Volvo S60 saloon

£21,875 - £34,295

The Volvo S60 is an executive saloon that goes up against the hugely successful and capable BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. While these cars outsell the S60 by some margin, therein lies Volvo's appeal: it's a competent, comfortable and well-built car that provides a credible alternative to what many see as the default choice of a German saloon.

The S60 is a premium, high-quality car with a beautifully built and comfortable interior. While it's not quite as involving to drive as some of its competitors it's more comfortable, thanks to relatively soft suspension and the class-leading comfort provided by Volvo's seats.

Volvo offers the S60 with a choice of three diesel and two petrol engines. As is common with this kind of car, the diesels are the biggest sellers. The D2 is capable of a particularly frugal 74.3mpg and is road-tax-exempt thanks to its low CO2 emissions. If you don’t do that many miles a year, the T3 and T4 petrol engines are worth considering: they both manage a reasonable 50.4mpg and emit 131g/km of CO2, for an annual road-tax bill of £130.

Near the top of the S60 range sits the S60 Cross Country. This features raised suspension and (optional) four-wheel drive, as well as rugged exterior styling touches. The Cross Country is relatively expensive and only available with the more powerful D4 diesel engine, while the four-wheel-drive version gets a unique (and slightly old-fashioned) 2.4-litre diesel. The Cross Country looks good: it's more subtle and stylish than the BMW X4, and it makes an interestingly niche proposition for drivers after something different.

Like many Volvos, the S60 is geared more towards comfort than driver involvement. This is a double-edged sword, as while it means the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class are better to drive, the S60 is more comfortable over poor road surfaces and is a particularly relaxing car for motorway journeys.

S60 customers can choose from three trim levels: Business Edition, SE and R-Design, while Nav and Lux variants of these models bring sat nav and luxurious interior touches respectively. Note that the Cross Country model is only available in high-end Lux Nav trim.

Company-car buyers are probably best choosing the Business Edition model, as this includes a lot of equipment without incurring too high a rate of Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax. For private buyers, we recommend SE or SE Lux trim, as these offer the best blend of value and equipment. The R-Design model has a sporty bodykit and unique alloy wheels, which give it a more aggressive stance, but this isn’t in keeping with the S60's character and makes the car relatively expensive, too.

In terms of reliability, the Volvo S60 shares much of its underpinnings with the V60 estate model, which has an average reputation for reliability, coming 86th out of 200 cars in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. The news is better where safety is concerned: the V60 estate scored the full five stars in its Euro NCAP safety tests, receiving a rare 100% score for safety-assistance technology.

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