Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 81%

The Volvo S60 is the large saloon which the company hopes will finally close the door on Volvo’s image of a company that produces angular estate and four-door cars.

Its design certainly follows the path forged by the stylish Volvo C30 hatchback and Volvo C70 convertible, but can it deliver on the road?

1. Looks 8/10

The Volvo S60 looks part Audi, part Jaguar but instantly recognisable as a Volvo, and is a far cry from the boxy saloons and estates of old. The lines are almost coupe-like and work hard to disguise the car’s height (it’s the tallest car in its class) and give the car the level of appeal which its rivals have in spades. The rear lights feature distinctive strips which illuminate red at night, and the front carries Volvo’s signature daytime running lights.

2. Looks inside 8/10

The interior is more evolution than revolution, so it will be familiar to existing Volvo buyers. But the quality of materials used are far superior to previous Volvos, with tactile, soft-touch plastics and quality leather trim fitted to our test car. The ‘floating’ centre console panel remains, with storage space behind, but it has been angled towards the driver for a more cockpit-like feel. Despite the crowd of buttons on the console, controls are intuitive and easy to use.

3. Practicality 7/10

The Volvo S60 follows other upmarket cars of its size by being offered as a saloon, rather than a hatchback with a wide-opening bootlid. That means that while the boot offers 339 litres of room (less than the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4) with a rear seat that splits and folds, loading bulky objects could cause problems. However inside the cabin, there’s plenty of useable space for five occupants – space for rear seat passengers is very good – and there’s also plenty of cubbyholes in reach of the driver, including a large glovebox.

4. Ride and Handling 7/10

The Volvo S60 is undoubtedly the most thrilling car the company has produced in many years, offering a sports-orientated chassis which makes it fun to drive fast. However, by gearing the car towards enthusiastic drivers, the firmer suspension means bumps in the road are transmitted into the cabin. While this is a problem at low speeds, as the pace increases the suspension copes better, soaking up the worst imperfections in the road surface. But despite this, there’s minimal road noise in the cabin.

The steering lacks the weight and feedback offered by other cars in its class; most noticeably the BMW 3 Series, but for relaxing, high speed cruises this is more than adequate.

5. Performance 8/10

Three engines will be offered from launch; two diesels and a petrol, which will be joined by three more diesels and another petrol over the coming months. We tested the new 2-litre ‘D3’ turbocharged diesel engine and found it the pick of the two diesels. Despite being essentially the same engine as the 2.4-litre ‘D5’ unit, it’s quieter and smoother and you’d need a stopwatch to notice the difference in performance. The D3 produces 163bhp and 295lb/ft of pulling power (compared to 205bhp and 310lb/ft for the D5), which means it’ll hit 62mph in 9.2 seconds before reaching 137mph.

Volvo S60 gallery:

6. Running Costs 8/10

The Volvo S60 is priced from £23,295 but Volvo expects that model, the entry-level ES, to make up a small number of sales. The majority of models will cost between £25,000 and £30,000 once a few options have been added. The 2-litre D3 engine we tested is the most economical of the range, producing 139g/km of CO2 for lower road tax and returning an average of 53.3 miles per gallon – identical to the larger-engined 2.4-litre D5. Volvo says the used values of their cars remain high, making it a good prospect for buyers of the new car.

A low-emission ‘Drive’ model will be available at a later date, emitting just 115g/km from its 1.6-litre diesel engine.

7. Reliability 9/10

Most of the engines used have been proven in other models, and Volvo has a good reputation for reliability.

8. Safety 10/10

The Volvo S60 features a large range of standard safety equipment, including Volvo’s City Safety system which minimises the risk of, and damage resulting from low speed shunts. Optional equipment includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning (which beeps should the driver veer across white lines on the road) and Driver Alert Control which alerts tired or distracted drivers by analysing their driving patterns.

Another optional system is Pedestrian Detection, which is an evolution of City Safety, and can detect pedestrians, warn the driver and apply the brakes before impact.

9. Equipment 8/10

Three equipment grades are available: ES, SE and SE Lux, with the latter two offering good levels of kit. ES includes cruise control, a 5-inch colour information screen, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and 16-inch alloy wheels. The SE adds aluminium trim, automatic dimming rear view mirror, folding door mirrors, automatic windscreen wipers, Bluetooth telephone connectivity, rear park sensors and 17-inch alloys.

The SE Lux adds electrically-adjustable leather seats, headlights that swivel as the car corners and headlamp washers.

10. X-Factor 8/10

The Volvo S60 represents the first time for many years the company has built a car which can rival the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. It’s a stylish machine that’s refreshingly different. Only a firm ride counts against it.

Key facts:

Model tested: Volvo S60 D3 SE Premium 2.0 6sp saloon
On the road price: £27,295
Price range: £23,295 – £36,745
Date tested: July 2010
Road tester: Stuart Milne