Volvo has thrown its hat into the hybrid car market, with a plug-in version of its popular V60 estate. Is it a worthy contender in this ever growing sector? Motors.co.uk spent a week with one to find out.
What is it?
Volvo’s first stab at a hybrid car – and not a bad one at that. Based on the V60 estate, it’s actually one of a few diesel hybrids on sale, combining Volvo’s perennial 2.4-litre ‘D5’ turbodiesel engine with a boot full of batteries to, in theory, yield some impressive fuel economy results.
In fact, as the V60 is actually a plug-in hybrid, it’s possible to plug the car into the mains for a few hours and charge up these batteries entirely – giving a handy range of (according to Volvo) 30 miles on electricity alone.
What’s it like to drive?
In many ways, absolutely identical to a normal diesel V60, that is to say relaxed and composed, with an emphasis on safety over driver entertainment. Behind the wheel it’s hard to tell you’re in a hybrid – until, that is, you set off. With a fully charged battery, the the diesel engine won’t rumble into life unless strictly necessary, giving you an eerily quiet ride up to around 70mph.
Even with the lithium-ion cells sapped of all their usable juice, the electric motor will still kick in at speeds of up to about 5mph – giving you a handy boost of power off the line at traffic lights, which you wouldn’t get on diesel power alone.
Lift your foot off the accelerator at 70mph and the diesel engine will automatically cut out to save fuel, too. Strange, but it works.
Surprisingly, it’s rather good to drive too. It might weigh nearly two tons, but it feels planted and – thanks to the electric motor on the rear axle – can be flicked into a temporary four-wheel-drive mode too. It’s quick as well, with Volvo quoting a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds.
What’s it like inside?
Again, very similar to the standard V60. You get a pleasant, typically uncomplicated Swedish cabin with some fabulously comfortable seats, logically laid out switchgear and – of course – Volvo’s trademark floating centre console.
Volvo has thrown in a tweaked version of their digital speedo too. It now shows you whether you’re running on electricity or diesel – and all the usual multimedia systems remain, along with a nice ‘power flow’ live illustration, detailing exactly what the hybrid system is doing at any given moment.
Unfortunately, you also get Volvo’s slightly lethargic sat-nav which, nicely designed as it is, can be a little on the useless side. Bizarrely it’ll only accept the first four digits of a postcode, and it can have a habit of taking you on some rather odd treks – particularly if you have it try and re-route around traffic jams.
Is it practical?
The V60 is in effect Volvo’s smallest estate, but it’s still reasonably roomy inside, both in terms of passenger and luggage space. The V60 loses a teensy bit of space in the boot, with a higher-than-normal floor thanks to the hidden battery packs, but it’s still not what you’d call pokey.
It also does well in terms of running costs. Even with a completely discharged battery, we managed around 43mpg around town – not bad for a powerful and heavy diesel estate. Plug it in and the benefits are likely to be much more marked, with most day-to-day journeys possible on electricity alone.
Should I buy one?
If you’re a commuter who does the occasional long journey, we’d say yes. The V60 is one of the least compromised hybrids we’ve come across, combining a torquey and powerful engine with the ability to travel reasonable distances in hushed, emissions-free, EV mode.
Unfortunately, these talents come at a cost – and a high one at that. The V60 Hybrid starts at just under £45,000 when you include a Government electric vehicle grant (worth £5,000) – making it almost £10,000 more than the equivalent diesel only model.
Is it worth the extra cash? Possibly not – but it is one of the most convincing electric cars we’ve driven to date.
Don’t want to buy new? Browse through our used selection of Volvo V60s here
Model: Volvo V60 2.4 D6 Plug-in Hybrid
List price: £44,275 (including Government plug-in car grant)
Engine: 2.4-litre turbodiesel, electric motor
Power: 212bhp (diesel engine), 69bhp (electric motor)
Top speed: 74mph (electric), 143mph (combined)
0-60mph: 6.1 seconds
Fuel economy: 148mpg (claimed)
Euro NCAP rating: Five stars (standard V60)