Car group tests

Volvo S60 vs Rivals

Can Volvo’s shapely new S60 bring a power shift in the office car park? We find out as it meets key BMW and Audi rivals.

Volvo V60 group test

It’s been nearly two decades since Volvo abandoned its traditional boxy and straight-edged design in favour of cooler and more sophisticated style. Despite this shift, the brand has failed to make an impact in corporate car parks.

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However, the new S60 could be a breakthrough. Bosses claim the sleek compact executive blends sharp driving dynamics, excellent refinement and class-leading safety. And its cabin promises plenty of premium appeal. We test the anticipated best-seller – the 2.0-litre D3 diesel in range-topping £27,295 SE Premium trim.

The new Volvo faces some tough competition. The BMW 3-Series is our current class champ, combining engaging driving dynamics with top-notch quality, low running costs and a line-up of efficient engines.

Joining it is the Audi A4, which sets the standard with its classy looks, fantastic cabin and composed chassis. So, will the usual suspects overwhelm the S60 – or can the new kid on the block cause a major upset?

Verdict

The Volvo S60 faces an extremely tough challenge to beat the best compact executive cars on sale. It puts in a strong performance, with distinctive looks, as well as an elegantly styled and extremely comfortable cabin. Many buyers are also likely to be seduced by the smooth and characterful five-cylinder diesel engine.

However, it falls short of its rivals in the final reckoning. Lacklustre driving dynamics, a fidgety ride and poor economy seal a disappointing third place. The fight for the top spot is much closer. The classy Audi looks great, is superbly built and packed with standard kit. Adding to the appeal is its strong straight-line pace, extremely capable chassis and impressive eco credentials. But even this great showing isn’t enough to beat the BMW 3-Series.

With the recent mechanical tweaks, the firm has delivered more performance and greater efficiency, while the handling is as good as ever. Better still, the 3 has a solid gold image, low running costs and is packed with green technology. It’s going to take something special to knock it off the top of the podium.

1. BMW 320d SE Business ed. Not only is the BMW the most efficient car in this test, but it’s also the most fun to drive, thanks to its poised chassis. Business Edition specification adds plenty of kit, while the low running costs should appeal to private and company drivers alike.

2. Audi A4 TDI Technik We wouldn’t blame anyone for choosing the A4 over the 320d. It looks great, and has a capable chassis and practical interior, while the smooth and economical engine serves up strong pace. But it’s not as sharp to drive as the BMW, and not as green, either.

3. Volvo S60 D3 SE Premium For quiet and relaxed motorway progress, the Volvo is the best car. It’s refined, with very comfortable seats. Good looks inside and out also appeal. Sadly, the lacklustre driving experience, poor economy and small boot relegate it to third.

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