Volvo shapes up for a new year

Clean up for the big Swede. Fred­eric Manby tries some new Volvos.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

VOLVO moves into 2011 with a clutch of new en­gines – most of them cour­tesy of its erst­while own­ers, Ford, who sold the Swedes to the Chi­nese last year.

One of the head­line mak­ers is a Ford-Peu­geot-Citroën 1.6 diesel that, in eco-tai­lored ver­sions of the Volvo C30 coupé, S40 saloon and V50 es­tate, emits just 99 grams per kilo­me­tre trav­elled of car­bon diox­ide.

In Bri­tain, this means that the owner pays no an­nual road tax. The 99g/km also makes these Volvos ex­empt from the week­day charge of £10 in London’s con­ges­tion zone. It also qual­i­fies for the en­try-level 13 per cent ben­e­fit in kind tax for com­pany driv­ers.

The V50 is a rea­son­ably large ve­hi­cle. Well, OK, it’s based on the chas­sis of the out­go­ing Ford Fo­cus. Yet with 113.4bhp and 199 lb ft of low-speed torque, the V50 DRIVe (sic) feels pacey enough. Its top speed is a re­spectable (and usu­ally il­le­gal) 121 miles an hour and it will do the 0-60mph sprint in­side 11 sec­onds. Ergo, it will keep up with the av­er­age Na­tional Ex­press coach, but with much greater re­fine­ment. In­deed, this hand­some up­mar­ket sta­tion wagon is quiet and smooth run­ning and would suit my needs.

The of­fi­cial econ­omy is a mas­sive 65.7mpg in town, an al­most un­likely 80.7mpg out of town, and 74.3mpg over­all. These are heady fig­ures but I did coax it to an av­er­age of 63mpg on gen­tle driv­ing on slightly un­du­lat­ing roads around Hamp­shire, where Volvo was hold­ing court at the Welling­ton Inn, Baugh­urst, which cham­pi­ons low-food miles though gets it soap, salt and chef from Aus­tralia. He has just be­come pub chef of the year, so we ate well.

Sadly, the V50 is no longer “cheap”. The 1.6 petrol model has been dropped (low de­mand). The en­try price is £19,495 for the 143bhp 2-litre petrol model which re­turns an av­er­age of 37mpg and 176gkm.

So the high-econ­omy V50 DRIVe is the an­swer?

Well, the en­try ES ver­sion is £22,425 and my test sam­ple in SE trim cost a re­sound­ing £24,240 and then had ex­tras that in­cluded sil­ver paint at a giddy £795, and sat nav at £1,535. The V50 is, by the way, Volvo’s No 2 seller in Bri­tain. Their best seller is the XC90, a car that is eight years old and, ap­par­ently, un­likely to be re­placed soon.

No other vol­ume car maker has its most ex­pen­sive model as its best-seller. The rea­son it is do­ing so well, says Dun­can For­rester, who moved from BMW to be Volvo’s PR chief in Bri­tain, is partly be­cause in the plan­ning it was aimed at the Amer­i­can woman. She wanted a big all-roader which did not look too big or threat­en­ing and would carry seven peo­ple. So the face is

Sadly, the V50 is no longer “cheap”. The en­try price is £19,495 for the 143bhp 2-litre petrol model.

low and the bon­net slopes down, and Mrs Amer­ica and, by as­so­ci­a­tion, Mrs Bri­tain does not feel out of kil­ter.

For 2011, the five-cylin­der Swedish-built 2.4-litre diesel en­gine is boosted to 196.6bhp. With a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box, it re­turns 34mpg and 219g/km CO2. The 0-60 time is 9.7 sec­onds. Prices start at £34,795.

At 189 inches long, it is not too tough to park. Smart car and best-seller though it is, its re­fine­ment does not match its newer ri­vals. The diesel is slightly coarse at low revs and there is some body vi­bra­tion. Trish and Jill and the thou­sands of Home Coun­ties mums with an XC90, will never no­tice.

That orig­i­nal de­sign, by Peter Hor­bury, still looks fresh and at­trac­tive, bet­ter, I think, than the shorter XC60 which fol­lowed it.

That model, along with the S60, V60, V70 and S80, is now of­fered with Ford’s Span­ish 236.6bhp 2-litre petrol en­gine and twin-clutch au­to­matic gears, but at 31mpg and 211g/ km (in the V60) I don’t see the ap­peal of this ver­sion for high mileages, other than a 0-60 time of 6.8 sec­onds. Who pays for the fuel?

Volvo has per­son­alised the an­cil­lar­ies, giv­ing it a patented sheet-steel man­i­fold and tur­bocharger hous­ing for im­proved ef­fi­ciency but you are still go­ing to have a fairly thirsty car with high ben­e­fit in kind tax for com­pany driv­ers. I think em­ploy­ers are be­gin­ning to wake up to the amount of petrol and diesel frit­tered away by their driv­ers. Busi­ness miles and av­er­age speeds could be re­duced.

Stop-start ig­ni­tion is fit­ted to the new di­rect-in­jec­tion 1.6 petrol en­gine from Ford’s Brid­gend works on the S60 and V60 but not on the larger V70 and S80 with the same en­gine. Surely these big­ger cars need it even more? Volvo will also make use of the plat­form un­der the all-new Ford Fo­cus for its S40 and V50 re­place­ments.

The S60 and V60 mo­tor into 2011 with the new op­tion of the pop­u­lar R-De­sign, more than just cos­metic, bring­ing a low­ered ride with a stiffer sus­pen­sion, 18in glitzy wheels, part leather seats, etc, plus a choice of any en­gine in the se­ries, from the green DRIVe to the 299bhp 3-litre six-cylin­der T6 with all­wheel-drive: thirsty but a real per­for­mance model ca­pa­ble of 0-60 in 5.9 sec­onds.

Volvo sales reached 373,525 in 2010, a big surge on 2009, and 10 per cent of them were in Bri­tain, its third largest mar­ket.

How­ever, it is still small com­pared with the sev­en­fig­ure sales of its Ger­man peers. No rea­son, then, to have 250 dif­fer­ent steer­ing wheel de­signs on its books.

They will be ra­tio­nalised, along with many other items and the in­no­va­tive straight­five petrol en­gine will be phased out in favour of more ef­fi­cient petrol fours, which in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture will be sourced from Ford. Many of its cars are ac­tu­ally made in Bel­gium.

More: 08457 564636.

TWO FOR THE ROAD: Volvo’s V50 and, be­low, its best-sell­ing – and most ex­pen­sive car –the XC90.

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