"While older Volvo estates offer space in abundance, the V60 is actually smaller inside than similarly sized rivals."
With the S60 saloon representing Volvo's best challenge yet to small executive class rivals such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, the Volvo V60 is the stylish estate version. Volvo has gradually been improving its reputation for producing stylish cars without sacrificing its practical, safe heritage, and the V60 is really quite striking while also being very comfortable and extremely well built. It comes in five specifications – entry-level Business Edition, then SE, SE Lux, R-Design and top-of-the-range R-Design Lux. Higher-spec models come with four-wheel drive, while the low-emissions DRIVe version, with lower running costs and cheaper road tax, is no longer available. The most economical model is now the Volvo V60 D2, which will do more than 65mpg. It's worth nothing that even though it is still very practical, the V60 is actually smaller inside than similarly sized rivals and not as boxy as Volvos of old. However, the company's reputation for comfort and first-class safety equipment is still intact, thanks to both the main car and the Plug-In Hybrid model managing to secure top marks in the Euro NCAP crash safety test. A 2013 update refreshed the look of the car somewhat, but didn't change anything under the skin to speak of.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
If you really want to keep your daily cost as low as possible, then the diesel-electric plug-in hybrid V60s offer truly astounding fuel economy. However, it's very expensive – so you'd best check your average mileage and do the maths before you buy. With the DRIVe model no longer available, the best value V60 is the 1.6-litre D2, which returns 65.7mpg and emits 114g/km. The D3 and D4 diesels are more expensive to buy but offer identical fuel economy and emissions, while the top-of-the-range V60 D5 drops economy slightly but still manages a respectable 119g/km of CO2. What's more, they're so smooth, that they largely negate the need for the thirsty petrol engines.
Interior & comfort
As this is a Volvo, you’d expect nothing less than a comfortable car – and that is exactly what the V60 is. The company has a well-earned incredibly strong reputation in this area, and you’ll never feel exhausted after spending time behind the wheel of the V60. The interior is spacious, while climate control is included as standard. In the front there is a pair of Volvo's usual soft and supportive armchair-like seats, but unusually for Volvo's of the past, the sloping roof actually reduces headroom in the back, and enough so that taller passengers will have some difficulty getting comfortable. Unfortunately, that's the price of stylish dimensions.You can now get the Volvo V60 on 19-inch alloy wheels, but we don't recommend it, as the ride will really suffer.
Practicality & boot space
At 430 litres, the V60's boot actually lags behind the Audi A4 Avant estate by a full 60 litres, and is a pretty substantial 123 litres less than the space available in the Hyundai i40 Tourer. The rear seats split 40:20:40 and do fold completely flat (as does the front passenger seat), to expand the boot to a maximum capacity of 1,246 litres. However, that's still 59 litres less than a Volkswagen Golf hatchback. Still, what the V60 lacks in boot space, it does more than makes up for with eye-catching design and pleasing touches, such as a fold-out divider in the boot floor, complete with built-in retaining straps to help secure loads. All passengers are well catered for, too, with plenty of room in the back seats, even with the headroom being a bit squeezed by the sloping roof. You also get decent storage on the centre console and some cubbies dotted around.
Reliability & safety
Volvo placed eighth in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers ranking, claiming back the two spots it dropped in the 2012 poll. Surprisingly, it was slightly let down by reliability – but we wouldn’t take this too to heart, because it's more of reflection of customers’ expectations for such a well-built car, rather than in comparison to the rest of the market. The V60 doesn’t yet appear in the survey results, but the previous model S60 saloon did make a sneaky return to the top 100 cars list, ranking 55th, which is a testament to the longevity of Volvo's cars. Inside, the V60's interior quality is easily a match for the best small executive cars on the market, with a lot of hi-tech safety systems also available. All specs come with six airbags, electronic stability control and City Safe – which helps prevent low-speed accidents – all fitted as standard. The optional Driver Support Pack will also add blind spot and lane-change alerts, a pedestrian detection system, plus collision warning technology with automatic braking. All of which adds up to best-in-class scores in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, including five stars for the electric Plug-In Hybrid model, the first EV to score so high, and an amazing 100 per cent in the safety assist category.
Engines, drive & performance
Like Volvo's deliberate sexing up of the V60's exterior, it has tried to give the car a sportier feel behind the wheel, but it still doesn’t match up to the BMW 3 Series for sheer driving fun. In truth, it's at its best when cruising on long-distance motorway journeys, effortlessly absorbing any lumps and bumps you may encounter along the way. If you think that you’re going to be regularly loading the boot to capacity, then we’d recommend the D3, D4 or D5 diesel engines, as they have lots of power to easily cope with the extra weight. If you need that little bit more oomph, the potent T6 petrol version is powered by a turbocharged V6 engine and is incredibly fast, going from 0-60mph in only 5.6 seconds, which is going to be more than enough performance for most people in the market for an estate car.
Price, value for money & options
Compared to the Audi A4 Avant or the BMW 3 Series Touring, the V60 does represent decent value for money. All models come with climate control, alloy wheels, daytime running lights, heated door mirrors and rear parking sensors as standard, while upgrading to the SE specification adds a Bluetooth telephone connection. Leather upholstery is added to the standard equipment list on SE Lux cars, while top-of-the-range R-Design cars get 18-inch alloy wheels. Volvo cars do also have strong resale value on the used car market, so whichever you buy, you should be able to get a good second-hand deal and recoup some of your initial investment when the time comes to sell. That said, it won’t be a strong as BMW, Audi or Mercedes.