No major car manufacturer worth its salt can afford not to have at least one SUV in its range these days and Volvo is no exception. Its XC60 is a rival to other premium SUVs such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLA. However, the growth in the market for compact, high-riding cars like the this means there are now plenty of cheaper but equally capable alternatives, including the Mazda CX-5 and the popular Nissan Qashqai.
What's more the XC60 is a little long in the tooth nowadays – something that shows in its fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures, as well as in its ride and handling. On the plus side, it's classy looking inside and out, well made and very safe.
There are three engines to choose from, all of them diesels: a 2.0-litre and two versions of a 2.4-litre with different power outputs. The 2.0-litre is front-wheel drive, while both 2.4-litres are four-wheel drive. But the XC60 isn’t a genuine off-roader – the four-wheel-drive versions are more about providing better grip on slippery roads than charging down muddy tracks.
Naturally, the 2.0-litre engine fitted with a manual gearbox is the most economical. It returns 62.8mpg and costs £30 a year to tax. It's quick, too, with 0-62mph taking just 8.1 seconds. It's also smooth and quiet, making it our favourite engine in the range.
For the 2.4-litre engines, the news isn’t as good. Both manual versions manage just 54.3mpg and cost £130 a year to tax due to their increased weight and the four-wheel-drive system. However, most people considering one of these engines are likely pair it with the automatic gearbox. In this case, fuel economy falls further to 49.6mpg, while the annual road tax bill rises to £145. The most powerful version can only match the 2.0-litre's acceleration time, too.
The XC60 is a comfortable car that doesn’t lean too much in corners. However, it's not especially good fun to drive and the front-wheel-drive versions can struggle for grip if you accelerate too hard. The Mazda CX-5 and BMW X5 feel more secure and are much more rewarding to drive.
Thanks to the XC60's large exterior dimensions, its cabin is very roomy. The boot isn’t so big, but it's at least well shaped and easy to load. The seats are very comfortable, while the interior looks classy and is very well made.
There are two trim levels: SE and R Design. Both are well equipped with climate control, rear parking assistance, a power-operated tailgate and power-folding door mirrors. Even the basic SE has a powerful sound system featuring DAB digital radio and Bluetooth.
The XC60's reliability record is only reasonable, but its safety credentials are beyond doubt. It was awarded the maximum five stars by Euro NCAP and its long list of standard safety equipment includes anti-whiplash head restraints, traction control and a blind-spot warning system.