I was always a fan of the old Volvo XC60.

That’s not particularly surprising, given its compelling mix of style and safety, practicality and road manners.

But what is surprising is how many other people felt the same way, with the XC60 consistently finding itself near or at the top of the premium SUV best sellers list.

In fact, Volvo sold more XC60s in its last year of production than they had in any other year.  That’s almost unheard of.  And remember, we’re talking about a car that at this point was nine years old.

Clearly, this new XC60 is a car the company can’t afford to get wrong.  So, at the risk of making this the shortest car review in history, let me start by telling you this:

They haven’t.

For a start, it looks the part.  Volvo’s designers have taken the styling cues established by its bigger brother, the XC90, and integrated them beautifully into the XC60’s smaller frame.  Indeed, while the XC90 can seem visually bulky from some angles, the ’60 by contrast appears perfectly proportioned.

the new XC60 appears perfectly proportioned

The same is true of the interior.  There’s the familiar nine-inch tablet-style interface, the same crisp digital instrument cluster, and the same fabulous seats.  For the XC60, Volvo went heavy on the Scandinavian design, with appealing trim in lime, driftwood or – our favourite – a metal mesh finish complete with a subtle Swedish flag.

Passenger space is generous – even the optional panoramic sunroof fails to eat noticeably into headroom – and while boot space might not be class-leading at 505 litres, thanks to the clever suspension’s lack of intrusion it’s a very usable shape.  With the seats folded, that rises to 1,432 litres of flat-floor usefulness.

Then there’s the strong safety element:  as well as updated versions of systems seen on the XC90 such as Pilot Assist (now capable of operating semi-autonomously up to 80mph), there are new systems such as Steer Assist to help with braking and steering during evasive manoeuvres, Oncoming Lane Mitigation to prevent inadvertent head-on collisions, and Blind Spot Information System with Steer Assist to actively steer away from cars in your blind spot.

Or to put it another way: you’d have to work pretty hard to have an accident in a Volvo these days.

you’d have to work pretty hard to have an accident in a Volvo

While some SUVs reserve all-wheel-drive for a few range-topping models, the XC60 shuns this approach: every model in the range offers AWD as standard, the BorgWarner system sending most of the engine’s output to the front wheels in normal conditions, but it can transfer up to 50% to the rear wheels as necessary.  Ground clearance is a useful 216mm, although models with air suspension can increase this by 40mm.

All engines are two-litre four-cylinder units: two diesel, one petrol, plus a petrol/electric hybrid.

The entry-level 190hp D4 diesel is the likely volume seller and, frankly, it’s all the engine most people will need, thanks to its gutsy approach to torque and the eight-speed auto’s seemingly innate understanding of how that should be delivered.

The 235hp D5 includes Volvo’s PowerPulse technology that uses compressed air to reduce turbo lag, while the turbocharged petrol T5 provides a 254hp solution to those troubled by the recent anti-diesel sentiment that can also sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds.

Of course, there’s also the T8 Twin Engine plug-in electric hybrid, and although it’s a little on the pricey side starting at £56,850, it offers some very tantalising numbers in return: 407hp, 640Nm of torque, 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, CO2 emissions of just 49 g/km, and economy up to 134.5mpg.

Whichever engine you choose, the result is the same calm and confident manner that won us over with the XC90, although with less body weight to manage there’s now a greater feeling of agility.

the result is the same calm and confident manner that won us over with the XC90

We spent a week with a D5 R-Design, and although the sportier set-up offered a ride that could be a little fractious at times, particularly over sunken manhole covers, the XC60 impressed us both with its noise isolation and its ability to cover large distances seemingly without breaking a sweat.

More impressive than that, however, is the way Volvo’s various technological advancements (and there are many) all shrink into the background.  You don’t need to know, for example, that the car is bristling with radar and ultrasonic sensors.  Yet when the day arrives that a deer jumps out in front of you, the XC60 will already be braking and nudging the steering wheel to avoid it long before you even recognise what it is.

We’re not about to suggest the XC60 is perfect: there’s no space under the boot floor to store the cargo cover when it’s not in use, for instance, while the trim along the top edges of the transmission tunnel (leather on the XC90 but plastic on the XC60) creaks annoyingly when you lean against it, somewhat shattering the otherwise impeccable sense of quality.  We also think it’s a little much to ask £375 for a reversing camera and £300 for Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, when even a modest French hatchback includes both as standard.

Those niggles aside, if you’ve been following Volvo’s progress in recent years you’ll no doubt have been hoping – like us – that the XC60 would represent all the best bits of the accomplished XC90, transposed into a smaller, more agile body.

It seems Volvo have been listening.  Because the new XC60 is every inch the car we’ve all been waiting for.

Tester’s Notes

  • Perfectly proportioned interpretation of Volvo’s Scandinavian style.
  • Generous cabin space, even with optional sunroof.
  • We love the metal mesh dash trim of our R-Design car.
  • Momentum trim includes everything most people will need, but rear camera and CarPlay really ought to be standard.
  • Shame the plastic trim on transmission tunnel used instead of leather of ’90 series creaks annoyingly when leant against.
  • D4 engine probably the pick of the bunch for most people. Pleased to see petrol T5 option given recent anti-diesel sentiment.
  • Eight-speed auto makes for remarkably rapid progress with even modest throttle openings, although can feel a touch lethargic when driving  hard.
  • Practical boot space with little intrusion and flat floor, but nowhere to store cargo cover.
  • An easy 40mpg on test.
Entry-level Price£37,205Price as tested£51,375
Engine1969cc 4-cyl turbo-dieselTransmission8-speed auto
Power235hp @ 4,000rpmTorque480Nm @ 1,750-2,250rpm
0-627.2 secsTop speed137 mph
Economy51.4 mpgCO2144 g/km
Dimensions4688 x 1999 x 1658 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1846 kg