Volvo estates aren't what they used to be. Jonathan Crouch checks out the second generation version of the brand's V60 mid-sized estate.
Estate cars. They used to be things you bought to carry around loads of kit. Not any more. These days, most people wanting to do that will buy an MPV or an SUV. Leaving estates to focus almost completely on style and driving dynamics. Which is why compact mid-sized premium-branded wagons like Audi's A4 Avant and BMW's 3 Series Touring can't actually carry much more than the saloons upon which they're based. Now you wouldn't expect Volvo, a solid, traditional brand that pioneered the kind of boxy estate car into which you could fit a fridge (or several), to want much to do with this kind of trendy form over function approach. But you'd be wrong.
The Swedish brand actually invented this style-conscious market niche long before the German brands turned up, bringing us the classic P1800E model that Roger Moore drove as 'The Saint' way back in the Sixties. But it took them until 2010 to return to it with the first generation version of their V60 model. That car wasn't quite good enough to significantly trouble its dominant German-branded rivals. But this design, its successor, might well be.
As usual with Volvo, all the engines on offer are 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged units bolted to the brand's sophisticated 'SPA' 'Scalable Product Architecture' platform we've already seen used in the company's XC60, XC90, S90 and V90 models. Many V60 customers may still want a diesel, the 197hp B4 mild hybrid unit, which (like every other engine in the range) is mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox. But increasingly in this segment, there's great interest in petrol power, so to meet that need, Volvo now provides this car with three mainstream mild hybrid petrol units, the 163hp B3, the 197hp B4 and the 250hp B5. Avoid entry-level trim and there's also a 300hp B6 petrol model that only comes in AWD form. Talking of AWD, you have to have that if you go for the 'Cross Country' variant, which can be had either with the 250hp B5 mild hybrid petrol unit or the 197hp B4 diesel. There are also two 'Recharge' PHEV AWD powertrain options that both mate their engines to an 87hp electric motor. There a T6 Plug-in hybrid that uses a 253hp unit. And a Polestar Engineered T8 Plug-in hybrid that features a 318hp powerplant.
Whichever V60 variant you choose, as usual with Volvo models, there's a standard 'Drive Mode Settings' system, one of those set-ups now familiar in this segment that can tailor throttle response, steering feel and auto gearshift timings to suit the way you want to drive. Plus there's the option of adding in Volvo's 'Pilot Assist' system. This is a set-up that at cruising speeds of up to 80mph can effectively drive for you.
Design and Build
The original V60 model was quite a departure from the conventional boxy Volvo station wagon shape and this MK2 model continues that trend. To look at, it's very much like the larger V90 estate model that shares its sophisticated 'SPA' architecture. In fact, from a casual glance, you might easily mistake this V60 for its larger stablemate. Get up a little closer though, and you'll find that the front apron is more aggressively styled with this more compact wagon. There's some design inspiration from the XC60 mid-sized SUV in places too. The 'Thor's Hammer' LED headlights for example, though they're a bit more sculpted here, while the front apron is more aggressively styled in comparison to the smooth face of the V90.
Inside, there's much more borrowed from those V90 and XC60 models, the interior boasting Volvo's latest, pared back interior design language with a 9.3-inch portrait orientated touchscreen infotainment system. Plus there's a digital instrument panel, with virtual dials separated by a customisable central space that can display a navigational map, trip computer info or your chosen phone or media settings. Out back, boot space comes in at 529-litres with the rear seats in place, outstripping the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and the Mercedes C-Class Estate. The rear bench splits 40/20/40 and drops down flat to the floor.
Market and Model
If you've looked at the various premium brand rivals targeted by this car, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect here when it comes to pricing. The V60 range sits in the same £35,000 to £50,000 bracket targeted by competitors. Expect the usual 'Momentum', 'R-Design' and 'Inscription' trim levels, plus a mildly SUV-like 'Cross Country' 4WD variant is available in B4 diesel or B5 petrol guise for just over £41,000. Safety standards are class-leading - and most of the features come as standard across the range.
The City Safety with Autobrake technology system uses automatic braking and detection systems to assist the driver in avoiding potential collisions, and is the only system on the market to recognise pedestrians, cyclists and large animals. In a world first, City Safety now also engages auto braking to mitigate oncoming collisions. The purchase options are innovative too. In certain areas of the country, customers who want an alternative to outright purchase, leasing, contract hire or finance schemes will be offered the opportunity to acquire a V60 using the new 'Care by Volvo' scheme. Here, there's no deposit required and you'll get a two year agreement that also includes use of another Volvo model for up to two weeks a year.
Cost of Ownership
Let's look at the WLTP efficiency stats. The 197hp B4 mild hybrid diesel variant most will choose offers combined fuel consumption of up to 55.3mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of up to 135g/km. The petrol-powered B3, B4 and B5 mild hybrid models offer combined fuel economy of up to 40.9mpg and CO2 emissions of up to 157g/km. The Recharge T6 AWD petrol/electric plug-in hybrid manages up to 156.7mpg and up to 41g/km and will offer an all-electric driving range of up to 36.7 miles.
Ultimately of course, we can talk about figures all day but the ultimate cleanliness and frugality of any car has as much to do with the driver as with the automotive engineer. Here, the figures quoted assume that the car is being operated in the most frugally-orientated of the available drive modes - 'Eco' - a setting that gives you a green-tinged gauge you can use to regulate throttle application. Maintenance should also be relatively affordable for a car of this kind, with intervals every year or 18,000 miles. Three or five year pre-paid servicing packages are available to help you budget ahead. With the useful 'Volvo On Call App' remote connectivity system, this V60 can be programmed to autonomously realise when a service is due, then automatically book it for you at a dealership of your choice. Finally, we'll tell you that the warranty is the usual three year, 60,000 mile package.
Volvo estates aren't what they used to be - and in this case, that's a very good thing. This second generation V60 has found it easier than its predecessor to conquest sales from German rivals. Class-leading safety gives this Swedish contender a tangible advantage over such competitors. So does this V60's high-tech cabin with its more sophisticated infotainment and instrument binnacle screens. You get generally more complete levels of standard equipment too.
This is then, a tale of the unexpected. If you're just about to sign for a premium 3 Series or A4-sized estate, then you might want to try one of these before you do. Swede dreams are made of this.