Our Cars: Volvo V60 Hybrid - Farewell

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It's time to bid farewell to Volvo's V60 plug-in hybrid. Impressive tech, comfy and plush but you need a calculator rather than a test drive to work out if it's the car for you
  • No luck taking on power at motorway charging bollards

    No luck taking on power at motorway charging bollards

  • Future Volvos will have Apple's CarPlay tech - the V60 feels like it needs it

    Future Volvos will have Apple's CarPlay tech - the V60 feels like it needs it

  • Charging point on the A4 near Heathrow, worked fine

    Charging point on the A4 near Heathrow, worked fine

  • The boot is tiny, but then so is the monthly tax bill – just £82 per month – and the V60 comes loaded with kit

    The boot is tiny, but then so is the monthly tax bill – just £82 per month – and the V60 comes loaded with kit

  • Mitsubishi's new PHEV uses similar technology to our plug-in V60

    Mitsubishi's new PHEV uses similar technology to our plug-in V60

  • V60 cabin is a comfortable, classy place to spend time

    V60 cabin is a comfortable, classy place to spend time

  • Legendary Volvo luggage capacity is not really in evidence in the V60

    Legendary Volvo luggage capacity is not really in evidence in the V60

  • The wing mirror dips to show wheels when reversing, even when you're nowhere near a kerb

    The wing mirror dips to show wheels when reversing, even when you're nowhere near a kerb

  • Temporary or not, it ruined our attempt to commute on electric-only power

    Temporary or not, it ruined our attempt to commute on electric-only power

  • My Volvo can text me when it is bored

    My Volvo can text me when it is bored

  • Gauge in dash display shows you how far you can press the accelerator before the engine kicks in

    Gauge in dash display shows you how far you can press the accelerator before the engine kicks in

  • Boot light had reduced itself to kit form. Now reinstated

    Boot light had reduced itself to kit form. Now reinstated

  • Enough is as good as a feast, where boot space for the Xmas drink shop is concerned

    Enough is as good as a feast, where boot space for the Xmas drink shop is concerned

  • If you don't give the V60 its fill of electricity, MPG will plummet

    If you don't give the V60 its fill of electricity, MPG will plummet

  • Checking the oil, Swedish style

    Checking the oil, Swedish style

  • Safety features are welcome but can be distracting too

    Safety features are welcome but can be distracting too

  • Our Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid looks good in white

    Our Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid looks good in white

  • Charging the V60 hasn't gone entirely to plan so far

    Charging the V60 hasn't gone entirely to plan so far

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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.

Nigel Donnelly

Logbook
Volvo V60 Plug-in hybrid
Buying info
Price when new £54,275
Price now new £54,370
Extras
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)

Running costs
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

Our Cars: Volvo V60 Hybrid - April

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