Volvo v70 1.6D DRIVe SE

Big car, small diesel... we see if the package demands too many compromises

Meet the international superpower in the estate class! Volvo’s boxy load carriers have a near-mythical status among motorists who value space over everything else. The firm’s smaller V50 adds a dash of style to the mix, but the V70 tested here follows a more traditional template.

The angular profile of the bluff estate features a vertical tailgate, designed to optimise boot space. And this tells buyers an awful lot about the approach of the Swedish brand, because the V70 puts practicality first.

Distinctive light clusters that rise up the rear pillars and Volvo’s familiar grille up front provide some visual interest, but this is the least striking car in our group in terms of looks.

Things improve on the inside, where the V70 has a neat interior. The trademark floating centre console, simple instruments and comfortable seats combine with smart switchgear and decent materials to provide an attractive cabin. Only the clumsy remote control-operated sat-nav (£1,500) spoils things. Rear passengers enjoy plenty of leg and headroom, while the boot is a masterclass in maximising space. The floor is long and wide, with a flat load lip and the least amount of wheelarch intrusion on test.

Practical touches include a handy flip-up load divider to restrain smaller objects, plus aluminium floor rails with tie-down points and a three-piece rear backrest. This allows long objects to lay between the two outer rear seats. And when you fold them all, they lie completely flat and boost space from 575 litres to a huge 1,600 litres. The good news for buyers is that the Volvo doesn’t demand huge sacrifices from behind the wheel.

The firm’s premium aspirations result in high prices, though, so for the same price as our 168bhp 2.0-litre Skoda, you’re looking at the 108bhp 1.6-litre DRIVe engine. And in SE trim, it’s more expensive than its Czech rival.

DRIVe spec is tuned to deliver maximium fuel economy, with revised aerodynamics and optimised gearing among a range of tweaks. The diesel is the smallest and least powerful on test, so predictably the V70 lagged behind its rivals at the track, but in traffic it only feels really lethargic from a standstill.

On the move, the torquey engine and long gearing demand a relaxed approach, although the Volvo is supremely comfortable at motorway speeds – despite being the only car with a five-speed box. Here, the small alloys and tall tyres come into their own, as the big sidewalls combine with supple suspension to smooth outbumps and ruts. Only when you fling the estate into a corner do the flaws show. There’s plenty of grip, but body roll is pronounced and the car isn’t as responsive as rivals.

The V70 is exactly as Volvo fans would expect – and is unlikely to disappoint any estate car buyer.

Details

Chart position: 3WHY: Although clever eco tweaks promise great economy, can the load-carrying legend compete with its more conventional rivals on a level footing?

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