Motoring: Size matters with the Volvo V60

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The V60 works as a well-priced estate, writes Frederic Manby

VOLVO styling looks increasingly right these days. Take the V60 tested here. It is an elegant shape which sets it apart from the German opposition – with design at Volvo led by a Brit from Northumberland.

Its style is almost a coupe yet it works as an estate car – not the roomiest Volvo estate of course. For that you need the V70 with more traditional Volvo functionality and a squared-off back.

A V60 is midway in size between a Mondeo and a Focus and can be a cheap motoring option. Prices begin at £21,945 for a 1.6 diesel model rated at 62.8mpg and 119g/km of CO2. This puts it in the same arena as the new Golf, for example, and the new A-Class.

There are more than 60 variations of V60 and the D4 R-Design Lux Nav tested is £33,045. This includes the sporting R-Design trim, nice alloys (just one scraped on test when I was boxed-in at a car park), a faster-input navigation system and the 161bhp five-cylinder 2-litre Volvo diesel.

This bespoke engine develops 295 lb ft of torque and runs more smoothly than a typical four cylinder engine, and is made by Volvo. It pulls well (including trailers up to 1600kg) and with six manual gears returns an official 62.8mpg and 119g/km of CO2 (matching the 1.6 diesel – which seems unlikely, though true). It can reach 137mph and cover 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds – meaning it is quick enough. It is available with a Tiptronic automatic gearbox but this takes the edge off economy, losing some 14mpg and lifting the CO2 to 149g/km – with tax implications.

I gave the V60 a decent drive of 205 miles, lightly loaded, mostly motorway, mostly flowing freely. No body ache and the trip meter suggested 46 miles a gallon.

On shorter drives of 30 to 40 miles with a mix of urban crawling, suburbia and open country – a typical commute for many drivers – it returned 42mpg.

It is a satisfying car, with utter joy tempered by some front-wheel scrabble under power and a strange flop-over feel in the steering when you reach full lock at parking speeds. There is vision blockage from the screen pillars at junctions – not unusual – nor are the 20-40-60 mph markings on the speedometer. It is a moot point whether 30-50-70 would be more appropriate.

The test car was loaded with extras. A left-right camera to show the view at junctions, once unique to the higher echelon such as the BMW 7 series, is useful – and £405. Hot front chairs – exquisitely comforting on freezing starts – are £285. Rear entertainment, including DVD display, is £1,025. A TV in the main fascia is £750. The picture fades out when the car is moving but the soundtrack remains. My toddling grandson was very impressed when he was collected from nursery by being able to watch CBeebies while waiting for his father’s return from work on the train.

It is: Volvo V60 D4. Estate version of the Belgian-built S60 saloon with a panoply of engines, mostly front-wheel-drive but 4x4 drive is offered with the more powerful models. The D4 is FWD only.

Length: 182 inches (4.6m).

Price: From around £22,000 to £41,000.

Model tested: D4 R-Design Lux with manual gears, stop-start ignition and satellite navigation, from £33,045.

Verdict: Satisfying alternative to German fodder, built in Sweden.