The Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is a very clever car indeed. It remains the only diesel-powered plug-in hybrid on the market and delivers emissions of 48g/km, meaning free VED and the promise of low running costs. It also has four-wheel drive, a generous kit list and even a smartphone app to help you keep up-to-date with what your Volvo is up to.
There are a few compromises over the more conventionally engineered V60s that potential owners need to get their heads around. The first is weight. The hybrid is stuffed with batteries and all-wheel-drive paraphernalia, so the weight penalty compared with a standard D5 in the same specification is 300kg. That’s a lot of extra weight to be carting about, but it doesn’t translate to sluggishness; the Volvo is perfectly brisk enough, thanks to the combination of the D5 diesel engine and 70bhp electric motor which blesses it with a surprising turn of pace.
Admittedly, it feels a heavy car and confidence is eroded by the lifeless steering when you try and hustle it along on A-roads. Treat it as a comfortable cruiser, however, and motorway miles slide by very easily indeed.
Comfort is a core strength of the car. The seat has a good range of adjustment, is supportive and very comfortable. Our car had an internet-connected Sensus Connect Touch infotainment system, giving access to music-streaming services such as Spotify. It’s hard to argue against the fact that streaming data to a car, whether for dynamic navigation with real-time traffic updates, or music, or something else we’ve not really thought about is going to become more and more commonplace.
It all worked as it should, but we found the touch-screen needed a firm prod to enter information, and the effectiveness of streaming music is limited by the quality of the phone signal. In suburban London it was fine, but driving from London to Birmingham resulted in 40 minutes of silence along the M40 as the 3G signal dried up. Not a fault of the car, of course, but certainly something to consider when weighing up whether or tick the box on this £1295 upgrade.
So, what about the Plug-in Hybrid's much-lauded emissions and running costs? Our average economy figure over eight months was 43.8mpg. Not a disaster, but we’d expect a standard diesel Volvo V60 to better this. In fact, we achieved an average figure of 47.7mpg for a V60 D4 in our True MPG tests. When you consider that car would cost some £18,000 less than our test car, it makes the Hybrid very hard to justify.
In terms of excuses for the Volvo’s lower-than-expected fuel economy figures, the majority of our miles were covered in slow London traffic, and running the car from October until June means we have run it through the coldest part of the year. In truth however, these are excuses. The everyday economy of the V60 was not as good as we hoped. Without impressive economy, the list of reasons to add the Volvo to your shopping list gets shorter still.
The brutal truth is that the decision to buy a V60 hybrid cannot be done with your heart alone. A calculator is an essential sidearm to crunch the numbers to see if ownership makes sense.
For private buyers, the decision is simple. It is unbuyable. It is too expensive to buy and not cheap enough to run. Volvo is claiming impressive resale values and the V60 is zero-rated for VED, but we can’t see it ever adding up to a good deal.
It is company car buyers that Volvo targets with this car, and here at least there is some thinking to be done. With a benefit-in-kind rate of 5%, this reduces the impact of that high list price. For the right type of user, it can make sense as a company vehicle, but care needs to be taken. If you do reasonably high miles or cannot plug in everyday, it's not going to be right for you.
Ultimately, when the numbers are crunched, we suspect that the vast majority of green car buyers will opt for something else.
Volvo V60 Plug-in hybrid
Price when new £54,275
Price now new £54,370
Driver Support Pack (£1900)
Front park assist (£325)
Arctic Night Wood Trim (£225)
Inscription Paint (£925)
SENSUS Connect Touch with Nav (£1295)
Security Pack (£700)
Winter Illumination Pack (£350)
Speed Sensitive Power steering (£225)
Volvo on Call (£550)
8m Charge Cable (£50)
Total price when new (£55,820)
Overall test fuel economy 43.8
Worst fuel economy 36.1
Best fuel economy 62.9
True MPG Not quoted (PHEV)
Official Fuel Economy 155.2
CO2 tax liability 48g/km/5%
Contract hire £745
Cost per mile 93 pence
Insurance group 41E
Typical quote £1015