Volvo V60 Review
When you’re trying to compete with the biggest and brightest names in the compact executive market, you have a choice. You can either imitate those big names in the hope of luring a few customers away, or you can do something completely different. Volvo has gone down that second route with the V60 estate, offering customers something totally unlike the established German models.
That means Volvo has done away with any sporty pretensions, choosing to focus on style, comfort and refinement. The Swedish company has also shrugged off its stable, unimaginative image with modern, crisp styling that personifies the brand’s cool Scandi vibes. The V60’s proportions make it even better to look at than the larger V90, and that’s saying something. Thankfully, it’s just as good a car.
Select's rating score* - 4.3 / 5
At a Glance
The V60 might be clean and stylish on the surface, but don’t mistake it for one of the usual German suspects. It has a completely different attitude to its Teutonic competitors, aiming to provide a mobile sanctuary of peace and quiet amid the hustle and bustle of UK roads.
A comfortable and relaxing family car, the V60 is refreshingly free of any semblance of sportiness. It doesn’t try to compete with the BMW 3 Series Touring in terms of handling, preferring to provide a more grown-up, comfortable and serene experience for those on board.
That said, the Volvo is slightly sportier than its big sister, the V90. With less weight and a marginally more agile suspension set-up, it’s a little sharper to turn and a tad happier in fast corners. It’s also slightly less supple, but we’re talking fine margins. Against the likes of an Audi A4 Avant, it’s a much softer and more comfortable thing.
While the BMW 3 Series Touring may still be the car to beat in this class, the Volvo offers a really appealing alternative, with a more enticing cabin and more impressive ride comfort. For long journeys, it’s a fantastic choice.
Part of Volvo’s appeal is the way it does the simple things well. It doesn’t muck about with laser-guided gullwing doors or infra-red night vision cameras. Instead, you get tech that helps you and features that don’t fall into the category of ‘just another thing to go wrong’.
A great example of this is the digital instrument display. Where Audi has turned this into a high-tech work of art, complete with a confusing array of modes and displays, Volvo has simply made it very easy to read. It isn’t too fussy or too cramped, and all the vital stats are crystal clear against the dark backdrop. You can’t customise it to suit your mood or the day of the week, but nor do you need a masters in computing to operate it. It’s just very good at what it does.
But there is one inclusion that might look frivolous and out-of-place, but it’s really rather ingenious. It’s called the parking ticket holder, and it’s essentially a clear plastic clip that secures your parking ticket to the window. It isn’t clever, and Volvo isn’t the only company to have introduced such a thing, but it works really well. Once you’ve had it, you wouldn’t want to be without it.
Performance & Drive
Every engine in the V60 range uses some sort of hybrid assistance, but be mindful that not all hybrids are equal. The range kicks off with the B3 mild-hybrid petrol engine, although the B presumably stands for ‘barely hybrid’. These engines can harvest energy normally lost while braking, then use it to help the petrol engine out when it’s under load. The electric motor never takes over from the internal combustion engine, but it gives you a tad more efficiency.
More importantly, the B3 gives you 163hp, all of which is fed to the front wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. And that’s enough to take you from 0-62mph in a respectable 8.6 seconds.
That’s the basic engine in the V60, and from thereon in, things get slightly more complicated. Weirdly, there are two B4 mild-hybrid engines, although one is powered by petrol and the other runs on diesel. The petrol version offers 197hp, while the diesel musters 194hp.
Above those, there’s the B5 and B6 petrol engines, which come with 250 and 300hp respectively, with the latter getting the advantage of all-wheel drive. And it’ll take the V60 from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds.
If mild-hybrid technology isn’t your bag, consider one of the Recharge plug-in hybrids. The T6 gives you all-wheel drive and 350hp, while the lithium-ion battery allows it to cover more than 54 miles on a single charge. Move up to the T8 and you get a massive 455hp, but you have to have the high-performance Polestar Engineered model, with its sportier chassis and brakes. Even so, it’ll do 50 miles on a charge and it’ll get you from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds.
But if truth be told, the more potent powertrains don’t really suit the V60. This is a long-distance car, and the B4 diesel engines suit it best. For long drives, there are few better cars on the market, and that serene cabin is matched by a slightly soft feel to the steering, suspension and even the throttle response. All of which makes it comfortable on a long drive.
When you get a twisty back road to play with, the V60 doesn’t really want to know. It isn’t set up for being thrown around as though you’re Lewis Hamilton. The body rolls slightly, the steering is too light and the four-cylinder engines feel stressed as they propel you along. Stick to a relaxed pace and the Volvo is much more amicable.
Yes, the Cross Country model – which we think is the pick of the bunch – is the worst offender when it comes to this, but even the R-Design and Polestar Engineered models, with their sporty suspension and bags of power, can’t match the dynamism of the BMW 3 Series. So there isn’t much point in trying.
Running Costs & Emissions
Cost-conscious motorists will essentially face a straight choice between plug-in hybrid and diesel power. Those who travel long distances will find the B4 mild-hybrid diesel engine the most economical choice thanks to its 50.4mpg official economy, whereas those doing mostly short drives will find they can get closer to the outstanding official economy figures claimed by the Recharge plug-in hybrids.
The T6 AWD powertrain is likely to be most popular with company car drivers, thanks to its 54.7-mile electric range. That not only means you can do short journeys – the school run, the commute and so on – without burning any petrol, but the car claims CO2 emissions of just 20g/km, putting it in the 7% company car tax bracket for the 2021/22 financial year.
Interior & Technology
Among the V60’s myriad highlights is the interior. Compared with the solid, but somewhat austere cabins of German rivals, the Volvo is an oasis of comfort, peace and calm. It’s very Scandinavian, with the sort of wood trim that wouldn’t look out of place in a Swedish sauna and clean, unfussy lines.
Volvo has almost completely eradicated buttons on the main part of the dashboard – a welcome shift in attitude for anyone who drove the old V60 – and that really helps with the calm ambience. However, it means most of the switches have been moved to the touchscreen, and that’s a mixed blessing.
There’s nothing wrong with the portrait-orientated screen itself, or with the Google-derived software that powers it. In fact, it’s one of the better touchscreen infotainment systems on the market, but the need to prod the screen means you have to take your eyes off the road, and that’s slightly at odds with Volvo’s obsessive attitude to safety.
The only other small criticism is with the cabin quality. Generally speaking, the V60 feels solidly made and tough enough to last the course, but some of the plastics and switches feel slightly less well engineered than their German counterparts. That criticism is an extreme example of nit-picking, and the difference is infinitesimally small, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re used to Audi levels of solidity.
Practicality & Boot Space
Volvo made its name by building safe, spacious estate cars capable of carrying four people and their luggage in comfort. And while the V60 eschews many of the characteristics that once defined the Swedish brand, that isn’t one of them.
The boot measures 529 litres when loaded to the windowline with all five seats in place. That makes it one of the biggest in the class, with a noticeable advantage over the BMW 3 Series Touring and an even bigger gap to the Audi A4 Avant. Fold the back seats down, use all the space available and you’ll free up more than 1,400 litres of room. That’s what we call ‘plenty’.
Happily, the Volvo backs that impressive boot space up with bags of rear legroom. Even tall adults will find they have more than enough knee room, while headroom is good thanks to the high roof afforded by the estate-car bodywork. And if adults are well catered for, you know kids will have more than enough space back there.
Predictably, the V60 is as safe as executive estate cars come. In the Euro NCAP crash test it managed a top-scoring five-star rating, with particularly strong scores for adult occupant protection. With a 96% score in that area, you can rest assured you’re driving one of the most protective new cars on the road.
And because Volvo prioritises safety almost to the exclusion of all other considerations, the V60 is also fitted with more safety equipment than you can shake a stick at. You get a huge number of driver assistance systems as standard, including lane assistance technology that helps keep you in line on the motorway and autonomous emergency braking that will stop the car if you fail to react to a hazard.
And that’s before we consider the little things, such as the reversing camera and parking sensors that help to prevent low-speed manoeuvring bumps, or the traffic sign recognition technology designed to stop you breaking the speed limit.
In essence, leasing a Volvo V60 gives you a choice between five key trim levels, each with its own character. But if you just want the most equipment for the least money, it’s difficult to look far beyond the basic Momentum trim.
Pick that and you’ll get 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, and a power-operated tailgate. Surprisingly pleasant ‘Premium Textile’ upholstery is also thrown in as standard, and you get a reversing camera, heated front seats and satellite navigation. Two-zone climate control, a digital instrument display and automatic lights and wipers round out a fairly comprehensive equipment list.
For a little more luxury, consider the Inscription trim level, which Volvo describes as “refined and exclusive”. It offers all the equipment of the Momentum model, but adds leather upholstery, chrome exterior detailing and ‘keyless’ entry that allows you to open the doors as long as the key is somewhere on your person – even if it’s tucked away in a pocket or handbag.
If sportiness is more your thing, then you probably ought to question why you’re choosing a V60, but there’s no denying the motorsport-inspired R-Design trim looks great. It also comes with a sportier chassis set-up to improve handling and lots of glossy black exterior trim. Inside, meanwhile, you get dark roof lining material and part-leather, part-textile upholstery, as well as sporty pedals.
Finally, the Cross Country version gives the V60 an off-road edge. Offered with all-wheel drive as standard, it’s the trim of choice for those who intend to take their car off the beaten track. If you’re the sort of person who plans on tackling snowy conditions in winter, this is going to be the model for you.
Externally, the car is set apart by its raised ride height and tough-looking plastic body cladding, as well as its model-specific front grille. Inside, you get similar equipment to the Inscription, including the leather upholstery and ‘Driftwood’ dashboard trim.
If you really like going fast, however, you can have the Polestar Engineered version. Available solely with the T8 AWD plug-in powertrain, it comes with Ohlins sport suspension and Brembo brakes, as well as some model-specific trim features.
To each of those trim levels, you can add a fleet of options and option packs, some of which are more useful than others. Among our favourites are the surprisingly affordable Climate Pack, which includes a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and the choice between a heated windscreen and a head-up display. Normally we’d go for a head-up display given half a chance, but the heated windscreen is so good on a frosty morning we’d have to choose that.
The colour palette is one of the car’s weak points, with a generally drab selection of greys, the traditional blacks and whites and even a sort of mushroomy brown. Perhaps the most exciting options are the Denim Blue and Fusion Red metallic colours, both of which look great on the V60’s bodywork.
Although the compact executive saloon market is relatively chunky, there aren’t that many rivals for the V60. Of course, there are the usual German suspects, but other than that it has the market to itself. New South Korean brand Genesis will soon launch its G70 Shooting Brake, and given the brilliance of the larger G80 saloon, it seems certain the estate will be a solid choice.
But the V60 will really be measured alongside the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate, Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring. All three have their own strengths and very few weaknesses, but the C-Class is the closest competitor to the V60. The BMW is all about sportiness and handling, while the Audi is about tech and engineering precision. Neither, therefore, is really going to steal customers from the V60.
The C-Class, on the other hand, is just as comfortable and stylish as the Volvo, albeit with a more modern and more high-tech twist. If you like relaxation and calm, the V60 is the better choice, whereas the Merc is more dynamically capable and comes with more cutting-edge equipment.
Verdict & Next Steps
The V60 isn’t so much a rival to the German executive estates as an alternative. If you like the current crop of mid-size Teutonic wagons, carry on with them, but if you’re after something a bit different, that’s where the Volvo comes in. With a focus on comfort and tranquility, it’s a gloriously refreshing piece of design. And it’s a comfortable, practical estate car too. Perhaps more importantly, though, it’s a Volvo estate that might actually be deemed ‘cool’.
Where to next?
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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Volvo V60
**Correct as of 04/10/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2613.49 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.