Volvo V60 plug-in Hybrid SE Lux
Week ending 28 March
Driven this week 367
I now have three cards to facilitate the use of public car charging points with the Volvo, but despite this I am still having trouble getting reliably hooked up. A Starbucks coffee place on the A4 near Heathrow has three Source London charge points. Two were working so both the V60 and I managed to top up there – all good. However, the fast-charging point on Fleet Motorway Services just refused to talk to the Volvo, despite me having the correct Ecotricity card, the correct Mennekes socket on the car and pretty much everything else in order. I’ve yet to try the ‘Charge your Car’ network because although the points are distributed all over the country, none is near where I live or travel regularly.
At least the new 32A charging points installed adjacent to my work parking spot ensure I can fill up each day. Previously, the work points were 16A only, meaning that plugging in the car at 9:30am gave an estimate of 4pm to be replenished. With the higher output 32A charging, I can now use the Volvo at lunchtime because it is brimmed with electricity by 1pm.
Week ending March 14
Driven this week 260 miles
I had a chance to sample Volvo’s impressive new D4 diesel engine in the S60 saloon at the beginning of the year. Its CO2 emissions of 99g/km mean it’s remarkably cheap to run as a company car. Choose entry-level Business Edition spec, and at the 40% rate you’ll pay around £108 per month. An equivalent Audi A3 Saloon or BMW 3 Series will cost significantly more.
While I was impressed by these numbers, those for the V60 plug-in hybrid I’ve been driving all week are even more appealing.
At around £45,000 (after the Government grant), the V60 hybrid is very expensive for a private buyer. For a company car user, though, it’s an absolute steal. Its 48g/km CO2 rating means you’re taxed on just 5% of the £49,220 P11D value, which is £2461 for a year.
This means that at the 40% rate, company car tax on our near-£50,000 Volvo is just £82 per month. To put this in context, a standard V60 with the new D4 engine in equivalent specification will cost twice as much. On paper, it looks like a great company car choice, but there are of course plenty of caveats.
For a start - and it should go without saying - you need to be able to plug this car in, and do so frequently. With a drained battery, the D5 diesel engine is far from frugal, so if it’s running too far behind what the new D4 can manage, then your monthly tax savings will be cancelled out at the filling station.
The boot is also comically small for an estate car. There have been plenty of eyebrow-raising comparisons in the office, and I noticed in Geneva last week that you’ll get just as much space in the back of the new Audi TT Coupe.
Then there’s the weight. At nigh on two tonnes, the hybrid weighs around 300kg more than a V60 D4, and it doesn’t do a particularly good job of disguising it. The steering in standard S60s and V60s is slow and vague, and this plug-in model's is even less responsive.
However, if you can put up with the flaws and you can recharge it often, the V60 Hybrid’s tax figures make it very, very tempting. Of course there are cheaper company cars, but there are few - if any - that are this cheap and as well equipped.
Standard kit in the V60 hybrid includes leather upholstery, climate control, an electrically adjustable heated driver’s seat, sat-nav, park assist, adaptive xenon headlights and all the passive safety aids you can think of. If your company car use suits a plug-in hybrid, then reminding yourself that all this is taxed at just £82 per month should be enough to prompt a test drive.
By Ed Callow
Week ending March 7
Driven this week 108 miles
I got to have a look around the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV the other day outside the What Car? office. It makes interesting viewing, having run the V60 for five months.
The Outlander shares a lot of technology with the V60, with a few significant differences. Main among those is that the V60 is unique in being a plug-in diesel hybrid. Like offerings from Porsche, BMW and Toyota, the Mitsubishi has a petrol engine, but like the Volvo, it offers four-wheel drive with electric-only drive to the rear wheels.
Undoubtedly, the Mitsubishi’s cabin lacks the club-class finesse of the Volvo’s interior, and if you don’t like the SUV-styling of the Outlander the decision is already made.
With so much of the the other technology being equal, however, I’d suggest list price could have a big say in which of these cars proves the more commercially successful. The Volvo is a seriously pricey car. If the Outlander pricing is right, it could make things very tough for the V60, comfortable or not.