Volvo S60 saloon

£21,255 - £36,725

The Volvo S60 is the Swedish brand's rival for the familiar German compact executive trio of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. 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 this car very much upholds its reputation for safety and comfort. So even though the S60 is more compact than many of its competitors, it's still comfortable and great at smoothing out rough roads.

Objectively, the S60 isn’t quite a match for its German rivals – especially when it comes to the driving experience – but it's by no means a bad car and will particularly appeal to those who like to do their own thing and not follow the herd.

There's a choice of four petrol and three diesel engines – as well as four-wheel drive on the rugged, range-topping Cross Country model. The 2.0-litre D2 diesel model is the most efficient and emits less than 100 grams per kilometre of CO2, so owners pay no road tax, but depending on how many miles you do per year, the T3 petrol may be more cost-effective, so make sure you do the sums before you buy.

Unfortunately, the S60's ride and handling aren’t quite up to making the most of this range of efficient and powerful engines – although it is a refined and comfortable car that's totally at home cruising for long distances on the motorway.

The S60 is available in Business Edition, SE, SE Lux, R-Design, R-Design Lux and Cross Country Lux specifications. As its name clearly suggests, Business Edition is aimed squarely at company-car users, with lots of standard kit so the car's tax liability isn’t increased with optional extras. SE and SE Lux are the most popular trims and the ones we think offer the best value for private buyers.

R-Design gives a sporty edge to the S60, adding unique alloys and an eye-catching bodykit to the package, while the Cross Country is a rugged version with a raised ride height that's designed to cope with light off-roading. It's available with either two or four-wheel drive.

Find out what we think is the best compact executive car by watching our video below.