ANOTHER new Volvo. Another winner? Very likely.
The Swedish brand is on fire, picking up awards left right and centre. This year has been the best in its history with the XC60 grabbing World Car of the Year and the new XC40 winning European Car of the Year.
Both cars are SUVs, there is not an estate car in site so has the Swede given up on its heartland? Not a bit. While SUVs are the driving force behind the Chinese owned company’s record profits roomy, and now stylish, estates are still a key part of Volvo’s game plan.
Volvo built its reputation on cavernous estates. The Brits loved them, big boxy things that swallowed everything, so popular that in the eighties and nineties half the new estate cars bought in the UK were Volvos. They even became a favourite with the cops, particularly the outrageously fast T5-R. If you had one of those on your tail you might just as well give up without a fight.
The elegant V90 is already plying its trade and now we have a new V60, very much a scaled down 90 with the distinctive new design DNA running right through it.
Unlike its predecessor the new car sits on an in house platform that also underpins XC60, XC90, S90 and V90 so its territory is tried and tested.
It has to be good because Volvo has its sights set firmly on premium sector leaders, Audi Avant, BMW 3Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class estate and has already landed a painful right hook with more boot space than any of the German trio – 529 litres with the back seats in place and 1441 litres with a flat floor.
Drop the back seats and the space is impressive, a wide opening, a floor that is flush with the bumper, and almost flat side walls so this is an estate car with practicality written all over it. And Volvo has not achieved this by cutting into rear seat legroom – six footers are still going to feel comfortable in the back row.
Inside has the now familiar Swedish cabin design, soothing and understated with delicate trim features, the minimalist dashboard dominated by the portrait mounted Sensus nine inch touch screen.
This still puts the fear of God into me every time I get behind the wheel of a modern Volvo. It carries nearly much information as a chapter from War and Peace and takes a bit of working out.
The system is based on a computer tablet so you can swipe through the pages for the host of features. My advice is to learn how to use voice control, which isn’t difficult, because you can work the radio, enter an address into navigation, or just control the heating by telling it what to do. Or always have a youngster on board, they would master this in no time!
Once underway the front wheel drive V60 drives beautifully with an even blend of comfort and mildly sporty handling. I would still choose a rear wheel drive BMW 3 Series for a thrash around a race track but when is that going to happen to the everyday driver.
No, stick with the Volvo for true estate car practicality, it ticks all the boxes and, of course, has just about every safety feature going. You expect nothing less from the Swedish safety pioneers.
There are three trim levels, Momentum, R-Design and Inscription each having a Pro level which adds a bit more kit. Even though the entry Momentum comes with navigation, LED headlights, power tailgate and 10-speaker sound system Volvo expects the majority of customers to step up to R-Design and most of those will be the fleet people who will be encouraged by the low emission engines and £147 a month tax bill for a 20 percenter.
For now there will be a choice of two diesel (150 and 190bhp) and a 250bhp T5 petrol with a less powerful petrol and plug in petrol hybrid coming next year.
Earlier this year I described the V90 as the best looking estate car on the market. Well, it has just been topped… by the V70. The shorter body gives it better proportions, is visually stunning and offers something different to the German trio.
If it lacks anything it is a performance model where BMW, Audi and Merc are very strong, but it is early days so watch this space.
V60 D4 8sp auto Inscription Pro
2-litre turbo diesel; 190bhp
0-62mph 7.9secs; 137mph
1st year road tax £160