Reivew: Volvo V60 estate

This will be the last all-new Volvo to have a diesel engine. It is the V60 estate car. Having led the industry with many car safety systems, the Swedes are now looking at pollution.

The V60 shares the profile and angular mouth of the V70 but is 8 inches shorter
The V60 shares the profile and angular mouth of the V70 but is 8 inches shorter

The next new Volvo, the S60 – here at the end of the year, from its factory in South Carolina – will begin the era of petrol and electric power. Diesel has been shunned because of its toxic nitrous oxides, which are blamed for causing serious and fatal illness.

Diesel advocates claim the latest engines are cleaner than petrol.

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There will be a petrol/electric hybrid version of the XC40 next year. This is its reigning European Car of the Year – a title which acknowledges Volvo’s transition. The XC60 SUV was also voted World Car of the Year. The universe awaits – or at least the atmosphere and the sea.

Diesel is being dumped in the bin marked Dirty as Volvo gets into full stride with its planet clean-up. At the UK media launch of the V60, we were reminded that by 2025 half of sales would have pure electric power and 30 per cent of Volvos would be self-driving. There will be no non-recyclable plastics in future Volvos. We were given our own long-life water bottles.

Volvo sponsored racing yachts are already scanning the oceans for plastic waste. It is part of a non-toxic assault on the car market, getting easy headlines and, always, boosting the brand – owned since 2010 by Zhejiang Geely Holdings of China.

It has been a stunning transition for a famous but relatively small Swedish carmaker which Ford dallied with, then ditched. Ford had the same lack of success with Jaguar Land Rover – which went on to prosper under Indian ownership.

Volvo world sales reached 571,000 last year, an increase of 106,000 on 2016. In the first six months this year sales increased 14 per cent to pass 317,000. Income was up almost 24 per cent.

The target is 800,000 by 2020, with 60,000 of the ultra-safe, rather greener cars being sold in Britain. That, at least, is the ambition.

The promotional film for the V60 showed a happy Swedish family doing something or other. I tried not to watch this Nordic influencer in case I felt something was lacking in my life. We are told it is “the true family car” – where the word family has a loose meaning. Maybe in case if offends those without a family.

The V60 is a size down on another family car, the V70. It mimics the long, wide, low profiles, with the modern Volvo’s concave almost rectangular mouth (not unlike the gape of its Duett estate in 1953). It looks as commanding but is eight inches shorter and £5,000 cheaper. Its serious rivals are estate versions of the Audi 4, BMW 3 and Mercedes-Benz C.

The UK event was held around and over the North York Moors. The weather was glorious, so was the landscape. The roads were UK normal, ups and downs and surface damage and lovely long moor-top stretches with safe long views where it was tempting to have a canter. We succumbed. There’s nothing I can say which will put you off buying a V60 if you want an estate car of this size with a starting price of £31,810 (or £279 a month on a hire scheme) for the 150hp diesel D3 which is expected to be the best selling engine. An all-wheel-drive Cross Country model is coming.

With Volvo’s condemnation of diesel power it was a surprise to be offered only the 190hp D4 diesel to try. The other and only non-diesel engine at this stage is the 250hp T5 – which was unavailable for testing. It is expected to take just ten per cent of sales. Viva diesel, as they have to say for the V60.

Of course, the sample D4 automatic proved why drivers like diesel. It has an easy spread of power and can return good economy. Our run out from Middleton Tyas to Harome was undulating and returned a sip under 30 miles a gallon in the D4 automatic – disappointing. The flatter return leg averaged a happy 44mpg.

There are three main models: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription, each available with D3, D4 and T5 engines. Gearboxes are manual or eight-speed automatic – but standard on the T5. There is also a better equipped Pro version of each. The prices rise gradually, from £31,810 for the Momentum D3 manual to £40,600 for the Inscription Pro D4 automatic. There are various option packs to add value to the sale.

For example, our D4 Momentum Pro automatic, nominally £36,610, had a final price of £43,835. Items included power-folding rear seats, adaptive cruise control, steering assistance, a sliding panoramic sunroof, all-round camera view, 18-inch alloys, Harman Kardon audio, parking assistance.

Verdict: Spot-on.