Under the radar – Volvo V60

Cars Culture

When an estate becomes an SUV

It’s that time of year when you’re dealing with leaf-covered roads and a sun that puts in fewer hours per day than I did as a teenager.

It’s the time of year when your car carries a coat of many colours. Mainly brown colours. And it’s the time of year that people with active lifestyles either hide or thrive.

As a keen cyclist, I’d like to say I thrive, but that would be a lie. I’d prefer to do my pedalling in front of gaudy Saturday Night TV than on the local West Norfolk roads. And when I say activities, it’s usually less ‘exercising’ and more ‘eating’ at this time of year.

For that reason, I need all the encouragement and support to get out and about – and a car actually helps a lot. There are only so many times you can run or cycle the same few local routes before they start to get pretty stale, and your activity app followers start to get bored. For that reason, getting out to a new destination or ten is critical, but there are issues – generally issues involving the bike.

Volvo V60 with bike

Taking wheels off a wet/oily/muddy bike to fit them into a car is enough of a pain to call the whole trip off – it’s on that much of a knife-edge. You can mount bikes on the back or the roof of a car if you have the right apparatus and a penchant for chipped nails and effort. Which I don’t. So, again, that very often falls the wrong side of the ‘is-it-worth-it’ knife-edge.

Sure, you can have a van (and I did for a while) for you to put a fully constructed bike into directly, but then you have to drive a van, and vans just generally aren’t as nice as cars.

Where you get the best of both worlds is a large car with seats for people, creature comforts, windows all around and is also capable of scooping up a bicycle in its entirety. So perhaps an SUV? SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle after all – and sports/utility is precisely what we’re looking to combine. You may say the ‘Sports’ part is not about the things you use it for, but the vehicle itself – but that’s nonsense. I’d like to see you tell an F1 team their car needs to be 6 inches higher off the ground for extra sportiness.

But no. SUVs, despite the name, aren’t the most ideal solution.

The ‘car’ part they do rather well (not as well as, you know, non-SUVs, but they do it better than a van, at least). However, in terms of a large load bay, they are often found lacking.

That’s unless you go for a very large SUV, which will often approach £100k when specced up nicely, but a normal SUV simply doesn’t have enough space to swallow a bicycle whole even with rear seats folded. If you do own a humungous SUV you’ve still got to lift the bike higher than you would to get it into a van or a car. And if you want to pop a bike on the roof of an SUV you’d better hope there are side steps and they’re not slippery…

But there is a better way. Oh yes. A better way of combining Sports and Utility into a Vehicle is the oft-overlooked estate car. Not even a massive estate car, and for this example, I’m using Volvo’s sharp-suited V60. This particular handsome denim blue Swede is in Momentum Pro ‘D4’ guise with the 190hp Diesel – for those of you interested in such things. There’s simply no need to go the whole V90, a bike slips in the back of the V60 with ease.

Bike in V60

This particular car, being full of Volvo’s impressive tech, features things like the birds-eye view of the car when parking, a Heads Up Display (HUD) to project things like your speedo and satnav directions to a spot about a foot above your bonnet, various driving modes, and even a bit of autonomous driving – it will steer you along an A-road with no problem, as long as you occasionally hold the steering wheel to let it know you’ve not been distracted by the huge infotainment screen.

V60 HUD volvo

The Volvo does a lot of things well, and despite slightly fidgety gears (no different from most automatics, to be fair) and a slight gruffness to the engine at low revs (but come on, it’s a 4-cyl diesel so let’s cut it some slack), it’s a very competent car. A nice place to be. Indeed, on the drive back from London to Norfolk after the recent Influx event, my colleague was asleep in the passenger seat throughout a 20-mile B-road stint.

This one may be 2WD, but you’d be surprised how many SUVs are too. And if you want 4WD, there’s a Cross Country version of the V60 available for a few grand extra. But why would you need the 4WD anyway? The standard V60 happily wandered across grass fields, down leafy, muddy roads and more without its front paws skipping around.

You can add the above benefits to these ones too: better MPG than an SUV, less expensive to buy, more agile & swift off the mark, The SUV argument soon starts to look a bit weak for people who are actually using their vehicle for ‘sports utility’ reasons.

So would I buy one? An estate car, yes – in fact, I’ve just replaced the aforementioned van with an estate. But would I buy a new Volvo V60? Perhaps if it had a couple more cylinders on the diesel engine (which is not an option at the moment). And if it was a bit cheaper – or there was a deal to be done at the local dealership. The car I drove was £45k worth…

And I’d probably also buy an exercise bike and watch Strictly Come Dancing, because who am I kidding? It’s winter out there.