What is it?
Volvo is famous for safety and is aiming for no-one to be injured or killed in one of its cars by 2020. Now, though, it has another ‘zero’ aim – zero emissions from its cars too. The former might well be possible, but the latter could prove more tricky. Still, the Swedes are having a go, with the launch of their first plug-in hybrid, the V60 - freshly facelifted for 2014.
A plug-in hybrid is similar in principal to a Toyota Prius hybrid, but with a bigger set of batteries that can be recharged from the mains, thus extending the electriconly running. Volvo also fits a more fuel efficient diesel engine instead of a petrol, which will ensure the strong eco credentials continue when the batteries are flat, too.
The electric-only aspect of the V60 Hybrid is the most impressive. It can do up to 60mph running on just the battery, and that will last for 30 miles. You’re never left wanting any more power either. The electric motor has got plenty of juice and the diesel won’t kick in unless you really thrash it.
The hybrid setting sees both the diesel and the electric motor run in an eco setting, while the power mode sees 272bhp released from both powerplants. It’s bloody quick: 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds and immense overtaking shove thanks to 472 lb ft of torque. It’s not perfect, though. The D5 diesel engine is simply too rough, a contrast made all the more stark here due to the silence in EV mode. Volvo’s new range of four-cylinder engines can’t come too soon.
On the inside
Unlike some other eco cars, the V60 is pretty conventional inside. The standard dashboard layout is as per regular models, and all the major controls are no different either. The variation comes in the displays, which are focused on showing how much energy is left in the batteries and how best you can manage it to get maximum benefit. There are also buttons on the centre console to adjust the parameters of the various systems according to driving conditions and demands.
Further back, the 12kWh lithium ion battery pack is stored beneath the boot floor, which does take up space and means the load bay could usefully be bigger: it’s been reduced to a supermini-like 310 litres and the floor is higher too. Passenger space is unchanged though.
There is no arguing with the fuel economy. The firm claims a massive 148.7mpg and CO2 emissions drop to just 48g/km. Such great economy means the fact Volvo’s had to reduce the fuel tank to 45 litres won’t be an inconvenience. The £49,975 list price is very high but it is eligible for the £5,000 Government Plug-In car grant, taking it down to a slightly more palatable £45k.