Volvo’s product revolution hits the mainstream compact exec sector with the new V60 attempting to take on the best estates Germany can offer
On the road
On the road
Volvo claims that few car makers can match its history and credibility in making well-designed, practical and versatile estate cars, but making the V60 more competitive is possibly the reinvigorated brand’s biggest challenge to date.
The XC90, XC60 and XC40 SUVs have all been very well received and picked up various UK and international awards, but the regular car ranges are where the Chinese-owned Swedish brand has more ground to make up.
The new executive-level V90 and S90 models have closed the gap on the excellent BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but it’s in this compact executive sector where competition is fiercest and Volvo has the greatest amount of work to do to offer a serious alternative.
The V60 is off to a good start, adopting the stylish design already seen across the more modern cars in the range, and our test vehicle received several positive comments from friends, family and passers-by that didn’t previously appreciate how much Volvo has morphed its styling into a modern and cutting-edge look. The dimensions and proportions are different from the old car’s; the new V60 is 126mm longer but 51mm lower, giving it a lower-slung and sportier look.
But that’s not at the expense of practicality, with boot space up a huge 99 litres on the old car’s to a total of 529 with the rear seats up, or
1441 litres with them dropped flat for big-time load-lugging. The 529-litre figure comfortably eclipses that of the car’s three main German rivals; the Audi A4 Avant is 24 litres behind, the BMW 3-series – due to be replaced in 2019 – is 34 litres down, and a Mercedes-Benz C-Class trails the Volvo by a full 69 litres.
The boot also features a very handy quartet of bag hooks where two is more normal, and a nice touch is that the button to drop the rear seats also includes a facility to drop the rear headrests. Too many times, rear seats drop, and then get wedged against the front ones because the headrests catch. The only negative is that there isn’t a drop switch inside the boot itself, so you have to reach over to the buttons on the top of the seats themselves.
Volvo has launched the V60 with its regular three trim level choices of Momentum, Inscription and R-Design, with each also getting a Pro pack of tantalising options bundled together for £3000 on Inscription, and £2250 on the rest of the range. Although the kit varies slightly depending on trim level, Pro adds elements such as keyless entry, active lights, head-up display, heated powered memory front seats and hands-free tailgate.
Equipment on all cars includes a powered tailgate, LED headlights with active high beam assist, dual-zone climate control, rear park assist and the 9.0-inch vertical central screen that dominates the cabin. Inscription is touted as the top model, although the sporty R-Design is actually £100 more than the £3500 step up from entry Momentum to Inscription. While R-Design is focused on exterior and interior cosmetic upgrades, Inscription adds higher-quality spec, such as leather interior, front parking sensors and silver roof rails, as well as chrome and wood cabin treatments.
Then there’s the safety kit, which seeks to reinforce Volvo’s long-held reputation as the leader in that field. Every car gets the City Safety system which includes emergency braking on detection of an imminent collision with cyclists, pedestrians or large animals, steering support for emergency manoeuvres and automatic braking to help avoid a collision with oncoming traffic. Run-off road prevention and lane-keep assistance are also present and correct across the whole range.
The Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system, along with adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, cross-traffic alert and rear collision mitigation form part of the £1625 Intellisafe Pro option pack.
The engine line-up is very straightforward, with 150hp D3 and 190hp D5 diesels available with six-speed manual or, for an additional £1550, eight-speed automatic transmissions, and the 250hp T5 petrol coming just with the auto. All are available with any trim level, and the engine range is due to expand with a smaller petrol engine and not one but two petrol-electric plug-in hybrid models in 2019.
The V60’s cabin is certainly a plus point for the car, blending high-quality materials with appealing design, including a swathe of aluminium or wood, depending on trim level, that sweeps across the interior at steering wheel height to give the dash more depth than the flatter arrangement of rivals.
Interior stowage space is pretty good, as is the driving position, helped by the typically high Volvo standard of seat comfort.
The infotainment system, however, isn’t the strongest card in the V60’s deck. While the big screen looks great, some of the functionality and responsiveness trails the best in class, especially for tasks such as setting the standard satellite-navigation system, for example, where it isn’t pre-programmed to the format of UK postcodes, so doesn’t default to letters rather than numbers at the right moment, adding extra clicks to your input procedure. That’s just one example of functionality not quite matching the best.
To drive, Volvo hasn’t set out to try and out-point the BMW 3-Series for handling, which is a wise move. The V60 feels safe and secure, but isn’t the most entertaining of back-road steers. But for this car’s core job of piling on motorway miles during the week and then acting as family chariot at weekends, it’s more than up to the task, although the ride is a bit firmer than some might expect.
The 150hp D3 diesel engine will be most popular, and while the extra power that an additional £1000 brings by going up to the 190hp D4 diesel would be welcome, the D3 is perfectly adequate. It does all that is asked of it, but does need some work to pick up speed, whereas the 190hp diesel is happier to respond to the request. Both boast the same 117g/km emissions figure for the manual, rising to 119g/km for the D4 auto, 1g/km and one BIK band lower than the D3 auto’s 120g/km.
The six-speed manual driven here is a pleasantly solid shift, with each change offering the feeling that the gear lever has slotted securely into place.
The V60 has pushed Volvo into competitiveness on most levels, and the costs equation rams that home spectacularly. Emissions are 4g/km behind the Mercedes, and ahead of the soon-to-be-replaced BMW, while Audi isn’t yet able to quote up-to-date emissions figures under the new WLTP emissions test. But residual value is where there’s a bit of a surprise, with running costs expert KeeResources predicting a 39.7% residual value for the V60 after three years and 60,000 miles, well clear of the premium brand rivals, which it has between 32.3%-33.7%. That’s a big help with monthly rental figures, and puts the Volvo almost 2p per mile better than cars that can now safely be described as its equals. The 3-series, on run-out, is almost £1500 cheaper than the Volvo, but the other two are both less than £900 more expensive, and the V60 competes on all-round cost grounds rather than being a cheaper alternative. Which is quite impressive when it also competes on style and interior quality, has a larger boot and is well-equipped.
If drivers are ever going to be pulled out of their German cars in this compact executive sector, then the V60 has all the tools at its disposal to replicate the success the Swedish brand has already enjoyed with its SUV line-up.
Volvo’s smallest estate car is now entering its second generation under the V60 name, with the first version having been launched in 2010 as a direct rival to the premium German trio of Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3-Series Touring and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate.
Prior to that car’s arrival, Volvo had tended to sit slightly below its premium competition size-wise with the likes of the V50 (pictured), which was smaller than the German premium estate cars, and shared underpinnings with the Focus estate as Ford at that time owned Volvo.
The first V60 was described by Volvo as a sports wagon rather than an estate, because a washing machine wouldn’t fit into it, and although that wasn’t a primary goal with the new car, it will manage to transport most domestic appliances.
As well as being described as the “central point” of the brand, the V60 is a historic car, in that the Volvo has declared it will be the last new car it launches with a diesel engine. Everything hereafter, starting with the V60’s saloon sibling S60 next year, will have petrol, plug-in hybrid or electric powertrains, despite the firm expecting diesel to be the V60’s most popular power.
What they said
What They Said
“The V60’s Scandinavian design is more than just stunning to look at – it offers function as well as form. From the best-in-class luggage capacity to having the Volvo On Call connected services as standard, the V60 has been designed with business in mind.
“Our latest estate also boasts industry-leading safety and connectivity technologies that will keep your business moving forwards safely.
“Set to retain its value better than premium competitors – according to Cap HPI – the V60 delivers on whole-life costs. Innovative, intuitive and stylish, the V60 is the most efficient choice for your fleet.”
Steve Beattie, head of business sales, Volvo Car UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The headrests folding when you drop the rear seats is a neat touch
There are a handy two bag hooks on each side of the boot
The little Swedish flag on the driver’s seat reminds of what you’re driving
...And one we don't
The navigation input isn’t the cleverest and is not set up for UK postcode formats
The 150hp diesel is the entry model, and the more powerful ones are predictably more punchy, but this D3-branded unit carries the V60 without too much work.
Mercedes’ C-Class is more efficient, but a car this size being under 120g/km is fine in the climate of a new testing regime.
Class-leading boot space and a well-shaped boot. Better still, it isn’t at the expense of the decent rear passenger space.
Safety equipment in particular is impressive, as you would expect from Volvo, with lots of clever tech fitted as standard.
Volvo’s new models are stylish and attractive, and the V60 keeps up that modern classy look.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
Volvo normally fits comfortable seats and the V60 is no exception. Long-distance cruising is a breeze.
Great quality and lovely design, the V60 interior is at least up with the class best.
One area where rivals are better. The big screen looks good, but the navigation system isn’t as user-friendly as others, and the screen could be more responsive.
Whole life costs 9/10
Priced to match the German competition, the V60 enjoys a residual value advantage over any of them, and the economy figure keeps fuel cost under control.
CCT opinion 9/10
The V60 is efficient, offers a high-quality interior, looks great and leads the class for RVs and, critically for estates, boot space.
Volvo’s excellent form continues with the new V60, which is the Swedish brand’s best chance yet of breaking the monopoly of premium German wagons.