Fleet News

Volvo V70



##volv70.jpg --Right##NOT many people noticed the Volvo S70 saloon quietly slipping off the bottom of Volvo's price list at the end of last year. It reflected a sales performance that at best was lacklustre: true to Volvo's reputation, the V70 estate outsold it by almost 10 to one in 1999. So it's hardly surprising that Volvo has piled all its estate expertise into the estate-only replacement for both, and rather unsurprisingly called it the V70. It's the car Volvo hopes will enable it to perpetuate its dominance of the large estate car market in the UK: the old V70 on its own accounted for a massive 32%. By comparison, its nearest competitor, the Mercedes C-class estate, takes only a 12% share.

Along with an average 3% price hike across the range is a 5% predicted residual value rise from about 34% of cost new to 39%. So though the new V70 2.4T SE costs £28,660 on-the-road compared with £26,995 for the equivalent old model at its demise, the retained value is £11,100 compared with £9,100 after three years/ 60,000 miles, according to CAP Monitor.

The styling brief for the new V70 required a vehicle with the front end of a sports car and the rear end of an estate, and Volvo's design chief Peter Horbury has achieved both. Initially just two engines are available - 2.4T 200bhp and T5 250bhp - though these will be joined in July by a 2.4-litre non-turbo unit with either 140bhp or 170bhp, and a 2.5-litre turbodiesel. All the engines are carried over from the previous model, though modifications have improved power outputs and cut CO2 emissions.

A choice of two automatic transmissions includes the five-speed Geartronic unit with 'Tip' function (turbo cars only) and a new five-speed, available on all other models except the diesel. Step inside the new V70 and it's clear Volvo has thought long and hard about detail. The dash resembles the S80's, with clear logical layout and the 80's excellent air conditioning controls formed in the silhouette of a seated occupant. The steering wheel, audio and sat-nav controls also follow the S80 - convenient and easy to use.

We've come to expect Volvo seats to offer excellent support and the V70's are no different. Long cushions and plenty of adjustment make for a supremely comfortable driving position. Sadly, oddments storage seems to have taken a dive, with only limited stowage. The passenger seat back folds for added versatility. In the luggage area, Volvo has excelled in providing the kind of design touches that are so important for everyday practicality. Most ingenious is the shopping bag carrier, which pops up from its underfloor storage to enable carrier bags to be carried simply and without risk of spillage.

The inherent extra stiffness that comes with the S80's platform has improved the V70's dynamics beyond all recognition. Whereas the old V70 suffered a fidgety ride and quite wayward handling, dulled by virtually inoperative traction control for the scrabbling front wheels, the new V70 is a genuine driver's car.

Smooth and refined, both the 2.4T and T5 are quick and responsive, though it's perhaps the 2.4T that shines brightest. With outright power from the light-pressure turbo engine increased from 193bhp to 200bhp and with 210lb-ft of torque available from just 1,800rpm, it's an effortless car to drive quickly. In fact, the difference between the 2.4T and the T5 isn't that marked in day-to-day driving: for most people, the 2.4T provides more than enough performance with a 0-62mph acceleration time of 7.9 seconds and a top speed of 139mph (T5: 7.1secs, 155mph) and improved economy ù30.7mpg combined compared with 26.0mpg for the old model (T5: 30.4mpg/25.4mpg).

There's a choice of three trim levels - Standard, S and SE - though the turbocharged cars which go on sale initially are available only in Standard and SE forms. Prices start at £25,860 on-the-road for the 2.4T Standard and rise to £29,660 for the top of the range T5 SE. In July, the entry-level 2.4 140bhp model will start at £22,260, with the S pack adding £1,400 or £2,800 for the SE. All V70s come with goodies including air conditioning, five three-point belts, ABS, an alarm and electric windows all round, while S adds alloy wheels, a CD player and wood trim. The SE includes leather trim, bigger alloys, full climate control and a rear waste bin.

The new V70 elevates Volvo back to the top of the large estate league with a car that is much-improved in every way. Impressive attention to detail makes it a car that's truly designed for families. The difference with today's V70 is that Volvo has banished its image as a maker of lumbering family wagons: now you can carry your shopping in a car that's as swift and svelte as they come.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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