What is it?
Volvo has joined the ranks of manufacturers replacing big capacity petrol engines with smaller ones of equal power output but improved economy. In fact this new 1.6-litre turbocharged motor (dubbed T4 and unrelated to the company's previous 1.6 petrol engine) is a revised, 178bhp version of Ford's Ecoboost unit, which we're testing here in a six-speed manual V70, complete with standard stop-start.
What's it like?
In practice this proves to be a truly likeable combination. The engine produces its maximum torque of 177lb ft from 1600rpm, and an overboost function ups that to 199lb ft when required, so even though the engine does need working it feels pleasantly relaxed in doing so. It revs smoothly and freely, responds well even at higher speeds and most importantly it is very refined when kept in the usefully broad power band. The manual gearbox is also satisfyingly precise to use, and works extremely well with this T4 motor.
Beyond the revelations of this new engine the V70 still suffers from most of the general gripes that we have aired before, but this model certainly improves upon the underwhelming drive. The steering is rather lifeless, the chassis never feels particularly sharp and the ride is too lumpy over typical b-roads, but the lighter, more responsive engine helps the V70 flow down the road in a more rewarding fashion than any diesel model.
A claimed combined economy figure of 40.4mpg is pretty respectable, as is the CO2 figure of 164g/km, though for those looking for the lowest running costs the diesels are of course the better options.
Should I buy one?
If this were a decent sum cheaper than those more frugal diesel models it would be the best model in the range, because it is certainly one of the most pleasant to drive. But it is not, and if you have forgotten the existence of the Skoda Superb and are buying a V70 you will likely sweep your gaze down the price list, see that the 161bhp D3 turbodiesel is actually £30 cheaper than the equivalent T4 and that will be the end of that.
Still, with this in mind there's likely to be more than a few T4s cluttering up showrooms, so if you can get a good deal then don't overlook the dusty V70 in the corner. On the right wheels and without sat-nav, it would be a remarkably easy car to live with.