The V60 DRIVe R Design is a practical, stylish and fuel-efficient family car. However, Volvos are renowned for their cosseting ride, and it seems a shame to sacrifice this for a drive that still isn’t as sharp as some of its rivals. If only the Swedish firm offered the option to spec all of the R Design’s visual extras without the stiffer suspension set-up.
It's the frugal estate Volvo claims can go from the UK to Austria on only one tank of fuel – but does the V60 DRIVe make even more sense in racy R Design trim?
With lower, firmer suspension than the standard car and a sporty bodykit, it certainly looks the part. The standard 18-inch alloy wheels, aggressive lines, twin chrome exhaust pipes and silver contrasting accents ensure the DRIVe is among the best-looking models on the road, as well as one of the most fuel-efficient.
The interior is fantastic, too. The supportive R Design part-leather sports seats are a highlight in the stylish and well put together cabin.
Underneath the bonnet is a frugal 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 113bhp. Performance is adequate, but it never quite delivers on the promises made by the sporty exterior – the DRIVe feels a little underpowered during overtaking. The sprint from 0-62mph takes 11.3 seconds and top speed is 118mph.
While it won’t set your pulse racing, you’ll be thankful for the low running costs, whether you’re a private or business driver. Combined fuel economy stands at 62.8mpg, and CO2 emissions are an impressive 119g/km, which qualifies the Volvo for free road tax in the first year.
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When we drove the V60 without the stiffer R Design suspension, we found there was too much body roll in corners, but the ride was among the best in class. So with springs that are 15mm lower and 15 per cent stiffer, has the V60 been transformed from comfortable cruiser to a sports car?
The ride is a lot firmer and a degree of comfort has been sacrificed, with potholes and speed bumps now far more jarring. Thankfully, though, the drive is as good as ever on smoother surfaces.
However, there’s still a little too much roll in bends, and the firmer springs don’t give the V60 the kind of sharp drive you’d associate with rivals such as the BMW 3-Series Touring.
On the plus side, practicality is good. The V60 has a 557-litre load area, which expands to 1,241 litres with the rear seats folded. It’s worth noting that this is still way off the Ford Mondeo Estate’s 1,700-litre capacity, but Volvo is keen to point out that the V60 is a stylish sports wagon first and foremost – if you’re looking for a truly practical estate, it recommends the larger V70.
Priced at £27,725, the V60 is a well equipped and stylish all-rounder. It comes with a wide array of safety gizmos, too, particularly Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection system, which can apply the brakes if it suspects a collision is imminent. In addition, safety systems monitor blindspots and warn if the driver is tired or veering out of their lane.