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

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

The striking all-new fourth-generation Tucson is one of the new car revelations of 2021. Hyundai dares to be different and few SUVs can match the Tucson’s kerb appeal.

Featuring unique “hidden lights” and “jewel-like” running lights, plus an athletic profile and pert rear, it’s equally impressive inside.

Available with a conventional petrol engine, or as a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or mild hybrid, the Tucson is priced from £28,100 to £41,975.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

We tested the self-charging hybrid (listed as the Hyundai Tucson 1.6 T-GDi 230ps Hybrid) in top spec Ultimate trim. Priced at £37,135, it came with a six-speed automatic gearbox and a Tech Pack, including Electronic Control Suspension, Around View Monitor, Blind Spot View Monitor and Remote Smart Park Assist.

The beauty of the hybrid power unit is that it gives increased performance and reduced emissions without the need to plug in.

Combining the instant torque of a 44.2kW electric motor with the output of a four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbo, the 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery can be charged on the move via regenerative braking during downhill stretches of road and braking.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Most impressively of all, the hybrid powertrain switches seamlessly between the petrol engine and electric motor – sometimes utilising both at the same time.

Take a glance at the dashboard and the little ‘EV’ light flashes up for significant amounts of time, especially when cruising, which is particularly satisfying.

Like all self-charging hybrids, the battery is big enough for short bursts of fully electric driving in stop-start traffic, along with silent parking manoeuvres.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

You can also select drive modes. The default Eco is fine for everyday driving, while Sport adds an extra level of response and control for more challenging country roads.

The total petrol/electric power output of 227bhp, with 195lb ft of torque, is ample, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 8.0 seconds and a top speed of 120mph.

CO2 emissions are as low as 131g/km, while fuel economy is officially up to 49.6mpg. You can get close to that figure when cruising, but 40-45mpg is a more realistic figure in everyday driving.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

The self-charging hybrid is front-wheel drive (you’ll have to opt for the plug-in hybrid if you want 4×4) and doesn’t feel any the less for it.

There’s a surprising amount of grip up front, decent traction and it feels agile when pushed, even if the engine is slightly more vocal. Add light, accurate steering and decent body control, and it’s a great all-rounder.

So, the Tucson is the business on the road, and the good news is that it’s no less impressive inside the cabin.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Generously equipped, just about all physical knobs and buttons have been eliminated in the cool interior which is dominated by a 10.25-inch infotainment screen in the sleek centre console and a driver’s digital instrument cluster the same size.

There’s plenty of space in the rear for tall adults to travel comfortably, while the boot capacity is a healthy 616 litres, expanding to 1,795 litres with the rear seats folded.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Build quality is superb and goodies such as electrically operated, heated and ventilated front seats, plus a KRELL premium audio give it an upmarket feel.

The Tucson scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP testing and is packed with safety kit, including a Blind Spot View Monitor. Simply activate the indicator and you can see a live camera view of the left or right-hand side of the car on a screen in the digital cluster.

There’s also Highway Drive Assist – a semi-autonomous system which combines lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, map data and sensors to deliver speed and steering adjustments when driving on the motorway.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Sounds of Nature app

For novelty value, go to Media on the infotainment screen, activate the ‘Sounds of Nature’ and choose a relaxing ambient background soundtrack. Options include Calm Sea Waves, Lively Forest, Warm Fireplace, Rainy Day and Open-Air Cafe.

Verdict: Hyundai is knocking on the door of some premium rivals with the dramatic all-new Tucson Hybrid. Safe, spacious, well equipped, refined and engaging to drive, it’s a superb SUV package and a real step-up from its predecessor. Add Hyundai’s generous five-year warranty and it’s a tempting proposition.

Hyundai UK

BMW X2 PHEV review

BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid review

It’s not the BMW X2’s fault, but not long before I tested out the new plug-in hybrid version of this distinctively-styled, low-slung crossover, I was driving the latest BMW 330e saloon.

Re-reading my review, I concluded: “Frankly, it’s hard to criticise the 330e because it’s an almost perfect embodiment of a PHEV.” No pressure, there then for the X2.

However, the reality is that the difference between these BMW siblings is night and day, which is disappointing because I have a soft spot for the X2 – a car that dares to be different.

BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid review

For starters, the 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 and it has a pure electric range of up to 37 miles.

The X2 xDrive25e (yep, it’s a mouthful) isn’t far behind in the performance stakes, combining a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol turbo engine – also found in the MINI range – with an electric motor, producing 217bhp in total.

BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid review

Four-wheel drive (xDrive) is achieved via the combustion engine powering the front wheels and the electric motor, which sits on the rear axle, while 0-62mph takes 6.8 seconds and it has a top speed of 121mph.

So, on paper the X2 PHEV is no slouch. More importantly for most buyers, it’s especially appealing for company car drivers looking to make significant tax savings because its vital CO2 emissions are as low as 39g/km.

What’s more, it can run in 100% EV mode for up to 32 miles and it has a theoretical fuel economy of 166.2mpg.

BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid review

Sadly, the 330e also shows up the X2 PHEV’s deficiencies. Everything from the dated interior to the way it handles.

Let’s start with the dashboard and infotainment system, which looks old school by today’s standards. As the 330e illustrates, things have rapidly moved on, so the plethora of dials and buttons seems odd, as does the CD slot, while adding postcodes to the sat nav using a daisywheel function via the rotary selector dial next to the gear lever is almost 20th Century.

Oh, yes, and it has a long-throw auto gear selector with gaiter, unlike the latest BMWs which are blessed with a tactile, stubby shift knob. Add the analogue dials in the instrument binnacle and it’s almost retro.

BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid review

The X2 PHEV’s power delivery is punchy and it handles well enough – just not in the way we’ve come to expect from a BMW. Engineered more for comfort and economy than driver engagement, and not quite as refined as I would have hoped for, my week driving an X2 xDrive25e left me underwhelmed.

That said, as a sporty-looking, practical, eco crossover it makes absolute sense.

There’s room for five adults, and even though the battery eats into the X2’s boot capacity (reducing it from 470 to 410 litres), it’s still a useful space and it expands to 1,290 litres with the back seats flipped.

BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid review

And like all plug-in hybrids, if you keep the battery charged (it takes 3-5 hours) and if you have a modest daily commute, your visits to the service station will be few and far between.

Priced from £39,390, the BMW X2 is up against some strong competition in the SUV premium PHEV sector, including its “little” brother (the X1), the Volvo XC40, Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3.

Verdict: Ultimately, the sporty-looking BMW X2 is a perfectly acceptable plug-in hybrid crossover, blessed with low running costs, top build quality and everyday practicality. Just don’t expect the ultimate driving machine.

BMW X2 xDrive25e plug-in hybrid review

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

One-off multi-coloured Bentley makes diversity statement

Unifying Spur - one-off Bentley Flying Spur celebrates diveristy

Bentley Motors has unveiled a uniquely-designed Flying Spur to highlight its aim to become the most diverse luxury car manufacturer.

Dubbed the ‘Unifying Spur’, the car has been wrapped in a design capturing the themes of love, progress and unity.

As European Diversity month draws to a close, and Pride celebrations begin around the world, Bentley has set itself a target of increasing diversity in management to 30% by 2025.

Unifying Spur - one-off Bentley Flying Spur celebrates diveristy

Bentley challenged its design team to create an automotive artwork that celebrates diversity in all its forms.

Designer Rich Morris, who paints and sculpts in his spare time, created a piece of four-wheeled art using the nine colours of the Progress flag.

His design joins the words “Love is Love” through a single, unbroken line, that traces faces, dancing figures and shapes – representing the unifying power of humanity, regardless of race, creed or sexuality.

Unifying Spur - one-off Bentley Flying Spur celebrates diveristy

“We know that diversity drives success, by bringing a greater range of experience, creativity as well as inclusion allows co-operation to play in business strategy, innovation and decision-making,” said Bentley’s Dr Astrid Fontaine.

“We also want our our business to reflect our global customer base and most importantly of all, to ensure that we all work in an environment where everyone feels safe to bring their true self to work and valued for who they are and what they can do.

“For us this means ensuring there are colleagues from all walks of life in our management structure.”

The 101-year old company is going through unparalleled change on its journey towards a climate-positive future.

In 2020, it announced its Beyond100 strategy with the aim of becoming a global leader in sustainable luxury mobility, which will see the brand reinvent every aspect of its business.

This also includes switching the model range to offer exclusively plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicles by 2026, and fully electric vehicles only by 2030.