Volvo XC60 review

Volvo XC60 review

We drive the updated version of this Swedish premium mid-sized SUV

It’s been a while since I’ve driven an XC60. To be exact, it was 2017 when the current second-generation model was launched.

A lot has changed since then for Volvo, which has just enjoyed record sales in the first half of 2021, driven by demand for its electrified cars.

Every Volvo model currently on sale has some form of electrification, whether it’s mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric.

Volvo XC60 review

Globally the ‘Recharge’ range of fully electric and plug-in hybrids account for 24.6% of sales and by 2030 Volvo is aiming to have a 100% pure electric line-up.

And the XC60 is a popular as ever. In fact, in the first half of 2021, it was the 10th biggest-selling plug-in hybrid on sale in the UK.

Despite its success, Volvo has decided to treat the XC60 to a refresh. It would be an exaggeration to say it’s radical, but then ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Volvo XC60 review

Externally there’s a revamped front grille, sportier bumpers at the front and rear, hidden rear exhaust pipes, plus new colour choices and alloy wheel options.

Inside, there are improved graphics in the driver’s digital display, but the big change is that the large centre infotainment touchscreen is now powered by the brand’s Android-based software instead of the Sensus system of the past.

So now there’s access to Google Play apps and services like Google Assistant and Google Maps. It’s also capable of over-the-air updates, which means the car is constantly kept up to speed with the latest software. Volvo has also upped the XC60’s driver assistance and safety tech.

Volvo XC60 review

Starting from £42,485, the range consists of a mix of mild hybrids (petrol and diesel) badged B4, B5 or B6. There are also plug-in hybrids (T6 or T8). All versions have varying outputs and four-wheel drive, except the B5 petrol which is available with front or AWD.

In a nutshell, the mild-hybrid system utilises a small 48-volt battery to help reduce emissions and improve fuel consumption, while the PHEVs have a slightly larger 11.6kWh high-voltage battery, which also enables the car to travel up to 32 miles on electric power alone when fully charged.

I sampled the B6 (300hp) mild hybrid petrol, plus the T6 (340hp) and the T8 (390hp) plug-in hybrids which all have a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo engine in various stats of tune at their heart and a sweet-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Volvo XC60 review

All three can be recommended, though my choice would be the T6, because it offers the best balance between power and economy. However, to get maximum benefit it’s best to have a charger at home or work..

The B6 does the job, especially if you are unable to plug in at home, but the engine is a little harsher when it’s worked hard, while claimed fuel economy of 30-34mpg and CO2 emissions of 190-213g/km are not hugely impressive these days.

The T8 is effortlessly fast and sounds meaty in Power drive mode, but ultimately the cheaper T6 will do just fine.

Volvo XC60 review

Offering a potential 113mpg (if you keep your battery charged up and your journeys are modest) and CO2 emissions as low as 55g/km, like the T8, the T6 also delivers significant tax savings for business users.

If your commute is short or you just use your XC60 locally, your journeys to the petrol stations could be rare because a good deal of your motoring could be spent in 100% electric mode. On longer trips, we’d expect economy to be north of 50mpg.

In Hybrid mode the switch between electric and petrol propulsion is almost seamless, and there’s plenty of power (0-60mph in just 5.6 seconds).

Volvo XC60 review

Unless really pushed, the engine is refined and the ride comfortable, while grip is superb. The XC60 feels surprisingly agile for its size and weight, while more spirited drivers will find that body roll is well controlled on more challenging roads.

As before, there’s a real quality feel inside the cabin and plenty of Scandi chic if you choose the lighter wood trim options.

You sit high up, so visibility is excellent and there’s plenty of space in the back for passengers. Luggage capacity is a useful 468 litres, or 1,395 litres with the rear seats folded.

Volvo XC60 review

The battery can be recharged from home in as little as two and a half hours. There’s also regenerative braking which recovers kinetic energy otherwise lost during braking in order to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

You can also boost the process going down hills, for instance, by flicking the gearshift to B mode.

Finally, a special mention for the Google Assistant feature, first seen in the XC40 Recharge. Simply say “Hey Google” to get started and ask it to change radio channel, call a contact or set a new destination – all without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road. 

Verdict: Handsome, practical, classy, comfortable and sporting the latest safety and infotainment tech, the updated Volvo XC60 mid-sized SUV is better than ever.

Volvo Cars UK

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

The impressive plug-in hybrid version of BMW’s popular 3 Series is one of the big sales successes of 2021.

With officially quoted CO2 emissions as low as 37g/km, the 330e is especially appealing for company car drivers looking to make significant tax savings.

It also makes sense for private motorists who are not quite ready to make the switch to a fully electric vehicle (EV), but still want to dip their toes into the future with a premium plug-in hybrid (PHEV).

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

With a pure electric range of up to 37 miles, it can handle short commutes on battery power alone, but long journeys are no problem either (372-mile range) thanks to its petrol engine. So, like all PHEVs, it offers the best of both worlds.

The BMW 330e pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine (181bhp) and an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery, resulting in a combined output of 249bhp (or 289bhp for short bursts using the new ‘Xtraboost’ feature hidden in the Sport driving mode).

Opt for the rear-wheel drive model and the 0-62mph benchmark is reached in 6.1 seconds, while the xDrive four-wheel drive version is 0.2 seconds faster. Either way, top speed is 143mph.

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

Priced from £39,125 and available as a saloon or estate (Touring in BMW-speak), the 330e comes in SE, Sport and M Sport trims.

Apart from a few additional features in the infotainment system, ‘330e’ badging and an extra ‘fuel’ flap on the front wing, the only PHEV giveaway is the size of the boot, which is down from 480 litres to 375 litres (thanks to the battery pack located under the rear seats) and the hybrid/electric buttons beside the gear selector.

Charging the battery to 80% takes 2.4 hours using a 3.7kW home wallbox, or 5.5 hours via a domestic three-point plug.

If you want to travel in near-silence with zero emissions, select Electric mode, avoid hard acceleration and don’t go over 68mph.

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

And if you run out of battery power, or simply fancy a blast, the switch from electric to petrol power is seamless.

Like most BMWs, the 330e offers a driver-focused driving experience. Not only is the power delivery responsive, but despite the extra 200kg compared to its petrol and diesel siblings, it handles just the way we’ve come to expect from this compact executive superstar.

In fact, more spirited drivers will relish tackling more challenging country roads in Sport mode, because the 330e boasts fantastic body control and superb agility.

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

Traction is impressive too, especially if you opt for BMW xDrive, while the brakes (so often a disappointment in PHEVs) are progressive and efficient.

The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is as slick as ever, while the steering is quick, predictable and nicely weighted,

Inside, the cabin is classic BMW – more business-like than flash – with a blend of premium materials and top build quality, combined with the ideal driving position.

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

The latest version of iDrive remains one of the best in-car infotainment systems on the market and is projected through a 10.25-inch screen nicely integrated into the dash

In theory, the 330e is capable of 176-201mpg, but the reality is that 50-60mpg is achievable during mixed motoring if you keep the battery charged up overnight and you can restrain yourself on the road.

However, if your driving consists of short commutes, your visits to the filling station will become rare occasions because you’ll spend most of your time in EV mode.

BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid review

Frankly, it’s hard to criticise the 330e because it’s an almost perfect embodiment of a PHEV. Even if the modest boot space in the saloon is an issue, you can still opt for the Touring version instead, and while the four-cylinder engine is a little harsh when pushed hard, the car’s overall refinement is excellent.

Verdict: The BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid is a class act – a winning combination of elegant looks, efficiency, driving dynamics and low running costs.

BMW 330e

Seat Leon e-Hybrid review

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

We’re already big fans of the fourth generation Seat Leon. In our 2020 review, we concluded that it’s “one of the most accomplished family hatchbacks on the market, offering affordability, economy, tech, refinement, space and driving pleasure”.

Fast forward to 2021 and the petrol and diesel models have been joined by a plug-in hybrid, delivering a potential 235mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 27g/km.

Using pretty much the same tried and tested system also seen in the Audi A3 40 TFSIe, Volkswagen Golf GTE and Skoda Octavia iV, a 1.4-litre petrol turbo engine is mated to a 12.8kWh battery and 85kW e-motor, giving a useful combined output of 201bhp, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds and a 137mph top speed.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

Most importantly of all for some (especially if you use your car locally or have a modest daily commute), it can run electric-only for up to 36 miles.

In other words, as with all PHEVs, the Leon e-Hybrid offers an introduction to EV driving, without the range anxiety – the perfect stepping stone between the internal combustion engine and going 100% electric.

Apart from the extra fuel flap (for plugging into a charger) and modest badging, externally it looks much the same as a regular Leon – which is no bad thing, because it’s a stylish car.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

Open the hatch, and there’s more hybrid evidence. The Leon e-Hybrid has a supermini luggage capacity of 270 litres (down 110 litres on the standard petrol or diesel), because the hybrid battery pack takes up extra space. On the plus side, there’s a useful 1,191 litres when the rear seats are folded.

The cabin in unaffected, which means there’s room in the back seats for adults to sit comfortably. It’s generally well designed, and quality is good, but not outstanding. There are some soft-touch surfaces high up in the cabin, but – as you’d expect at the more affordable end of the market – there’s a lot of scratchy hard plastic lower down.

At launch there are five trim levels (FR, FR First Edition, FR Sport, Xcellence, Xcellence Lux) with price points between £31,835-£35,060. While this is competitive in its sector, it would be great if all manufacturers could start bringing the start price of PHEVs down closer to £25,000.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

That said, it’s generously equipped with 17-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, a wireless phone charger, drive modes and safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) all standard.

Goodies further up the range include adaptive cruise control, heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and start, a digital driver’s display and tinted rear windows.

All models also get a flash 10-inch infotainment system, which gives the dashboard a more minimalist look, but the touchscreen contains a little too much basic functionality for our liking – even the temperature controls are integrated.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

The e-Hybrid starts up in electric mode and stays that way until the battery pack is flat. However, the engine will kick in if you floor the accelerator or you switch to hybrid mode, which combines petrol and electric power for better economy and battery life.

Like all PHEVs, it can also recharge via regenerative braking, which slows the car down and collects energy to charge up the battery and increase the vehicle range. That said, the most effective way is to plug it in at home overnight or use a public charger (both 4-5 hours).

With electricity costing around a third of petrol per mile, that’s cheap motoring. Add tax savings for business drivers and other perks such as lower Road Tax (VED) and exemption from the London Congestion Charge, running a plug-in hybrid makes sense.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

In the real world your fuel consumption will depend on a number of factors, such as whether you start your journey with a full battery charge, the temperature, your driving style, and the types of roads your encounter.

Seat quotes potential fuel economy of 235mpg, but the reality is that once you’ve used up the battery charge, you can end up with fuel economy comparable to a diesel (50-60mpg) – lower on long journeys.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

On the road, the e-Hybrid accelerates briskly and the switch from electric to engine power and vice versa is seamless.

Naturally, it’s almost silent when running in pure electric mode, while the 1.4-litre petrol engine is generally refined, but becomes a little more vocal when pushed.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so, allowing it to stay composed and relatively flat in faster corners. It’s no hot hatch, but more spirited drivers can select Sport mode for a little extra fun.

It feels light and agile on the road, there’s plenty of grip and the steering is sharp. The six-speed DSG automatic gearbox fitted to our test car is one of the best, though not quite as punchy through the gears as we’d like.

It’s safe too – the e-Hybrid received a maximum five-star safety evaluation rating from Euro NCAP, just like its regular petrol and diesel stablemates, with AEB standard across the range and other driver assistance aids including Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist available.

Verdict: Stylish, safe, economical, easy to drive and well equipped, the all-new Seat Leon e-Hybrid is a welcome addition to the plug-in hybrid family hatchback scene.

Seat UK

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

Britain’s most popular new cars revealed

The Ford Fiesta has cemented its reputation as the UK’s favourite car, taking the No 1 spot for the 10th consecutive year. However, final year figures for 2018 released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that total registrations were down 6.8% to 2.37 million cars, reflecting 12 months of turbulence. Sales of …

Continue reading Britain’s most popular new cars revealed