Volvo V60 driven

* £1000-£1500 more than equivalent S60 * Competitive running costs expected * On sale November...

Volvo V60 driven

What is it?

Given half a chance, Volvo will tell you what the new V60 is not. Apparently, it isn't an estate car, despite the fact that it's an estate-shaped version of the S60 saloon, which is designed to be more practical. Instead, Volvo is going with the phrase 'Sports Wagon' to describe the V60, and it says it's the coupe-like roofline that marks the difference.

Whatever it is, don't expect a massive boot. It's a reasonable size at 430 litres, but that's only 13 litres bigger than the capacity you get in the V50, which is a much smaller car. Crucially, though, it's also less space than you get in the rival 'lifestyle' estates from Audi and BMW.

However, while the Volvo's boot might not be huge, it's a usefully square-sided shape, and there's more storage space underneath the floor. The space is flexible, too. The rear-seat backrest splits 40-20-40, and each section folds down perfectly flat with no need to pop the bases out of the way first. The front passenger seat also folds far enough forward to be perfectly flat, which helps you accommodate longer loads.

The cabin is welcoming for passengers, too, with lots of space, comfortable seats and a high-quality feel. Being a Volvo, you also get bags of safety kit as standard. This includes City Safety, which can sense a slower-moving car ahead, and automatically apply the brakes if you get too close.

What's it like to drive?

Volvo's plan for the V60 was to make it more practical than the S60 saloon without compromising the driving characteristics. It's no surprise, then, that the two feel remarkably similar on the open road.

The ride is a little on the firm side, and although it stays comfortable most of the time, potholes and drain covers can thud into the cabin. The pay-off for this, though, is that body movements are tightly controlled, so the body stays reassuringly stable through bends. There's plenty of grip, too.

The steering isn't so reassuring. It's so quick that you often find yourself readjusting the wheel mid-corner, and that makes things feel a little twitchy. The weighting isn't as consistent as it could be, either, and you get little feedback.

A wide range of turbocharged engines will be available, including four petrols and three diesels. A 304bhp 3.0 sits at the top of the petrol range, followed by a 240bhp 2.0-litre. Two brand new 1.6-litre turbos are also available, giving either 150bhp or 180bhp.

We've driven the 180bhp version, and although it's reasonably quick, it doesn't feel as fast as the numbers suggest. The car we drove came fitted with the new Powershift dual-clutch transmission, too, which didn't really suit the engine. The gearbox was too keen to kick down, and it meant that the slightest increase in throttle pressure made the engine wail noisily without much increase in acceleration.

The turbodiesels will be of more interest to most buyers, and you'll choose between a 205bhp 2.4, a 163bhp 2.0, and later on, the 1.6 DRIVe. We've driven the 2.0-litre, and with strong mid-range muscle, it's got an impressive turn of pace. It's not as mighty at the top of the rev range, though, so you'll find yourself short-shifting to keep the engine on the boil.

What'll it cost me?

Prices haven't yet been announced, but expect the V60 to cost between £1000 and £1500 more than the equivalent S60 saloon.

The V60 has identical equipment specifications to the S60, too, so all cars come with a good amount of standard kit. All have alloy wheels, cruise control, four powered windows and climate control, while stepping up to SE trim brings rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers and a Bluetooth. SE Lux cars have powered leather seats.

CO2 outputs and fuel consumption figures are also yet to be finalised for most of the engines, but we do know that the 2.0-litre diesel (which is expected to be the most popular version) will return 51.4mpg and emit carbon dioxide at a rate of 144g/km. That means running costs will be competitive, if not quite up there with the best.