Volvo V60 review
The Volvo V60 estate takes on rivals from BMW and Mercedes with its stylish looks and strong engines
Featuring eye-catching looks, an upmarket cabin and a diesel engine that blends strong performance and excellent efficiency, the revised Volvo V60 is able to take the fight to its premium rivals in this class.
It rivals the BMW 3 Series Touring, Mercedes C-Class Estate and Audi A4 Avant, and features a range of efficient engines and an optional eight-speed automatic gearbox. This gearbox is a £1,485 option, so it's disappointing that it doesn't shift as smoothly as the gearboxes in its rivals. A plug-in hybrid version, which returns a claimed 150mpg and CO2 emissions of only 49g/km, is available and four-wheel-drive is also available. There's also a performance model, the V60 Polestar, which features a 345bhp turbocharged straight-six and four-wheel drive.
A new 2.0-litre D4 diesel engine was made available in a recent update to the model, and it's one of the cleanest engines in its class. The Volvo V60 comes in five specifications – the entry-level Business Edition, SE, SE Lux, R-Design and top-of-the-range R-Design Lux.
Our choice: V60 D4 SE Lux
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.
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 in bends. The suspension crashes over rough surfaces, and never feels very settled at any speed, although the car is fairly refined at motorway cruising speeds 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 its rival.
The Volvo V60 also gets a good range of petrol and diesel engines, with the petrols ranging from the 1.6-litre T3 to the range-topping 3.0-litre T6, which is incredibly fast: it goes from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds. The diesels are a better bet on UK roads, however, with the 1.6-litre D2, 2.0-litre D3, a more powerful 2.0-litre D4 and the 2.4-litre D5 completing the V60 range.
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 letdown. 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.
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 2014 satisfaction survey, which placed the pre-facelift V60 in 13th place out of 150 for build quality.
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.
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.
Volvo traditionally put practicality above all else but with this latest model the stylish design has cut into the practicality a little. 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 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 than smaller rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic hatchbacks.
On the plus side, the boot is packed with handy hooks and a 12V power supply, while the front passenger seat can be folded flat to accommodate extra-long loads. There’s also good rear head and legroom, plus the cabin is packed with useful storage, including a large glovebox and front and rear folding armrests housing cup-holders and lidded cubbies.
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 (claimed by the manufacturer), and it's undoubtedly the most economical car in its class. With the incredibly high asking price, however, it definitely won't make sense for the majority of buyers. At the other end of the spectrum, the V60 Polestar is only £5,000 more than the Plug-in, but only manages 27.7mpg and has emissions that are nearly five times higher than the hybrid's.
We think that the 1.6-litre D2 makes the most sense for private buyers, thanks to 65.7mpg economy, CO2 emissions of only 114/gkm and strong residuals. Volvo also offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals to keep running costs as low as possible, too. If you've got to have a more powerful engine, then the D4 manages to produce emissions of just 99g/km, but packs 181bhp.
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.