Volvo S60 saloon
Price: £20,550 - £38,135
- Comfortable interior
- Plenty of space for four
- Lots of safety equipment
- Hi-tech safety equipment costs extra
- Boot is small compared to rivals'
- Not as fun to drive as a BMW 3 Series
"The Volvo S60 could finally be the car that rivals premium German players like the BMW 3 Series."
The Volvo S60 is Volvo's main rival for the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, and as such it's a premium, high-quality car that offers better performance and greater desirability than we've come to expect from Volvo. However, the manufacturer is quick to point out that it's still very much in keeping with the brand's reputation for safety and comfort. So, even though the S60 has smaller dimensions than many of its rivals, it's still comfortable and is perfect for smoothing out bumpy, rough roads.
You get a choice of four petrol and three diesel engines, with top-spec models fitted with four-wheel drive. The 1.6-litre diesel DRIVe model is more efficient and emits less than 115g/km of CO2, which means approximately £30 in a year road tax. The S60 is available in Business Edition (which superseded the old ES specification in 2012), SE, SE Lux and R-Design models.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Diesel models will return more than 60mpg
Volvo has greatly improved the latest S60's economy and CO2 emissions compared to the previous model. The engines on offer range from small diesels up to a fuel-hungry petrol model – so daily running costs vary according to what model you buy. We’d recommend avoiding the top-spec T6 model because of its low 28.5mpg combined fuel economy. The D3 and D6 diesels are much better, both returning 53.3mpg in economy and emitting 139g/km of CO2, which is reasonable but not outstanding for this class. The D2 DRIVe model offers by far the best economy, being capable of returning more than 60mpg and emitting only 114g/km of CO2.
Interior & comfort
Road and wind noise is extremely hushed inside the car
The S60 is a very comfortable car, with the cushioned suspension making light work of ironing out the majority of large bumps and potholes you may encounter. It can be a bit fidgety when driven consistently over rough roads, but never to the point of upsetting passengers. The interior is well insulated so road, wind and tyre noise is kept to a minimum, although the engines can get a bit loud under hard acceleration. The seats are so big and comfortable that they feel like armchairs, and they offer plenty of support and adjustment. It's definitely one of the most relaxing and calm cars to drive, with more than enough space in the back for four adults to sit comfortably.
Practicality & boot space
Spacious rear seats but bootspace is limited
While the S60 does have lots of room in the back, the middle seat is really only suitable for a child. Beyond that, passengers do get more legroom in the back than in the previous car, and it's roomier than most of its rivals. Headroom is also not as good as it could be and taller passengers may have to slouch a bit. The extra leg space comes at the cost of boot space, with the 339-litre boot being quite a lot smaller than the 480 litres offered by the Audi A4 or the 475 litres in the Mercedes C-Class. The other problems encountered when trying to load up the back of the car are a difficulty in gettiimg large or bulky items through the awkwardly shaped boot opening, and the standard-fit 60:40 split-folding back seats don’t fold down fully flat.
Reliability & safety
Volvo impressed in the 2013 Driver Power survey
Volvo came a pretty impressive eighth in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers rankings. The current S60 is still too new to feature in the survey's list of the top 100 cars, but the old model ranked 55th so we can expect it to do even better when it does qualify for the survey. All Volvos are reliable, although the S60 is still fairly unproven. In terms of safety, it's no surprise that the S60 leads its class. The S60 hasn’t been through the Euro NCAP crash safety tests yet, but the Volvo V60 did get the maximum five-star rating and as the S60 shares many of the same parts and components, you can expect it to be just as safe. It comes fitted with six airbags, anti-skid control and a radar-based collision detection system as standard. If you choose the optional Driver Support Pack you also get lane-change and blind spot warnings, and a pedestrian detection system, too – but these extras do add up. Quality is certainly excellent across the range, so while it may not be as reliable as it is safe, it's still better than most.
Engines, drive & performance
Powerful yet economical diesel engines are the pick of the range
The S60 is definitely one of the quicker Volvos. The range goes from a 113bhp diesel through to a 304bhp petrol engine, with all of the diesel engines proving to be powerful and responsive, with lots of acceleration available at lower revs. Of course, most buyers will go for a diesel, and the 115bhp DRIVe is the most economical on offer.
In terms of driver enjoyment, the steering isn’t as precise as in the S60's main Audi and BMW rivals, and the manual gearbox is a bit clunky. While the car's grip is good, the ride does get a bit bumpy on rough roads, with noticeable body roll when driving through the corners. It's still fun to drive, but an enthusiastic driver would probably prefer a BMW 3 Series.
Price, value for money & options
Not the best value, but good equipment levels
The S60 may look like reasonable value next to some Audis, Mercedes and BMWs, but once you compare it to more mainstream rivals from Vauxhall or Ford – whose top-of-the-range models almost match the S60's equipment and accessory levels – it suddenly looks pretty expensive. All S60s come fitted with climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and an integrated sat-nav with a seven-inch display as standard.
The SE includes an upgraded stereo, improved upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels, electrically folding wing mirrors, automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, while the SE Lux throws in xenon headlights, electric rear headrests, electric driver's seat adjustment and leather upholstery. Finally, top-spec R-Design has an even better sound system and R-Design-branded interior touches, plus sports seats and a more performance-focused drive. Resale values in the used car market should be as strong as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, so expect some reasonable second-hand deals when it does come time to sell.
What the others say
The S60 balances the needs of driver appeal and on-board comfort unusually well. It handles crisply and has plenty of grip, while the suspension provides a smooth ride over any surface, yet controls body movement over big bumps and through corners well.
For those who prefer a comfortable life to ultimate cornering precision the Volvo should be at the top of your list. Despite all this talk of stiffened suspension, beefed up dampers and quicker steering the S60 is actually still a comfy place to spend time in.
Inside, the S60 offers a fine mix of wood, light-coloured leather and dark, soft-touch plastics. The seats are superbly comfortable – although taller drivers may find getting a perfect driving position is tricky, as the seat doesn’t go back far enough.
So is it sporting? No, but the damping control of the body is excellent and the steering feels more positive than any Volvo before. This is still a Volvo though and that means safety systems have priority over handling balance.
Last updated: 15 Jan 2014