June Neary and family check out the latest version of Volvo's spacious V70 estate
Will It Suit Me?
As a family, we've always thought an estate car would suit us. And in this day and age of fast motorways, town congestion and sheer volume of traffic, we're tempted to invest more money in a family car than we've done in the past for the extra peace of mind that superior build quality brings. The latest generation Volvo V70 estate that I was driving recently appealed to me far more than I expected it to. After all, it looks like a Volvo, solid and dependable - but not quite as dull as the car it replaced. My dark blue model certainly reflected understated style and the practical greys of the interior were both smart and soothing. It took me a bit of time to get the hang of starting up and pulling away. There's a hint of delayed reaction with the diesel variant that I tried compared with petrol cars, opening into a surge of power that's quite alarming when you're not ready for it, but stimulating when you know it's there. That said, there was nothing else to complain about. I was reluctant to hand back the keys of a car which would suit not just me but the whole family very well.
Volvos are nothing if not practical. Five passengers will travel in complete comfort and the boot space will swallow up a fair bit of kit, too. The driving position is well thought out, with all the buttons and switches close to hand and easy to identify. The rear end looks a little more sleeker than before but Volvo hasn't been diverted from this car's raison d'etre - lugging gear. Lots of it. The clever trick is that Volvo has disguised the car's inherent boxiness with neat detailing like the split high-level tail lights. There's a class-competitive 575-litres of virgin space back there and a massive space can be liberated if you fold the rear seats down and stack your cargo to the roofline. The 40-20-40 three part split/fold rear seat offers 16 different combinations and the loadbay floor itself features aluminium rails and movable anchoring points. A sliding load floor is also offered as an option, as is a powered tailgate. The V70's front is pleasantly curvy in-keeping with models like the S60 and V60 which have reinvigorated Volvo's reputation for stylish design. The car's designer cleverly decreased the amount the side glass curves from front to rear, for maximum style at the driving end and maximum carrying ability at the business end. Still, it's unmistakably a Volvo and the look is a long way removed from the lithe, purposeful lines of some Germanic rivals. The blacked out side pillars, sleeker tail lights and a slightly more raked tailgate angle nevertheless mean that it has enough about it to hold its own from a design perspective. Safety? Take top-spec for granted; this is a new Volvo, after all. From previous models you get SIPS side impact protection, WHIPS whiplash protection, an inflatable curtain of head-level side airbags and the DSTC anti-skid system. There's also dual-stage airbag inflation (determined by impact severity) and Isofix mountings for the optional rear-facing child seat to ensure correct fitting every time you install Junior. Then there's a passenger airbag cut off switch and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). This acts much like an extra set of eyes and utilizes digital camera technology mounted in the door mirrors to monitor the areas 3m to each side and up to 9.5m behind the driver, producing a warning light if there's anything lurking there.
Behind the Wheel
Apart from struggling to get started smoothly - my fault, I'm sure - I can't criticise the V70 D5 that I tried in terms of performance. The book says that its five-cylinder engine develops some 215PS, if you know about these things, which takes the car to sixty in around 7.3 seconds. Given this, the average 52mpg of this model on my test was very creditable. A better choice might be a variant with Volvo's latest Drive-E 181PS 2.0-litre turbo diesel. This manages very similar performance but is vastly cleaner and more frugal. For a larger car than I'm used to, the V70 handled beautifully. The power steering felt to me a bit lighter than I might have expected in a heavy car like this, but it's responsive and relaxing. I found myself in a few tight corners, having got lost negotiating my way around East London in the dusk, but was able to effect speedy three-point turns with ease. On the motorway it eats up miles without draining the driver. If like me your longer journeys are few and far between, you'll enjoy letting your hair down in this anything but sluggish estate.
Value For Money
Prices for the V70 estate models are very reasonable compared to executive car rivals, starting from around the £25,000 mark. As usual with Volvo, you can order the car to any one of a variety of different trim packages.
Could I Live With One?
The V70 is an impressive executive contender that's also an admirable family car. If, like us, you're into 'need not speed', then this estate should suit you beautifully, meeting day to day needs while still offering a reasonable level of driving enjoyment. I could certainly live with this Volvo.