For a long time Volvo has been trying extremely hard to bury its reputation as a maker of boxy, conservative and dull saloons and estates. It all started in the late 1990s with former Volvo design boss Peter Horbury’s sleek C70 coupé, but the real breakthrough was with the XC60 – the car that the current crop of sexy Volvos owe their DNA to.

The striking details and flowing curves are about as far removed from a traditional three-box Volvo saloon as possible, and the concept behind it even further distanced. For although the XC60 is a compact SUV, Volvo wants you to see it more as a cross between coupé, 4x4 and estate that majors on Scandinavian style and good taste rather than conservative solidity.

Practicality is taken care of with a spacious and intuitively designed cabin, while the range of engine and drivetrain options means there’s an XC60 to suit everyone. And while it’ll never challenge a Land Rover Defender in the rough stuff, the Volvo’s Haldex four-wheel drive system should prove more than capable for most situations.

However the XC60 places Volvo right into the heart of the extremely competitive small premium SUV market segment. Tough competition comes in the form of the Land Rover Freelander, BMW X3 and Audi Q5 as well as cheaper but equally stylish options like the Kia Sportage and Ford Kuga. The question is this: can the XC60’s unarguably different approach is enough to make it stand out from this very able crowd?

Top 5 Compact SUVs

  • Ford Kuga
    Ford's targeting a class above with its bigger Kuga

    Ford Kuga

    1
  • Hyundai Santa Fe makes for an excellent ownership proposition

    Hyundai Santa Fe

    2
  • Land Rover is targeting the growing number of people buying into two-wheel-drive SUVs

    Land Rover Freelander

    3
  • If the new CR-V looks more crossover than old-guard SUV it may be because the roofline is 30mm lower than before

    Honda CR-V

    4
  • Toyota RAV4
    This is the fourth model in the RAV4's history

    Toyota RAV4

    5

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