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Volvo S60 (2010) review

We hit Brit roads to see if new Swede has 3-Series’ number

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

THE new S60 is a leap forward for Volvo. It’s better looking than its predecessor, is more entertaining to drive, and is certainly up with the best cars in the compact executive class for build quality, ease of use and cabin ambience. What’s more, the new D3 diesel engine is the pick of the line-up, as it offers decent performance combined with affordable running costs. While it’s far from perfect, the S60 is a good car that should appeal to existing Volvo fans and bring new customers to the brand.

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THE most important car in Volvo’s history has hit the UK. The new S60 goes up against the BMW 3-Series – our current compact executive champion – as well as the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, and certainly has its work cut out.

But with a stylish new look, fresh engines and a driving experience that’s said to really challenge its German rivals for the first time, is it the Swedish company’s best car yet?

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Volvo S60

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Well, even in a rather unexciting shade of blue, our model certainly stands out. Swapping the boxy lines normally associated with Volvo for some sweeping surfaces, it’s easy on the eye. The aggressive front end, carried over from the facelifted C30 and C70, is a real success, as is the coupé-style roofline and pert tail. It also sits low to the ground, further adding to the sporty feel.

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Inside, the S60 offers a fine mix of wood, light-coloured leather and dark, soft-touch plastics. The seats are superbly comfortable – although taller drivers may find getting a perfect driving position is tricky, as the seat doesn’t go back far enough.

The optional leather is slippery, too, which causes you to slide in your seat. However, it’s spacious in the back, even if the boot isn’t quite as big as a 3-Series’. Still, our SE-spec car came with cruise and climate control, as well as rear parking sensors and alloy wheels.

Options include Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake. This can sense if a pedestrian is about to step out in front of the car, and applies the brakes if the driver fails to act. Our D3 variant gets an all-new diesel, too – a 2.0-litre single-turbo version of the five-cylinder twin-turbo D5 unit. It produces 161bhp and 400Nm of torque from only 1,400rpm. However, with peak power available from 2,900rpm, the engine has a narrow sweet spot – so swift gearchanges are required to keep it on the boil.

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Do that, and the car is quite quick, completing the 0-60mph sprint in 8.7 seconds and serving up lots of overtaking shove. Fall out of the power band, though and the unit can soon run out of go, particularly above 3,500rpm. The engine is characterful, but very gruff. It’s efficient, though – Volvo claims 54.3mpg economy and 139g/km of CO2.

The handling is more agile than previous Volvo models, too. Turn-in is keen, the steering accurate and there’s lots of grip, but there’s torque steer and lots of kickback from bumps that causes the wheel to writhe in your hand.

Body control isn’t as effective as in a 3-Series and the major controls don’t provide enough feedback. The S60 crashes into potholes and is a little fidgety on the motorway, too. But the ride is composed over minor bumps, while tyre and wind noise are a match for the class leaders.

You get the sense, though, that engineers couldn’t decide whether to make it a true sports saloon or a comfortable cruiser.

Is the S60 a new executive class leader? Not quite, but it’s good looking, more fun to drive than before and well equipped. It also carries over Volvo’s usual solid build and innovative safety features. Plus, this entry diesel will appeal to company buyers.

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