If you lived through the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s it’s likely the Volvo name will still conjure an image of a boxy () estate car. The rectangular silhouette — a common sight on leafy suburban streets — implied practicality, and a reputation for solid build quality and safety made Volvo estates so popular with families back in the day.
Now, there’s a new Volvo estate car, called the V60 and — spoiler alert — it also ticks the practicality, quality and safety boxes. But the first thing you’ll notice is that while, yes, there are sharp creases, this is a decidedly curvy, attractive machine.
The new V60 takes a leaf out of Audi’s book of Russian doll range offerings and the overall look is very similar to the larger V90 estate. That’s no bad thing because Volvo’s design department is on a roll at the moment and the V90 looks so effortlessly Scandi-cool, it hurts.
The coolness continues inside, where the Volvo V60’s minimalist interior features an infotainment system far removed from that of rivals like the Audi A4 Avant and Mercedes C-class Estate. Whereas those cars have what looks like tablet glued to the dashboard, the V60 has a portrait-style touchscreen that appears to have been hewn between the two air vents in the centre of the solid-looking, chrome-edged glossy plastic dashboard.
Looking good is not good enough, though, and the V60’s infotainment system loses out to the German alternatives on overall ease of use. This is primarily because touchscreens, however logically designed, require you to take your eyes off the road to operate. Selecting a radio station while driving on a bumpy road is a bit like reaching into a box of chocolates without a menu card – you never know what you’re going to get.
The rest of the V60 interior is great, though – there’s no shortage of space upfront and, despite being set fairly low, the driving position gives good visibility. Space in the back seats is adequate for two adults and fitting three is possible, but of course, they won’t be as comfortable as in the bigger V90.
Where the V60 can get pretty close to the V90 is practicality. The V60’s boot is huge and slightly bigger than that of its German rivals. There’s also no lip to lift luggage over and the huge opening means loading bulky items is easier than in the current Mercedes C-class Estate, would you believe.
Once you’ve loaded half of Ikea in the boot and hit the road, it’s hard to find faults with how the V60 drives
Out on the road, it’s hard to fault the way the V60 drives. It was never meant to be particularly sporty but you get a good amount of grip through corners, with very little body roll and surprising poise. Okay, a BMW 3-series Touring is more fun but the Volvo arguable provides a more universally-appreciated balance of control and ride comfort.
Provided, that is, you keep its wheel size to a modest level; large rims mean thinner tyres, and the painted-on versions make the ride a bit harsh. Opt for adaptive suspension and the V60 becomes unnecessarily firm in Dynamic driving mode and it does little to improve smoothness over bumps when set to Comfort mode. In short, the more basic your V60, the better it is to drive.
We’re also sad to report the sometimes lethargic reactions of the optional automatic gearbox. Most of the time, it shuffles up and down the eight speeds with no fuss, but ask it for a swift getaway out of a roundabout and there’s a delay between you putting your foot down and something actually happening.
That said, the V60 feels most at home cruising on the motorway where the quiet cabin makes it a relaxing place to spend time.
If motorway driving sounds like you, there’s an optional semi-autonomous driving assistant available for the Volvo V60. Called Intellisafe Pro Pack, it allows the V60 to brake, accelerate and steer itself on the motorway, provided you keep your hands on the wheel. It really does take some of the fatigue and stress out of long drives.
What’s more, the Intellisafe pack looks like great value when you consider it also includes a blind spot warning system and rear collision mitigation, which helps when reversing out of a parking spot.
In terms of engine choices, if you don’t plan to drive long distances frequently, pick the T4 petrol – its lively character makes it perfectly suited to darting in and out of traffic openings and it’s fairly frugal, provided you don’t drive it too hard.
Otherwise, the D4 diesel pretty much does it all – it’s fuel efficient, easily powerful enough for when you fill the V60’s boot to the brim and also hushed on the move. There are more powerful engines available, but they seem a bit overkill in this comfort-focused car.
So, the Volvo V60 makes for a great choice if you’re looking for a good-looking estate car. It’s posh without being ostentatious, puts other estates in its class to shame when it comes to practicality, and – being a Volvo – offers superb levels of safety.
Volvo V60 rivals
Mercedes C-Class Estate
Price £31,720 – £47,995
Audi A4 Avant
Price £29,255 – £46,610
Or, for a little less money…
Volkswagen Passat Estate
Price £23,000 – £40,065