Volvo V60 1.6 DRIVe SE
Almost nothing to distinguish DRIVe from rest of the range
- Spectacular efficiency from 1.6-litre diesel unit
- More driving appeal than Volvos of old
- Very attractive in R-Design guise
- Adjustable interior makes most of space available
- Inevitable rumble from under the bonnet on occasion
- Styling compromises boot space
- Centre console switchgear layout requires some acclimatisation
- Decent progress requires frugal approach to be abandoned
The recently-introduced V60 has already redefined the compact lifestyle estate through the eyes of the Swedish manufacturer, and now Volvo has applied the high-efficiency DRIVe hardware to the mix in order to create an estate car that can meet the needs of an even greater range of buyers, and save them all money.
In the same way that Volvo intended the recently launched S60 saloon to shake off its reputation as a producer of safe but uninspiring premium cars, the company expects its new V60 estate to inject some new life into the estate segment. Volvo estates have a reputation as boxy, practical but underwhelming to view and to drive. A greater focus on style and driving experience is intended to change that.
Yet, despite protestation from Volvo that the V60 is not a traditional Volvo estate, it's hard to argue with the five-door design and spacious boot. Extra effort has even gone into making the model as practical as possible with a fold-down front passenger seat maximising load carrying potential.
But equally hard to miss is the stylish and upmarket exterior and interior feel. The V60 is a more swooping, coupe-inspired estate model than anything that has come before it. The bold front end is identical to that of the sharp-suited S60 saloon and the rear makes the most of Volvo's new-found sense of design adventure, too. Inside there's modern Scandinavian design teamed with strong material and build quality for a premium feel.
Into this mix Volvo has now added its comprehensive suite of efficiency measures to create the DRIVe version, and in doing so has created one of the most fuel-efficient and lowest-emission estate cars on the market. With changes to the suspension, transmission, aerodynamics, tyres and 1.6-litre diesel engine, it offers fuel economy and emissions that would not disgrace a supermini.
Our verdict on the Volvo V60 1.6 DRIVe SE
The V60 has already established itself as a fine example of a premium load-carrier, something which Volvo has a long-held reputation for. But adding the DRIVe package has made it even more desirable yet without any significant penalty. That it is also available in R-Design form means it can be frugal and capacious as well as sporty and desirable.
Choosing the 1.6-litre diesel option guarantees the lowest possible running costs, including miserly fuel bills and very low Vehicle Excise Duty. Insurance costs are likely to be modest also.
Space and practicality
Although Volvo is keen to express that the V60 is a Sport Tourer and not a traditional boxy Volvo estate, the model still proves a capable load carrier. The rear seats fold flat once the headrests have been electronically lowered, offering up a useful load space. The front passenger seat also folds flat, meaning the whole length of the car can be employed. A 40:20:40 rear seat split provides a variety of seating and luggage combinations and touches like the grocery hook show thought has gone into the design. Passenger room is good, despite the sloping roofline, with decent head, shoulder and legroom in the rear.
Controls and display
For some time now Volvo has excelled when it comes to cabin ergonomics and the clarity of its instrumentation. The V60 continues this trend, with easy to use switchgear angled towards the driver, a bold and clear information display plus easy to read and stylish dials. The manual gearshift could be more precise, however.
A key attribute in any Volvo, the V60 DRIVe is undoubtedly a comfortable machine for all occupants and over long journeys. The seats are some of the best available at any price, and noise levels are well managed throughout. At low engine speeds and when cold the 1.6-litre unit can be a fraction vocal, although this soon dissipates.
With keyless entry and keyless ignition on the menu, the V60 is comparable in terms of convenience functions to most of its rivals. An alarm and immobiliser package also adds peace of mind.
Volvo has upped the stakes here with some innovative technology. City-focused tech that warns of a possible impact when crawling through traffic and take action is standard on the V60. A more dynamic version, complete with the ability to differentiate pedestrians from roadside furniture, capable of braking the car to a stop from low speeds and assist greatly at higher speeds is a cost option. Factor in intelligent radar cruise control, stability control and a full compliment of airbags and it's difficult not to be impressed.
The introduction of the 1.6-litre diesel unit into the V60 might sound like inadequate power given its load-carrying status, but the truth is that there is sufficient torque to make decent progress - enough for the vast majority of buyers. Regardless of specification it also responds with a measured but accurate manner to the driver's actions, more so when specified in R-Design form.
Family car appeal
The V60 makes an ideal choice as a family car, offering a neat combination of style, comfort and practicality. It's not as versatile as the large estates or SUVs within the Volvo range, but it's more enjoyable to drive and offers plenty of practicality.
First car appeal
Adjustable steering weight and decent visibility make the V60 reasonably easy to drive and safety is strong, but the model remains a large vehicle and is unlikely to register as a first car choice for younger drivers.
Quality and image
Having cultivated a strong, safety-centric image over recent decades, Volvo is now just as keen to promote its cars as an extension of your lifestyle - none more so than the V60 which drops the 'estate' badge for a more fashionable 'Sport Tourer' tag. Unquestionably a good looking car, the V60 can boast build quality on a par with German rivals and a cabin feel and quality that will not leave premium car buyers feeling disappointed.
With doors that open wide enough at the front to accommodate all shapes and sizes, access to the main part of the V60's cabin is straightforward. The seats aren't mounted too low either, which should help. It's good news at the rear too, with the rear door aperture large enough for those who are less than agile. The boot door is a reasonable size but not as large or uniformly shaped as its sister Volvo estate models.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Critics will rejoice at the news that Volvo's old-style 'pop-up' sat-nav screen is missing from the top of the dashboard. A larger, easier to read version is located lower down and boasts better mapping graphics and more intuitive controls. It remains an option, though. Elsewhere, the audio unit performs well, as does Bluetooth telephone and iPod integration.
Colours and trim
The default choices of dark metallics may not show the V60 in its best light, particularly when the R-Design version is chosen. Although it somewhat goes against the grain, a vibrant red looks superb with the optional sporty package. Inside the standard grey is fine but the option to lighten this with cream or metallic tones is welcome.
The V60's proportions are not hard to judge and although the estate model requires a reasonably sized parking space its light steering and decent visibility aid the parking process. Rear parking sensors are present from the mid trim level up.
Tyre inflation kit is fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 1.6-litre (150bhp); 1.6-litre (180bhp), 2.0-litre (240bhp); 3.0-litre (304bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.6-litre 2.0-litre (163bhp); 2.4-litre (205bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, six-speed automatic gearbox (3.0-litre petrol gains all-wheel drive). Trim levels: ES, SE, SE Lux.
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