Estate of the Heart | Volvo V60 Sportswagen

Volvo – once the pride of the middle classes – has gone all sexy and swoopy recently. And no car demonstrates this more than the V60 estate. But beneath the exciting curves is it actually any good?

Don’t be fooled by my youthful looks

– a milestone birthday is fast approaching. I can already feel myself changing. Conversations about mortgage repayments don’t scare me and BBC newsreaders no longer look quite so old. More worryingly, though, I’ve found myself admiring a Volvo.

A Volvo. Am I – whisper it – growing up?

To give myself the benefit of the doubt, it is a very handsome Volvo. It may be the estate version of the S60, but the V60 has a certain coupe quality to it. Long gone are the blunt sided, right -angled sofa carriers of yesterday, replaced instead by voluptuous curves and sexy swoops. It’s easily one of the best-looking estates on sale today this side of the Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon.

The downside for all those bendy bits, though, is a lack of load space. At 750 litres with the rear seats down (measured to the window line) the boot isn’t massive, especially compared to rivals such as the Volkswagen Passat. Reaching a certain age does have its benefits – I realise I’m past the point where I’m going to take up a lifestyle sport (mainly anything that requires lycra) and so don’t need to move a windsurf for example. But it’s still practical. The boot floor is flat when the rear seats are folded over and it’s also reasonably long.

The interior is built to the high standards we now expect from the Swedish firm. The plastic is thick and solid plus it features the aluminium covered floating central dashboard as per all other current Volvos. It gives the cockpit a spacious and airy feel. I also love the dark blue metallic dials. It’s generally very comfortable but while the rear has plenty of legroom, adults might find the head room lacking slightly, the pay off for that gorgeous shape.

The red example you see here is the five-cylinder, two-litre D3 R-Sport model and at £28,390 it isn’t cheap. A comparable Volkswagen Passat Sport 2.0 TDI estate, for example, is four grand less. It doesn’t even come with satellite navigation as per our test car – that’s a £1000 option. What it does have, though, is climate control, cruise control and lots of shiny, aluminium R-Design-branded interior bits and bobs. It also sits on a set of black, kick ass, 18in alloys that are sexy enough to make a 17-year old wet himself and a 38-year old get close.

As you’d expect for a Volvo the V60 is chock full of safety equipment. These include DTSC (stability and traction control), Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) and enough airbags to fill a football pitch. Okay, that list might not have got me as excited as the wheels but as a man of a certain age who has a young family I see their importance. Oh crikey. I must be getting old.

The V60 ticks all the right boxes for performance comfort and fun

When you think of a Volvo diesel you normally think of the ubiquitous five-cylinder, 2.4-litre D5 unit. But that’s a little too thirsty in this day and age, especially in a car the size of the V60. By comparison, this 2.0 D3 will return 54.4mpg and emits just 139g/km of C02. In the real world, that means a car that seems last forever before needing a refill and low company car and road taxation costs. For the latter, we’re talking just £115 (VED band E).

With 163bhp there’s no problem with the top speed – at 137mph it’s fast enough for anyone about to reach their midlife crisis. Being a five-cylinder, it also makes a great noise – think Subaru Impreza. Nail it hard in the first three gears, though, and thanks to a lack of early torque it runs out of puff disappointingly early and needs to be changed up in quick succession. Its official 0-62mph time may be under ten seconds but getting there is as unsatisfactory as riding a bicycle that has just one low gear up hill.

But don’t go thinking the V60 D3 is like a wet afternoon watching Countdown. It has its moments, especially the fourth gear acceleration. Get it wound up to around 3,000rpm, gently squeeze the accelerator pedal and before you can say ‘you should know better at your age’ it will pick up speed as effortlessly and as eagerly as if it was launched from a giant, Swedish catapult. It easily despatches slower vehicles as if they’re stationary and will sit comfortably at higher speeds.

Despite its sporting pretensions, the V60 offers a very comfortable ride but then it is a Volvo after all. The company’s image may have changed recently but just as M&S will never make a pair of slippers with a razor blade buried in the sole, Volvo will never make a car that’s overly hard. Even on the R-Design’s low profile rubber it glides over bumps without transferring them into the interior. Yet the handling still offers plenty of bite. Turn into a corner and the aforementioned tyres grip the asphalt with the same urgency as me hanging onto my youth. There can be a slight hint of understeer at a roundabout (when the front slides away) but you need to be really pushing it to experience this. Thanks to very little body roll it helps make the V60 estate a fun and enjoyable way to drive to the… tip. (It’s an estate, I’m nearing 40 – where else was I going to take it?)

Fast and good looking yet safe and practical ­– the V60 stays true to the Swedish company’s traditional values while still being interesting . So just as 40 is the new 20 (no, really, it is), driving a Volvo no longer shows you’re ready for retirement just yet.

Verdict: 12/20

A good-looking estate by any standard, but especially for a Volvo. Of course that wouldn’t mean much if it wasn’t good to drive but the V60 ticks all the right boxes for performance, comfort and fun. It might not be the most practical of estates but it’s still useful and offers more room than a hatchback. So forget about the stigma attached to owning a Volvo – those who make jokes are more than likely jealous they too don’t own such a well-built and capable machine.


Volvo V60 Sportswagen D3 R-Design

Price: £23,390
Engine: 5cyl 1984cc
Top Speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 9.4
Power: 163bhp
Torque: 295lb ft
C02: 132 g/km
VED Rating: E (£115)
Economy: 55.4mpg
Manufacturer:  0800 400 430
Dealer: Marshall Peterborough  0844 3349490, Marshall Cambridge  0844 3349445

Reader Reviews

Hayley Gilson, 34, Yaxley
I love Volvos – they’re so strong and safe. I really like this one though since it’s very good looking while still offering plenty of room for a young family like mine.

Kieran Brown, 19, Hampton
The V60 is a very good looking car and I especially like the black wheels. However, I’m not sure what my friends would think if I turned up driving a Volvo.

Rhiannon Laurence, 34, Raunds
I was interested to see how the Volvo compared to my VW Passat Estate. While the V60 is probably better looking than my car, I don’t need a purple rinse to drive it.

Dale Archer, 35, Dogsthorpe
I’ve never been a fan of Volvos – too big, too old fashioned, too cumbersome. This one, though, changes all that. And yet it’s still as safe as you’d think it should be.

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