THE current Volvo V70 is the descendant of the big, cumbersome boxy Volvo estates of my childhood. Which is one reason why I’m keen to test this DRIVe model, the most eco-friendly version of Volvo’s big estate. The engine capacity is just 1.6 litres – albeit a 115PS turbodiesel – so I don’t expect much excitement. In fact, I don’t even expect to be impressed. I’m expecting the dullest holiday journey to Cornwall of my entire life. And I’ve been going there since before I could walk.
The most surprising thing about driving the V70 DRIVe is that it doesn’t feel slow. It doesn’t feel like a big load-lugger with compromised performance in order to squeeze every last drop of economy out of it. In fact, on the motorway, in the outside lane and with the cruise control on, you’ll struggle to remember you’re driving a big car with such a small engine.
That’s not to say it’s quick. It isn’t. But despite 0-60mph figures of just 11 seconds, the V70 DRIVe never seems to run out of puff. It does take its time getting up to speed but it is never breathless. Amazing. Really.
It’s comfortable, it’s capable and it’s very economical. Volvo claims combined mileage of more than 60mpg. We don’t achieve that but we do achieve 42mpg. Which, considering the car is packed to the gills with people and their stuff, is quite an achievement. There were five of us including a toddler in her big, cumbersome car seat. And you could not have got a cigarette paper between any two items in the boot. When we arrived to our Landmark Trust cottage in Frenchman’s Creek, even the car exhaled with relief. No backache, no car sickness and not one single stop for fuel. In fact, not a word of complaint from anyone. And I was with old people. My parents.
Volvo’s engineers have made some intelligent choices when it comes to optimising the car for economical and cleaner driving. The V70 DRIVe has a more aerodynamic front bumper and grille, lowered suspension, low rolling resistance tyres, stop/start technology and longer gearing – all to increase economy. Otherwise the car is a conventional V70 Volvo. No one does straightforward practicality quite like the Swedes, which is why it’s not exactly ostentatious on the inside. But the seats are huge as is the legroom and the instrumentation functional and simple to use (except the remote for the infotainment system which I am sure must remain unused in 70 per cent of Volvos – it’s certainly unnecessary). The car rides well and the interior is very spacious, in the rear as well as in the front. And then there is its safety features. Of which there are many. Quicker to say it just has everything you need. Handling-wise it’s no sports car but that is also – somehow – part of its appeal. It’s more heart warming than heart racing.
If you think you need a big, practical load lugger to move your family around in, then it may be worth considering the V70 DRIVe. There is nothing more smug than a trip from London to the Lizard Peninsula and around Cornwall and back on just two tanks of fuel. It’s a wonderful feeling. This car is big, green and clean. It’s an automotive cuddle.
THE FACTS: PEUGEOT BIPPER TEPEE OUTDOOR CAR
TOP SPEED: 118MPH
CO2 G/KM: 119G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 62.8MPG
VALUE FOR MONEY ****