, DVD player and a hard disc drive for music.
You can upgrade to a Harman Kardon 12-speaker music system for £1,000 (or £500 on Business or Nav editions).
For £1,495 you can also opt for a rear seat entertainment package with twin 8-inch screens and DVD players.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
As a comfortable motorway cruiser the V60 excels, with the single caveat around the ride, which can crash and thump annoyingly. The seats are fantastically comfortable, with plenty of support as well as standard height adjustment. With a steering wheel that adjusts in all directions it’s hard to fault the driving position, and noise refinement is excellent too.
The cabin is packed with useful storage, including a large glovebox.
The four-wheel-drive Cross Country model sits just a little higher than its siblings at 1,545mm – the rest of the range stands 1,484mm tall.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s loads of space up front, although, while the rear legroom is fine, the headroom in the back is compromised for taller passengers. You can blame that on the car’s sporty roofline, which drops away towards the rear. It’s fine for kids of course, and practicality is further enhanced by front and rear folding armrests housing cup-holders and lidded cubbies. There are also ISOFIX mounts for kids’ seats in the back.
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Volvo traditionally puts utility and safety above all else but with this latest model the stylish design has cut into the practicality more than you might expect. The boot is 430 litres, which is pretty disappointing - it's 60 litres less than the Audi A4 Avant and 123 litres less than the roomy Hyundai i40 Tourer.
A 40/20/40 split rear bench keeps the layout versatile on the inside, but even with all the rear seats folded flat there's only 1,241 litres of space, which is considerably less even than smaller rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic hatchbacks.
On the plus side, the boot is packed with handy hooks and has a 12V power supply, while the front passenger seat can be folded flat to accommodate extra-long loads.
Reliability and Safety
Volvo has a reputation for building cars that are as sensible as they are safe, and the V60 has been in production long enough for any faults that did exist to have been resolved. This is backed up by our Driver Power 2015 customer satisfaction survey, which placed the pre-facelift V60 in 29th place out of 200 for build quality, and 60th for reliability – only the V40 did as well or better for Volvo, earning a 30th and 15th ranking in the same two categories.
Overall, Volvo as a manufacturer did OK in the survey. In terms of overall customer satisfaction the brand scored 17th out of 32, a handful of places behind Audi and BMW. For overall reliability ratings those roles were reversed, with Volvo coming out ahead of BMW and Audi by a similar margin.
Another area where Volvo can’t be faulted is safety. The V60 comes loaded with passive and active systems, including a full set of airbags, side impact protection, anti-whiplash headrests and Volvo’s innovative City Safety low-speed collision prevention system.
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SE Lux models also get standard adaptive xenon headlamps with a cornering function. As a result, the V60 bagged a strong five-star Euro NCAP rating, with a 100 per cent score for its electronic safety assist systems. Adult and child occupant safety ratings were impressive in the NCAP tests too, at 93 and 83 per cent respectively. The latest BMW 3 Series just pipped both those scores by an extra one per cent, and comprehensively beat the Volvo’s pedestrian safety rating by 78 to 64 per cent.
The BMW 3 Series and the Volvo V60 both offer three-year warranties, the difference being that Volvo will only let you drive the car 60,000 miles if you want to make a claim. You can extend the warranty to four years or 80,000 miles if you want to pay extra, or if you want more warranty for less consider Kia’s seven year/100,000 mile cover.
Volvo offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals to keep running costs under control, but you’ll need to speak to your dealer for prices – or check the Volvo website.