I guess you could say this is Volvo’s spiritual heartland; the premium family wagon.

This is what you loaded your children and a wet-nosed Labrador into before everyone decided to pretend they need to drive half way up a mountain at a moment’s notice by buying an SUV – although Volvo knows a thing or two about them, let’s not forget.

The thing is, there’s a reason we all used to buy estate cars, one we hope people remember before too long – they offer all the practicalities of an SUV, but with none of the downsides.

They’re better-looking, too. Many an SUV has morphed into an identikit caricature of the breed whereas the new V60 is far more striking.

Compared to the larger V90, the V60 has a sharper, taughter character. The sides are heavily scalloped, the rear haunches more pronounced, and the front more aggressive, particularly the way the always-appealing Thor’s Hammer running lights pierce the nose.

The tailgate seems more upright than the somewhat rakish rear of the V90, and it’s power-operated as standard, opening to reveal 658 litres of space, increasing to 1,441 litres thanks to easy-folding seats.

There are more bag hooks than you’ll know what to do with, plus a variety of optional cargo nets and floor dividers. In fact, the only demerit is that there’s nowhere to stow the cargo cover beneath the floor.

Rear passenger space is respectable – headroom is generous even with the optional panoramic sunroof, although the door-mounted armrest takes up valuable knee-room and middle-seat occupants might grumble at the prospect of competing with the sizeable transmission tunnel for foot space.

there’s no better interior anywhere in the automotive world

Utterly convincing, though, is the space up front. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a better interior anywhere in the automotive world than a modern SPA-era Volvo. The V60 might not wear quite as much wood and leather as an XC90, but the principles of an attractive, driver-focused environment are still very much on show here. Plus the seats are among the most comfortable on the planet, complete with a huge range of adjustment.

All V60s feature a digital instrument cluster and Volvo’s Sensus touch-screen system which continues to be a firm favourite of ours, despite our dislike of on-screen temperature controls. The V60 also continues Volvo’s insistence on asking £300 for Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and £375 for a reversing camera, which strikes us as a little mean.

There is, however, an ever-lengthening list of safety and driver aids starting with City Safety – automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection. Volvo claims it’s also the world’s first system that can brake to avoid a head-on collision, too.

Also standard is Run-off Road Mitigation, Driver Alert Control, Lane-keeping Aid, and Road Sign Information Display. For £1,625, you can add Pilot Assist, a sort of super-advanced cruise control that can maintain your distance from the vehicle in front as well as your position within your lane, plus Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot warning, and Rear Collision Mitigation.

In other words, you’d have to work pretty hard to have an accident in a V60.

So, it’s as safe as a Volvo should be, and as spacious as a family wagon needs to be. And the drive?

Well, here there’s a bit of a surprise, because the V60 is undoubtedly the sharpest of all the modern-era Volvos. In fact, we’d go as far as to call it a tidy handler, and easily the match of its rivals.

It’s probably fair to say the light steering that makes the Volvo so calming to thread through city streets does it no favours in terms of feedback, but that doesn’t make it any less direct. Beyond the initial body-roll it feels surprisingly pointy, and even at speeds that would make your Labrador vomit, the V60 hangs on keenly with the best of them.

even at speeds that would make your Labrador vomit, the V60 hangs on with the best of them

Given how well a standard Momentum drives, we have high hopes for the sportier R-Design set-up, due to join the range shortly.

For a company generally known for mounting its engines ahead of an auto, our D4 test car’s manual gearbox turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise. Its ratios were intelligently chosen and although first needed a manly shove, the shift-action was positive and satisfying.

Unfortunately the 250hp T5 petrol is only available with the eight-speed auto, while the 150hp D3 and 190hp D4 are offered with both. The T5’s performance figures haven’t been announced yet but it’s not likely to be slow. Neither’s the D4, sprinting to 62mph in just 7.9 seconds with economy of up to 64 mpg – we notched up around 52 mpg after a week’s testing.

Within the next year there’ll be two plug-in hybrid models, too – the 340hp T6 Twin Engine and 390hp T8 Twin Engine.

And if you’re sitting there thinking an SUV would give you all-wheel-drive, Volvo even have that covered with a V60 Cross Country set to arrive early next year.

So tell me again: why did you want to buy that SUV?

Tester’s Notes

  • Typically excellent cabin, best seats on the planet, wide range of adjustment.
  • Pleased to see digital instruments as standard, but CarPlay and reversing camera still optional.
  • Practical load space, although no room for cargo cover under the floor.
  • Ever-expanding range of safety gizmos.
  • Surprisingly taught handling, tenacious and easy to place despite somewhat lifeless steering.
  • Manual gearbox a pleasant surprise – well-chosen ratios, nice shift-action. Shame it’s not available on T5 petrol.
  • D4 diesel still a pleasing and torquey performer.
  • Sportier R-Design and jacked-up Cross Country to follow, covers all bases.
  • 52 mpg on test.
Entry-level Price£31,810Price as tested£43,840
Engine1969cc 4-cyl turbodieselTransmission6-speed manual
Power190hp @ 4,250rpmTorque400Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm
0-627.9 secsTop speed137 mph
Economy64.0 mpgCO2117 g/km
Dimensions4761 x 1916 x 1433 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1669 kg