The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.3
The Volvo S60 isn’t the most polished compact executive saloon on offer, in terms of both how good it is to drive and how practical it is. However, it is good-looking, safe, well-equipped and good value for money, so if you fancy a slightly left-field choice of premium estate, it’s a decent bet
Reasons to buy
- Comfortable and attractive interior
- Strong engines, particularly the D3 diesel
- Best-handling Volvo for some time
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
as a whole, the car cuts a smart and sophisticated shape compared with its rivals. Different versions of the S60 have their own look. All models have alloy wheels and roof rails, while SE cars add chrome window trims. SE Lux versions have Xenon headlamps and silver roof rails, while R-Design cars get bigger wheels, a lowered suspension and a body kit complete with rear diffuser. You can also spec the car in Cross Country guise, which adds jacked-up suspension, black plastic cladding around the wheelarches, silver-coloured skid plates and distinctive badging.
What's the interior like?
The S60’s cabin is very much a mixture of positives and negatives. On the positive side, the seats are very comfortable, and the quality of the materials used is really impressive: not quite a match for rivals from BMW and Audi, but not far off. The important dials are easy to read and the dash curves around the driver giving a cockpit-like feel. Elsewhere, however, the ergonomics are a complete mess. The centre console is smattered with small, fiddly buttons that are too hard to hit at a glance, and the way the infotainment system works requires some sort of sixth sense.
How practical is it?
The S60 is surprisingly impractical for a Volvo, with a boot measuring just 380 litres. If more space is needed, the Audi A5 offers 480 litres, while the Mercedes E-Class has 485 litres. There’s plenty of space for passengers in the S60, however. The headroom and legroom you get in the rear seats is competitive, but not quite class-leading. Three people won’t be all that comfortable in the back, though, because the middle seat is narrower and harder than the outer two, and there’s a wide transmission tunnel to straddle.
What's it like to drive?
The suspension fitted to most versions of the S60 delivers a firm-but-fair ride. There’s enough stiffness to let you feel some of the road beneath you, but it’s only when the surface is really scruffy that things get anywhere near being uncomfortable. Even, so, it’s not as cosseting as the best executive estates. R-Design cars have bigger wheels and a lowered suspension, and these take the firmness that little bit too far, and are worth avoiding as a result. The stiff setup on both versions means you get tight body control in bends, and there’s plenty of grip, but the steering prevents the S60 from troubling the best-handling cars in the class. It feels light, slow and rather artificial. The comfiest versions are the Cross Country models, with their raised suspension giving more pliancy. True, this does result in a touch more body roll, but it never feels wallowy and nor does it lose its composure.
How powerful is it?
The V60 comes with a wide range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. The most popular are the D2 and D3 diesels – a 118bhp 1.6 and a 148bhp 2.0, respectively – but while they’re not short of outright pace, both need working harder than you might expect to get around at a decent rate. The 187bhp 2.0-litre in the D4 feels much brawnier, with a wider spread of urge, but it makes the V60 pricier to buy. The same is true of the plug-in hybrid version, which has a diesel engine and an electric motor to give strong performance and tiny emissions figures. Petrol options include the 150bhp T3, which is smooth and reasonably brisk.
How much will it cost me?
Go for a conventional version of the V60, and it should prove pretty cost-effective. Purchase prices undercut those of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class by a very useful amount, and the Volvo won’t be too far behind on resale values, either. Most of the engine choices are there-or-thereabouts for economy and emissions, too, so fuel and tax costs won’t be crippling. The plug-in hybrid is by far the most efficient version, but it’s very expensive to buy in the first place, and you’ll have to use it in the right manner to get the best efficiency from it.
How reliable is it?
The S60’s solid assembly and robust materials make it feel like it’ll last forever, but if you look at data from Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, you may start to doubt that a little more. The brand currently sits in the bottom half of the study’s manufacturer standings, but that’s more to do with how much problems cost to fix rather than an abnormal frequency of faults. What’s more, the three-year/60,000-mile warranty you get isn’t particularly generous.
How safe is it?
All models come with the same comprehensive level of safety equipment. This includes Volvo’s City Safety system which minimises the risk of, and damage resulting from, low speed bumps by automatically braking the car if a static object is detected in the road. 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. Optional Pedestrian Detection can detect people in the car’s path, warn the driver and apply the brakes before impact. All versions of the car received a full five-star rating from Euro NCAP.
How much equipment do I get?
All S60s come with a decent amount of standard kit. Even the most basic car has niceties such as cruise and climate controls, powered mirrors, rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers and an audio system that includes Bluetooth, a DAB radio and steering wheel-mounted controls. Stepping up to SE or R-Design trim adds lots of aesthetic upgrades inside and out, but very little in the way of extra luxury kit. SE Lux and R-Design Lux models, on the other hand, bolster the snazzy styling with leather upholstery, a powered driver’s seat and smarter digital dials.
The Volvo S60 will appeal to those who want an attractive executive car, but find an alternative to the Audi, BMW and Mercedes models appealing. Driving the S60 is a relaxing experience and the D3 engine is excellent.