The V60 is a Volvo estate car that's anything but square. June Neary gives it the once over.
Will It Suit Me?
If, prior to driving the Volvo V60, somebody had said that they figured I'd be a great fit for a Volvo estate, I'd have taken that as a bit of a slur. Weren't Volvo estates for antique dealers, university lecturers, Cotswold transplants trying their best to appear old money and the sort of people you see on the Crimewatch mugshot section? For a girl with some get up and go left, the Volvo estate image didn't seem a solid match. Then I saw the V60 and this aversion crumbled somewhat. For a start, it's not resolutely square. In fact, the styling looks as if it's spent a little too long under a sun bed and has softened significantly. The basic proportions are also pretty athletic. Sporty even. Best of all, the cabin was anything but fuddy duddy when I threw open the door. Talk about an instant convert.
I'm not sure I'd go as far as Volvo's designers, who refer to the styling job as 'racetrack' design. By this they mean the curves of the car resemble the sort of organic, flowing curves of a race track. By this I guess they mean Barcelona rather than Valencia. While we've seen many Sportwagon-style estates before, one recurrent theme is that the sexier they look, the more useless they are at their primary purpose - being an estate car. True to form, the V60's 430 litre-boot is smaller than more upright members of the estate community such as the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant but it does afford you an extra 100 litres over the S60 saloon. Volvo points out that there's more to practicality than sheer load volume and it's got a point. The V60 load area has been designed with a wide aperture of 1,095mm and a uniform shape, so all of the available capacity can be used. The rear bench splits 40/20/40 and drops down flat to the floor, while the front passenger seat can do likewise to further increase luggage space.
Behind the Wheel
The cabin is finished in quite a spare Scandinavian way. I liked the clean look of the fascia, with its floating centre console but a couple of friends mentioned that they found it a little too stark and would quickly get bored with it. All agreed that the seats were some of the most comfortable they'd ever sat in. The engine in the car I tested was a 1.6-litre diesel with the economy D2 badge on the back. This didn't promise much but delivered in a big way. With just 120bhp on tap, the V60 D2 has one of those engines that you'd skip over if you saw it on a spec sheet, but there's loads of torque, it pulls smoothly and in this class of car it seemed a perfect fit. Best of all, it means you get a massive 850-mile tank range. That should keep me off the Pringles from my local petrol station. It's only when you attempt to drive the V60 hard that it feels a little unhappy, reminding you through a somewhat scrabbly front end that it's no sports car. Ease your pace and composure returns.
Value For Money
I knew the Volvo V60 in D2 diesel trim wasn't going to be cheap but nearly £24,000 for the entry-level version rising to over £35,000 for one of the better-specified trim levels seemed quite a hefty sum. All the more so, when it's being asked for an economy model that saves on fuel and offers low emissions. Of course, Volvo will point to similarly-priced BMW and Audi models and claim its V60 has the measure of them when value for money when standard specifications are taken into account. They'd be right too. It also helps the Swedish brand's cause that running cost returns are strong, thanks to the company's clever 'Drive-E' engine technology. The combined fuel consumption figure of the D2 I tried was quoted at 74.3mpg, while a CO2 return of 101g/km would look good on my tax banding.
Could I Live With One?
I must admit, the Volvo V60 did worm its way into my affections. Any car that feels this well built, is this practical and yet which will see nearly 75 miles to the gallon has a whole lot to be said for it and when that package is as stylish as the V60 it becomes one of those cars that you'd consider laying your own money down for.