Volvo V60 Hybrid review

* Price 40,000 (est) * On sale autumn 2012 * MPG 148.6, CO2 49g/km...

Volvo V60 Hybrid review

What is it? Plug-in diesel hybrid version of Volvo's small estate

Hybrids have been around for a while, but only lately have car makers been able to make diesel hybrids work. Volvo is the latest company with such a powertrain.

The basic 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel engine is straightforward enough. It's tuned to produce 213bhp and is fitted with a stop-start system and the latest software to boost its fuel economy. The engine is linked to a six-speed Geartronic automatic gearbox and puts its drive to the road via the front wheels.

Farther back, a 12kw lithium-ion battery pack is secreted beneath the boot floor. This can be charged from the mains, or boosted by the diesel engine's alternator as well as by recapturing energy generated by the brakes. Either way, these batteries are used to power a 68bhp electric motor that drives the rear wheels.

In practice, it's this motor that gives the V60 Hybrid its surging performance and sensational fuel economy. On average, the V60 Hybrid returns a stunning 148.6mpg and emits just 49g/km of CO2.

Think that's exciting? Consider this: the car offers a claimed electric-only range of 30 miles and a top speed of 60mph, and Volvo reckons it's entirely possible to complete a reasonable length of commute using no diesel whatsoever.

There are three driving modes available: Pure, Hybrid and Power. By selecting Pure we were able to drive the car, albeit in a relaxed fashion, solely using the electric motor for mile after mile. Selecting Hybrid engaged the diesel engine to increase performance, so much so that the car can tow an 1800kg trailer. Power mode ushered in a combined output of 276bhp, which Volvo claims is meaty enough to dust off the 0-62 sprint in just 6.9secs.

Drawbacks are few. The cars we drove were early pre-production models and did emit quite bit of whine from the electric motor. The transmission between diesel and electric power sometimes felt a tad jerky, too.

The V60 Hybrid is approximately 220kg more than a diesel 4x4 version of the V60, and its boot has shrunk slightly (the location of the batteries mean the floor height rises by 60mm and reduces capacity to 310 litres). Also, that same packaging compromise has dictated a slightly smaller fuel tank; down to 45-litres.

As things stand, you'll pay company car tax at the minimum rate for diesel-engined cars of 13%, but we can't give you an idea of what the final bill will be because prices are as yet unavailable. Still, if we were betting men we'd wager around 40k.