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Estate of mind

Date: 07 March 2018   |   Author: Guy Bird

SUVs may be in sales vogue; indeed, Volvo now offers three  in its line-up, but the Swedish brand is still championing the body style it's best known for - the solid and versatile family estate car. 

To emphasise the point, Volvo chose a swish middle-class residence in the suburbs of Stockholm for its global reveal of the new second-generation V60 to the world's attendant press, including BusinessCar. With Volvo aspiring to - and now arguably achieving - a premium and distinctly restrained Scandinavian level of design and quality, the company's home was suitably modern and pared back too, with polished concrete floors, light and airy rooms, and sophisticated natural colours. Then the new V60 came up the drive as the snow fell. The dots to join were obvious, but nonetheless credible. 

The new V60 clearly keeps the family feeling of its bigger V90 estate and XC90 SUV siblings, but adds a little more practicality to counterbalance its smaller proportions (in comparison to both).  The simple lines on its elegant exterior bodywork sit under slightly bigger side windows for a clearer view, while a more upright rear hatch creates greater luggage capacity than the previous V60's 430 litres, and the current V90's 500 litres. Indeed, the V60's 529-litre minimum and 1,364-litre maximum trumps all its German premium rivals on regular boot space, from the Mercedes C-Class estate (490 litres) to the BMW 3 Series Touring (495).

Much has been made in the mainstream press of Volvo's early electrification pronouncements: every new model from 2019 will feature some element of electric propulsion, and the V60 will be the company's first car to offer two petrol or electric hybrid engine options worldwide, a 340hp T6, due in autumn 2018, and a 390hp T8. However, CO2 and mpg figures have yet to be finalised and the latter T8 model has not been confirmed for the UK. A non-hybrid, all-wheel drive 310hp T5 AWD petrol offering a best-case 34.9mpg and 185g/km of CO2 will go on sale in the autumn, too. 

Meantime, two front-wheel drive diesels, the 150hp D3 and 190hp D4, can be ordered now, for September delivery. With emissions and economy once again measured by tyre size, using the NEDC cycle for tax and the WLTP cycle for greater reality, CO2 and mpg figures for the V60 are numerous and confusing. However, it should launch with best-case scenarios of 59.4-65.7mpg and 114-127g/km for the D3 manual gearbox diesel. Prices start from £32,810 for the D3 up to an estimated mid-£50,000 for the hybrid T6.  

As we've come to expect from Volvo, standard specification is heavy on safety, including a claimed world-first city safety feature that engages auto-braking to mitigate damage in oncoming collision situations as well. Semi-autonomous driving is also part of the package, with Pilot Assist enabling the car to steer, accelerate and brake for the driver - as long as he or she keeps their hands on the wheel, overall speed is no more than 80mph and the road markings are clear. The already acclaimed portrait-shaped infotainment system is now fully compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G, and the software has been upgraded. 

Volvo remained tight-lipped about sales predictions for the V60, but expects the estate to "see a marked increase in sales volumes over the old model" (it sold 3,000 in 2017). Volvo's overall tally for last year was 46,139, or 1.2% down on 2016's high of 46,696. The XC60 took 16,302 units, in new and old guises, the V40 accounted for 14,256 and the XC90 for 6,210 units. With the all-new XC40 small SUV adding to its range, Volvo will arguably have its strongest model line-up this century, although aspirations could be tempered due to diesel's waning popularity and Brexit. 

For now, Volvo will continue to sell the old V60, which is being offered with an entry-level Business Edition trim from £24,145 for the T4 manual petrol with 135g/km of CO2. Volvo expects 60% of V60s to go to fleet and business users, and for the diesel D3 FWD to take the lion's share of sales at 75%, followed by the D4 FWD at 20% and the T5 AWD at 5%. As head of business sales Steve Beattie said, "The new V60 will underpin our increased focus across the board on the end user within the fleet market. We are now spending more time with customers to understand their policies and making sure our cars are represented in the
appropriate grades."

Uncertain market conditions withstanding, the V60 is a smart and desirable piece of kit. In a segment with only the German premium trio of Audi, Mercedes and BMW for company, this model deserves serious business consideration.