Driving the Volvo V60 in Europe is thirsty work

The V60 is a good choice for a jaunt to Europe, except for the difficulty in reading kph on the dashboard
The V60 is a good choice for a jaunt to Europe, except for the difficulty in reading kph on the dashboard
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The V60 is arguably Volvo’s most stylish car, neither too small for a family nor too large to manage easily. Unless you are a Volvo life member, you should also be considering estate cars such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and the Mercedes-Benz C-class. Volvo is a tiddler in the sales league but has enjoyed a 7.6 per cent rise in UK sales this year – triple the market average.

Volvo V60 prices start at £23,075 for the petrol T4 Business Edition. Like all V60s it has web browsing, voice control, city safety braking, a cruise control and speed limiter and alloys (from 16 inches). It will even book itself for a service. Navigation with full European mapping, traffic info and map updates is in the deal. A good enough reason to take it to Europe proper.

Along with several hundred other Brits strapped by the exigencies of post-Brexit currency rates we chortled off the Brittany Ferries Pont-Aven into the bustle of tea time traffic in the Cantabrian city of Santander. The satnav was given the task of finding a pre-booked hostal for the night, taking us on a loop and then various calligraphic swirls towards and then away from the lodgings.

This nitty-gritty, close-up detail does tax navigation systems and, ideally, you need a co-driver to watch the screen. However, without the system it would have taken much longer.

Even post-Brexit, Spain is still good value, as a pavement breakfast for a few euros proved. Soon the V60 was purring along the magnificent coastal route towards Bilbao. This scenery, limestone massifs to one side, ocean to another, is reason to use these ferry ports in north-west Spain – the other BF port is near Bilbao.

British tourists are rare here, until you get near the ports. These long-distance ferries save old or thirsty motors the slog through France. Seen at Santander was the thunderous Allard JYM 272, which finished fourth in the 1949 Monte and 208 XAF, a well-trialled and rorty Triumph TR3, and a cool-looking Twisted Land Rover 110 pick-up.

Purring is not quite the correct word for the two-litre D3 diesel automatic in the V60. It’s not a light car – heavier than the Germans, who have been on diets. Caravan people like its heft, but with a load the D3 engine has to work hard and at various throttle openings emits a typical though never too gross diesel cackle.

As a low-mileage private motorist I’d go for a cheaper petrol engine but this was always going to be a high-mileage jaunt up into south-west France and diesel is much cheaper than petrol in Spain and France, with a litre costing around 90 pence.

Volvo’s handbook rates the car at 67.3mpg overall and 111g of CO2 – not the best in my group of four, where the Audi looks very good. Motorway motoring in the Volvo ranged from an affordable 54mpg half-loaded, to 48mpg fully loaded on the return leg. Everyday, “empty” figures sightseeing were mid to high 40s. Hardly brilliant.

There is lots which is clever and useful about the V60. I didn’t have the radio volume control problem during navigation instructions which a reader complained about on his XC60.

What I did have, despite the nav’s smart nature, is a missed, major split on a motorway (Bordeaux/Toulouse) and misdirections around Bilbao. Fortunately, I knew better. Later, back in Britain, the traffic monitoring system was woefully late in announcing a massive jam on the M1, which meant a 50-minute crawl.

The active xenon lights on the demo car gave outstanding illumination. The beam can be switched on the info system to right-hand driving but sadly the speed in kilometres per hour is a small digital display bottom right. I’d expected the main speedometer display to convert to kph – possible on some other models. Volvo says that product homologation rules makes this not possible. Whatever, the V60’s kph reading should be easier to see.

A similar nuisance was having to set the cruise control or speed limiter in mph, rather than being offered a kph setting. This means cross-referencing between the main speedo and the little kph display – distracting.

I do like the speed camera warnings (illegal I think in France), the speed limit read-outs, even on temporary limits, and the red marker on the speedo which reminds you of the maximum allowed speed.

As a driver’s car, lightly loaded, the D3 is sensible rather than “fun”. It has a heavy feel on bends and I respected its feelings. The 148bhp engine is never going to make it a speedster – despite the evidence of its 0-62mph time. There are more powerful and expensive Volvo engines for the fast set. Unlike its peers, Volvo now only offers four-cylinder engines, albeit some with stacks of power.

Verdict: The V60 D3 does the job and looks so good but likes a drink.