Need the practicality and mild off-roading abilities of a big 4×4, but don’t want to be lumped in with the Chelsea Tractor set? Volvo reckons it has the solution, and has given its V70 estate a rough and tumble makeover and four-wheel drive to create the XC70 crossover.

What is it?

The XC70 is near identical to the standard V70 estate on which it’s based, except for a greatly increased ride-height (74mm to be precise) and the addition of some bodywork protecting – but none-too aesthetically pleasing – plastic cladding around the bumpers, side sills and wheel arches. It’s available in both front and four-wheel drive guises, and with a choice of one petrol and two diesel engines. While the 300bhp 3.0-litre T6 petrol is the most powerful on offer, it is difficult to recommend over the increased frugality and swollen pulling power of the diesels, particularly the 2.5-litre D5, which makes light work of getting the XC70’s bulk up to speed. Those after the ultimate in frugality should consider the D4 diesel engine, though with just 179bhp, progress will be relaxed at best.

What is it like to drive?

Depending on what sort of driver you are, you’ll either be extremely pleased or frustrated at the way the XC70 goes about its business. This is not a car for driving like your hair’s on fire – large amounts of body roll and lifeless steering mean corners are a slow and considered affair. That said, for such a large car, the XC70 is easy to punt around town, where excellent visibility, light power steering and a smooth (optional) automatic gearbox take the sting out of stop-start progress and negotiating tighter parking spots. It is on the motorway that the XC70 really excels, though, providing a cushioned ride, and plenty of overtaking oomph served up by the larger diesel engine. The four-wheel-drive system fitted to our test model was barely felt under normal conditions, but came into its own in the wet, making the large, ponderous XC70 feel absolutely stable and secure, even at higher speeds.

What is it like inside?

All the Volvo models we’ve tested recently have near identical centre console and control arrangements. And while we would normally bemoan a lack of individuality – particularly on what is a £43,000 car – given its clarity and ease of use, it’s hard to knock it. The rest of the interior is up to the usual high Volvo standard, too. This isn’t a company that lavishes its cars with design flair, instead focusing on comfort, solidity and a pervasive feeling of quality. The seats are worth a particular mention, too. Orthopedically designed, they are immensely comfortable and will keep you pain free on even the longest journeys. As is now the norm, there are plenty of options to specify, which can see the XC70’s list price balloon rapidly. Our test car was fitted with such niceties as a digital TV (£800), front parking sensors (£325) and a heated steering wheel (£200). While these are obviously unnecessary luxuries, it’s well worth going for the upgraded stereo system (£400) and automatic transmission (£1,485).

Is it practical?

Volvo made its name offering some of the most practical cars on the market, and the XC70 continues this tradition. The high roof-line and lack of boot-lip make loading bulky items into the cavernous boot a breeze, and for extra space, the rear seats fold flat with a simple flick of a switch. By the numbers, the Volvo’s boot is roughly the same size as that of the Audi A6 Allroad estate, but is smaller (by some 131 litres with the seats down) than the load space of the VW Passat Alltrack, its two closest rivals. In terms of passenger space, the XC70 performs admirably, with plenty of lounging room front and rear for even taller adults.

Should I buy one?

As relaxing and easy to live with as the XC70 is, you’re going to really need the added off-road ability to choose it over the conventional V70 estate. Some buyers will be seduced by the high driving position and four-wheel-drive security, but do note that this does come at the expense of agility. If you’re looking for a driving experience more akin to a normal car, the Audi A6 Allroad is worth a look, as it blends the executive luxury and comfort of the executive saloon, with credible performance in slippery and mild off-road conditions.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Volvo XC70 in our classifieds here.

The facts

Volvo XC70 D5 AWD Auto

List price: £35,535 (£42,545 as tested)
Engine: 2.4-litre, five cylinder, diesel
Power: 212bhp
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Fuel economy: 32.8mpg (urban), 54.3mpg (extra-urban) 44.1mpg (combined)
Emissions: 169g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars (Volvo V70)