Volvo V60 review
The Volvo V60 estate takes on rivals from BMW and Audi with its stylish looks and strong engines
You might expect the Volvo V60 to put practicality before everything else, especially looks, but this is a big estate that turns tradition on its head. This V60 model is actually very stylish, especially after a 2013 update to the range. 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 new plug-in hybrid version, which returns a claimed 150mpg and CO2 emissions of only 49g/km, is now available and the V60 is available in four-wheel-drive as well. A new Drive-E 2.0-litre 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 D3 SE Lux
We think the Volvo V60 is one of the best-looking cars that Volvo makes and in R-Design spec it's really distinctive on the road. A 2013 update saw all models in the range get a refreshed look with sharper lines, a new bonnet, a new bumper and a new headlight design. Plus, the Volvo V60 interior is up there with rivals from Mercedes and BMW, with the neat dials borrowed from the smaller V40 model. The front seats offer a good driving position and are comfy to sit in and it's the same story in the rear: there's plenty of legroom and the roofline accommodates all but the tallest passengers. The floating dashboard looks great, all the major controls are neatly laid out and the recent update even added a new gear shifter to replace the dated old version. All models come with plenty of equipment, with 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, heated mirrors and rear parking sensors as standard, while range-topping R-Design models get 18-inch alloys as well as special styling inside and out.
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 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.
With such a good reputation in the past for safety, you wouldn't expect anything less than the full five-star rating from crash testers, Euro NCAP. The Volvo V60 managed this with no problem, with an excellent 94 per cent rating for adult occupant protection and a very impressive 100 per cent in the safety assist category. That's because all models get six airbags, electronic stability control and a City Safe system that helps prevent accidents at slower speeds. Plus, an optional Driver Support pack includes a blind spot warning system and a lane-change alert. There's also a pedestrian detection system, as well as collision warning technology with automatic braking designed to prevent you crashing into the back of cars around town. If you're looking for a very safe estate car look no further than the Volvo V60. Volvo placed eighth in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction manufacturer survey, which is up two places on the 2012 poll. The V60 doesn't rank in the top 150 cars, however, but its saloon brother, the S60, ranked 55th.
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. However, there are some useful touches like a divider that keeps shopping bags secure in the boot and lots of storage on the centre console. The rear seats are big enough to seat most adults, but really tall passengers might get annoyed by the roofline as it slopes in at the back.
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. We think that the 1.6-litre D2 makes the most sense for normal buyers, thanks to 65.7mpg economy, CO2 emissions of only 114/gkm and strong residual values. 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, try the top-spec D5 model, which manages to produce emissions of just 119g/km.