Volvo XC70

With traditional SUVs under fire from governments and environmentalists, cars such as the Volvo XC70 could be the future of 4x4s. The Swedish firm certainly hopes so, and a range of revisions to its car-based off-roader aims to keep it at the top of the crossover pile.

Neither a traditional off-roader nor a conventional estate, the XC70 is an attractive proposition for those after practical family transport. Its estate origins provide benefits in terms of packaging, while increased ground clearance and all-wheel-drive give confidence when the going gets rough.

With traditional SUVs under fire from governments and environmentalists, cars such as the Volvo XC70 could be the future of 4x4s. The Swedish firm certainly hopes so, and a range of revisions to its car-based off-roader aims to keep it at the top of the crossover pile.

A new front bumper and clear lamp lenses all round identify the facelifted car on the outside, but less easy to spot is the optional water-repellent glass. Volvo's Four-C active chassis - which tunes the suspension to suit on or off-road driving - is also available for the first time, and early next year, buyers will be able to opt for a blindspot warning device.

The XC's tall ride height means lots of body roll in corners, but it's better than a conventional 4x4, and it handles more like a car than a truck. The five-cylinder diesel provides ample performance, too, even if it's noisy under load.

Inside, the XC70's estate origins are obvious - you don't sit as upright as you do in a full-size SUV, and as a result the cabin doesn't feel as roomy. It's comfortable, though, thanks to new front seats, and the quality of the materials is first rate. The revised centre console and dash are sensibly laid out, too, while the centre armrest features added storage. However, we couldn't help but wonder how well the beige interior of our test car would stand up to long-term use.

There are no such concerns in the rear, where a reversible boot mat flips over to reveal a durable non-slip rubber surface, and a clever dog guard that extends from the top of the rear bench. The 1,641-litre loadspace with seats folded compares well with the Audi Allroad's 1,590 litres.

It beats the German on cost, too. The oil-burning XC70 SE Lux is priced at £29,483 with the standard six-speed manual, but you'll pay an extra £1,250 for the Geartronic auto that allows manual selection of its five gears. Company users take note - the manual comes with a lower CO2 figure of 199g/km.

Our car featured a communications pack (£3,050), electric sunroof (£850), rear parking sensors (£340) and - for the first time - a passenger airbag cut-off (£25). With metallic paint a steep £500 option, that puts the price into full-sized SUV territory. Be sensible with the extras, though, and the XC70's lower fuel economy and emissions make it an attractive alternative to traditional 4x4s.

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