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The XC60's usability, comfort and attractiveness make it a strong contender in the used compact SUV crowd

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The Volvo XC60 of 2008-2017 shares its platform with the Land Rover Freelander 2, albeit one that’s longer between the wheels as well as from nose to tail, and it’s wider.

So it’s an old car, and that fact is emphasised by its sculpted shoulders, reminiscent of the original S80 saloon of 1998. So it’s an old car but a handsome one, still with a strong image.

Demonstrating how rugged it is, there are some serious high-milers in the classifieds. How about a one-owner, 2017-reg 2.0 D4 SE Nav with 250,000 miles and full service history for £5750?

If that terrifies you, it’s possible to get behind the wheel of a 2016-reg 2.0 D4 DRIVe SE Nav auto with a more respectable 50,000 miles and full Volvo service history for around £14,500. Both examples are Euro 6-compliant diesels (the car became so in 2015). Not surprisingly, diesel XC60s dominate the classifieds.

There are many variants, but the big sellers were the 2.0-litre D4 (available from 2013), with a choice of front- and intelligent four-wheel drive, and the four-wheel-drive-only 2.4-litre D5.

Power outputs for both increased slightly with each update, which is useful to know when you’re browsing the classifieds. Less popular was the lower-powered 2.0-litre D3 of 2010-2012. Another rarity is the early 2.4D, also offered with front- or four-wheel drive. Our pick is the 187bhp, Euro 6 version of the D4, which is capable of 0-62mph in 7.6sec and a claimed 60mpg, although not at the same time.

There are a couple of powerful petrol engines to choose from, but they were never big sellers. For the record, they’re the 2.0-litre T5 with 242bhp, offered in front- and four-wheel-drive, and the supercharged and turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 T6 with 302bhp, which was four-wheel-drive.

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Both petrols were automatics (Powershift for the T5, Geartronic for the T6). The front-driven T5 manages only 33mpg at best, the T6 just 23mpg. Across all engine options, automatics outnumber the manuals by around two to one. 

You sit high in an XC60 and on very comfortable seats. Ahead of you is a broad dashboard, with all its controls clearly arranged and dominated by a 'floating' centre console. 

Rear passengers likewise sit quite high on their split-fold seats and enjoy plenty of room. There's lots of storage, and that's before you consider the large, square-shaped, 655-litre boot. There's no loading lip to get over, either. And finish and materials quality in the cabin is first-rate.

The XC60 places a comfortable ride over keen handling. The steering isn't very communicative and the body rolls in corners. If that offends you, choose sportier R-Design spec for its stiffer suspension and anti-roll bars.

At 230mm, ground clearance is good, but despite its Freelander associations, this is no off-roader. 

The XC60 was facelifted in 2013, gaining a more rounded look and a refreshed sat-nav display inside, while an eight-speed auto 'box replaced the six-speeder in the D4 and T6 models. 

Trims range from SE (alloys, parking sensors, hill-start assist, climate control, digital radio) to R-Design Lux (leather, powered tailgate, silver roof rails). Our pick is post-facelift SE Nav.

The XC60 is, by the standards of its day, a safe car with multiple airbags, whiplash-protecting seats and emergency braking assistance. Old it may be, but a cherished one will still look and feel fresh.

COMMON PROBLEMS

Is the Volvo XC60 reliable?

Engine: Euro 6 diesels, especially the D4, suffer problems with the water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, which can become clogged with soot. It’s indicated by the ‘engine check’ light, although performance should be unaffected.  

Gearbox: Automatics require fresh fluid every three years. Check auto changes are smooth, especially when it’s shifting down the ’box. The later eight-speed auto is smoother than the original six-speed unit. Manual cars can suffer accelerated clutch wear, caused by drivers resting their foot on the pedal.

Wheels, tyres and suspension: Larger wheels with low-profile tyres are vulnerable to kerbing; check their condition and also the tyres for abnormal wear. Reports of dampers and springs starting to fail at around 100,000 miles (see above).

Brakes: Fleet users have reported long service life (up to 80,000 miles) from discs and pads, but the XC60 is a heavy car and wear is driving style-dependent, so check their remaining life. Some reports of the electronic handbrake refusing to release; it’s a problem related to a door sensor.

Interior: Feel for damp around the ceiling light cluster; some owners have reported water leaks. Check for damaged and badly marked trim. The leather seats crease badly.

Body: On early cars, check the windscreen is securely bonded; some owners have reported water leaks. Tailgate struts can fail and dealer-supplied items cost a fortune. Check the powered tailgate fully closes; some stop at the boot seals. On early cars, low temperatures can affect door locks.

Towing: Towing limits vary widely between engines. If you’re a caravanner, pay attention to the 85% trailer towing match for the model you’re looking at. 

DESIGN & STYLING

Volvo XC60 rear three quarter

The XC60 was the first Volvo released under the design direction of Steve Mattin, before he left for Lada, and set the tone for the Volvo S60, Volvo V60 and the V40 that followed.

And while the XC60 was far sleeker than those that had come before, the rule book wasn’t totally ripped up. The trademark sculpted shoulders run right back to the original S80, and add a feeling of strength to the design.

We’re now familiar with that chamfered front end too, but on its release this made the XC60 stand out, especially next to the much more conservative first generation XC90.

The attacking profile, raised at the rear like a cat prowling, helped add visual interest and it’s easy to see why it captured on-lookers glances. But time has moved on and the latest cars from the Swedish manufacturer have moved the game on too, and so these once distinctive features have now become commonplace Volvo highlights.

Still, despite looking familiar to Volvo owners, parked next to rival models from other manufacturers it is still one of the most distinctive choices in the segment. And though its based on the same platform underpinning the Land Rover Freelander 2, a throwback to Volvo’s part in Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, you wouldn’t know it – the XC60 is 160mm longer, 30mm lower and has a wheelbase 110mm larger. Opt for the R-Design models with their larger alloy wheels and body styling kits and it looks even more hot hatch than SUV.

INTERIOR

Volvo XC60 interior

While we’ve grown used to the exterior styling of the XC60, the interior was always reminiscent of Volvos in the range at the time.

You’ll feel instantly at home if you’ve ever experienced one before, the location and style of the switches, dials and buttons lifted directly from other models. It’s none the worse for it either, with neat touches such as the floating console with storage space behind it rather than in front – though not much will actually fit and you can’t see it.

The simplified ventilation controls with their easy to read graphics are a highlight too, though the knobs for temperature and audio volume look and feel the same, so its easy to confuse them.

As trim levels go there were four to choose from - SE Nav, SE Lux Nav, R-Design Nav and R-Design Lux Nav. Opt for the entry level trim and you got cruise control, hill start assist, parking sensors, and automatic lights and wipers. Inside, the XC60 got climate control, leather seats, electric windows, and a 7.0in Sensus touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, DAB, Bluetooth and uprated sound system.

Upgrading to SE Lux Nav trim, you found 18in alloys, xenon headlights, keyless entry and electrically adjustable driver's seat, while the R-Design Nav models get sports suspension, satin silver mirror covers, sports seats, a sporty bodykit and rear diffuser.

The range-topping R-Design Lux Nav trim added a powered tailgate, anodised silver roof rails and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

It’s the sat-nav that’s the biggest disappointment. Yes it sits in an enclosed pod, unlike some older Volvo models, but it’s the same antiquated and hard to control system that it always was.

Still, the perceived quality and the standard of the materials are excellent, while the seats are comfortable and like the steering wheel, adjustable through a generous range. There’s ample headroom up front with good visibility past the narrow A-pillars and rear seat passengers won’t want for space either. And it’s a Volvo, so the load bay is well proportioned while the 40/20/40 spilt rear seat folds flat into the floor should you need it to.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Volvo XC60 side

The vast majority of XC60s sold in the UK came with a diesel engine under the bonnet – Volvo's T5 petrol only accounting for a few percent of UK annual sales.

That left three different diesel engines to choose from, starting with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit found in the front-wheel drive DRIVe models. Focusing on economy, the lack of a heavy four-wheel drive system allows this 188bhp unit to sprint from 0-62mph in 10.3 seconds. There is also a five-cylinder version of the 2.4-litre oilburner which can only be had with Volvo's all-wheel drive system, and surprisingly producing the same output.

Topping the range was a 2.4-litre five cylinder producing 218bhp, with all the extra weight of the AWD system it’s actually one tenth of a second slower from 0-62mph when fitted with a manual gearbox – the six-speed Geartronic taking 10.9 seconds to complete the benchmark.

It’s a decent automatic box, but the Powershift unit mated to the 2.0-litre turbocharged T5 engine swaps cogs quicker and smoother.

But if it's performance married to economy that floats your boat, the most powerful D5 diesel is for you, dispensing with the 0-62mph sprint in only 8.4 seconds and carrying on to 130mph. Best of all there is no penalty in terms of emissions or economy for this extra oomph either.

However, the D5 is not the quietest – though the five-cylinder emits more of a grumble than a rattle, and the note is curiously pleasing when pushing on.

RIDE & HANDLING

Volvo XC60 front three quarter handling

The form book doesn’t lead you to expect great things when it comes to the dynamic abilities of the Volvo XC60; however, it’s better in reality than most would expect.

It doesn’t ride with the pillow-soft pliancy of an executive saloon, but compared to many of its rivals it is more comfortable, quieter and controlled. Opt for a car with the R-Design chassis and the ride isn’t as smooth at lower speeds as the standard car’s, though the stiffer dampers and anti-roll bars do improve body control at speed.

Even when the road turns twisty the XC60 gives off a good first impression, offering good body control and plenty of grip – especially when equipped with the Haldex four-wheel drive. Badged Volvo AWD with Instant Traction the system transmits the vast majority of power to the front wheels for increased economy, but reapportions it as wheels lose grip.

Still, whatever drivetrain and chassis you choose it’s only when you really begin to push hard that the limits of the chassis are relatively quickly exposed. The steering is less than fantastic, and although accurate, it’s short on feel. Meanwhile the large rim and heavy weighting can make it seem rather ponderous in the first quarter of a turn.

Regardless, the XC60 manages to exceed the relatively lowly levels expected of its dynamics, particularly in terms of ride quality. But if driving enjoyment is a priority, there are definitely more involving alternatives out there – such as the BMW X3 or Land Rover Discovery Sport, to name just a couple.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Volvo XC60 front three quarter

Volvo offered four different trim levels for the XC60, starting with SE Nav and rising through SE Lux Nav, R-Design Nav and R-Design Lux Nav. 

It’s a Volvo, so all variants of XC60 came loaded with safety equipment including front, side and curtain airbags as well as whiplash protecting seats. And in a bid to steer clear of the accident itself, every trim level benefitted from ABS, Electronic brake-force distribution, ready alert brakes, electronic brake assist and traction and stability control.

There's even City Safety which brakes the car to a halt if it detects an impending impact at low speed. R-Design trim brought with it 18-inch alloy wheels, skidplates, matt silver mirrors and grille treatment and blue instrument dials for the cabin.

Those on the quest for economy and efficiency should look towards the DRIVe model. This front-wheel drive only model emits 149g/km, and more importantly can return 49.6mpg on the combined cycle.

Opting for the same engine but with the six-speed Geartronic transmission means economy drops to 41.5mpg and emissions jump to 179g/km. And if you must have a petrol, then the 2.0-litre T5 is the one to have, thanks to reasonable 33.2mpg combined figure and 198g/km CO2 output.

VERDICT

Volvo XC60 boot open

It’s often tempting to dismiss SUVs or crossovers that look like they belong off road when in fact they don’t, and highlight their frequent and obvious failings: they’re too tall to drive pleasingly and their pretentiousness usually makes them thirstier and heavier than they need to be.

But while there are elements of that with the Volvo XC60, it actually looks more suited to the road than most. Admittedly there might not be a great deal of satisfaction for the enthusiastic driver, especially in comparison to some of its more polished rivals, but the XC60 has a breadth of talent that ensures it maintains plenty of appeal.

There’s a wide range of engine and drivetrain options and it’s incredibly safe, gaining a five star Euro NCAP rating in 2009. It's also not too expensive to buy thanks to the Gods of depreciation, with entry-level high-milers coming in at around £3000, with the best, most cared-for examples on sale for around £15,000.

It’s just as stylish, both inside and out, as its many rivals too. And while it’s not as capacious as some of Volvo’s traditional estate models the XC60 does a decent job of being day-to-day practical as well.

In fact, there’s a great deal to like about the XC60, which is undoubtedly one of the most appealing and attractive small SUVs on sale. 

Volvo XC60 2008-2017 First drives