Used car tests

Used Volvo XC90 review

It's a former Car of the Year, but is Volvo's stylish SUV the XC90 a sound proposition used?

Not all 4x4s are environmental disasters. Take the Volvo XC90 as an example. With a wide range of engines, efficient design and a seven-seat cabin, it blends off-roader looks with MPV practicality. Yet it needn't cost the earth to run.

When the stylish SUV hit dealers in 2002, it took the market by storm, with customers willing to add their names to lengthy waiting lists. It was voted Car of the Year in Auto Express's 2003 New Car Honours, and while it's still a popular buy new, the first second-hand examples are now hitting forecourts.

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The D5 diesel variant represents the ultimate family holdall, and offers reasonable economy. Here, we take a look at the Swedish firm's first off-roader.


  • Interior trim: Check the condition of the upholstery, as it doesn't always wear very well. Leather and carpets get scuffed, especially on hard-used family owned examples. Many cars will have been executive runabouts, and these make great used buys.
  • Fuel: Consumption is heavy, much like the car itself, so don't expect to make savings at the pumps. While the XC90 is a superb tow vehicle, pull anything too heavy witha T6 model and you could average only 12mpg.
  • Tyres: make sure there's plenty of life left in the rubber as a new set will cost you around £600, and it can be tricky to get hold of. The XC90's unusualtyre sizes aren't stockedby all retailers, so do your homework in advance if the tread is thin.
  • Injectors: if you come across a model which struggles to fire up, the problem could lie with the injectors. It tends to be made worse by low temperatures, and costs around £1,500 to repair. Better to seek out another example.
  • Brightwork: check the chrome window surrounds haven't gone cloudy. Some chemicals that are used in modern car washes can attack the metal, and replacing these is the only way to restore the XC90's originalglistening appearance.


Early models start from £23,000 - that will net you an 03 or 53-plate car with 50,000 miles on the clock. There's little difference in values between petrol and diesel. More D5 models have been sold, but they're in greater demand.

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A 54-plate SE costs £30,000, while an additional £1,000 will buy you an 05-plate SE. The latest 55-reg models cost anywhere between £35,000 and £39,000, depending on the specification and mileage. You will struggle to find a 2.5T anywhere - most franchised dealers have never even seen one.

What to look for

Although the popular Geartronic automatic is great to use, be sure you can live with its hesitancy when pulling away.

There are few T6 models around and the more plentiful D5 is the pick anyway, even with fuel economy of only 25mpg. But given that T6 versions aren't much thirstier, temptingly priced examples are fine for low-mileage drivers.

Don't expect much in terms of off-road ability. Yet on tarmac, especially when towing, the XC90 is superb.


October 2003: Faulty seatbelt fittings on cars built from June 2002 to May 2003. ABS problem on models made between May and September 2003.January 2004: Injector pipe system on vehicles manufactured in December 2003 can experience a fuel leak.November 2005: Battery earth-cable can short circuit on examples made from August 2004 to October 2005.

Owner comment

Chris Lamb from Lichfield, Staffs, has owned his 53-plate XC90 D5 SE since new, and is generally impressed with it. "The car is very comfortable and ideal for towing, but it's a little bit slow off the mark," he explained.

"It's also thirsty, although the dealer service has been excellent and I think the model is great value. I'd be quite happy to buy another one - especially as the new D5 engine is even better."


Even though it's been around for a while, the XC90 is still one of the most sought after SUVs. It offers all the usual Volvo virtues of great build and superior safety levels, wrapped up in a practical and stylish package. However, don't expect to run one on a tight budget - they're thirsty and the cost of maintenance is higher than for more mainstream rivals. We the strong residuals, image and looks, practicality and safety. We don't like the high running costs, sluggish (albeit refined) diesel engine and lack of availability on used forecourts.


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