Decisions, decisions, what to buy?
I have my little Italian sports car and it goes great. I have owned many brands of cars over about 40 years, but I keep coming back to Alfa's. There is something magic about them. It's like they are a part of the family, and not just a form of transport. But I digress. This is about a Volvo. When my better half's ancient Hyundai said it was time to move on to the next life we had to buy a replacement vehicle.
Because I could get to work by bus (eeeesh!) it was only right that she use the Alfa while a new car was being found. Our criteria were comfortable, safe, enjoyable to drive, and good quality audio system (a personal must for me). Without really thinking about it, I found myself looking for a car for me, and not for her. That then raised the question, "What is my little Italian red sports car not good at?"
Utility. I wanted to find something with a bit of carrying capacity. The first things I looked at were dual-cab utes. My God, are these things expensive? If you want something 'affordable' you will get a rusty and worn out piece of junk that will leak oil wherever it goes, so those were quickly struck off the list.
Next on the list were SUV's. I find these are expensive for what they are, but not to the same ridiculous degree as the utes. A low-kilometre version of something that is bigger than a child's toy is still expensive.
Then I spotted a Volvo. It was not low-kilometre, but it looked quite good in the online pictures so I thought I'd have a look. I'm not sure if the pictures I am uploading do this car justice but for a car that had done 175,000km it was immaculate, and it still is six months later.
It you read Volvo reviews most of them comment on how comfortable the seating is, and I can attest that it's true. You sink into the seats and feel like you belong there, and wonder why you can't get that comfortable in other cars. It's a strange feeling; every time I drive the Alfa and I get out of the car, I look back and admire it, however I find myself wanting to drive the Volvo, and more often than not I find myself in this mid-size SUV. I sit in it and I feel at home.
The seating position is great, the visibility is great, the steering wheel looks and feels good, the controls and switchgear look and feel upmarket. Overall, it's a lovely place to be. Oh, and the feeling of space in the car is wonderful, complemented by the large glasshouse and the panoramic sunroof with the shade open.
The driving: This car can't be considered quick by any stretch of the imagination, but it effortlessly keeps up with traffic. And I mean effortlessly. The diesel has mountains of torque and forward motion just happens. The stopping power is excellent as well. The steering works but doesn't inspire the confidence to tackle twisty mountain curves at great pace. The tyres have high sidewalls and the suspension has a reasonable amount of travel.
Combined with a fair amount of mass and an SUV-like centre of gravity means that handling is okay at best. No, this wasn't designed to win the Gorge Road downhill time trial, but it was designed to take that same route downhill or uphill effortlessly while keeping the occupants safe and and comfortable, allowing them to take in the Adelaide Hills beauty.
It's the same story for highway driving. The car is not overly fast, but has enough power to make overtaking straightforward. The car is smooth and quiet and wind noise doesn't intrude so you can talk to your passengers or listen to music. I have lost count of how many cars I have owned, but I think this is easily the quietest at highway speeds. Unfortunately, that doesn't equate to good fuel economy. In fact, on the highway I think this is the thirstiest car I have ever owned.
It is hardly better on the highway than it is in the city. It must be due to that large frontal area trying to shove it's way through the air. On long trips it gets somewhere between 8 and 9 litres per 100 kilometres, but I can live with that for the three or four times a year I plan on spending many continuous hours behind the wheel. To be fair, a Mazda RX-4 I previously owned would have been much much thirstier, but I never took that on a highway.
The car has City Safety (Volvo speak for AEB), rear camera, parking sensors, radar cruise, panoramic sunroof, push-button start, electric tailgate, a huge cargo area, navigation, heated electric seats, and Bluetooth. For a 2010 car it is packed with plenty of goodies. There are a few 2020 goodies it doesn't have, but then most of the affordable cars in 2020 don't have them either. For rear passengers it has air vents in the B-pillars and in the centre console, as well as having a fold-down armrest with cupholders, and a system to raise the seats for small children.
It also has a nice feature of resetting the seats and mirrors to your personal preference when you unlock the car with the remote. It has two remotes and remembers the settings for the last time a particular remote was used; perfect for when you have two drivers of completely different physical statures, as is the case with me and my partner.
The bad points: It's an SUV with a reasonably large cargo area, which means it can carry stuff - so it does. Without this car, largish items would not usually be considered for loading in, but because those items now fit, I say, "will it fit in the Volvo? Yes. So I will get it".
The Bluetooth does not do music streaming. The navigation is programmed using a remote control and is painful to use. Also, there is no escaping the fact the car is a diesel, which means the diesel rattle is always present.
The good points: The wonderful airiness, that panoramic sunroof, the growl of the engine on acceleration, the quality of the sound system, the feeling of safety (which is backed up by real world statistics) and the unmistakable feeling of quality in how it is put together. "Sunroof" is a misnomer, however, as it can rarely be used in the Australian sun, but it is wonderful in the evening and is great in the cooler months just as a glass roof. Overall it presents as just a nice place to be.
Am I a convert from Alfa Romeo? Not yet. But this car gets nothing but praise from me and that's something I can't say about any of the seven Alfa's I have owned.
One final comment about this Volvo. A friend of mine got himself a Porsche Cayenne. It cost mega bucks compared to what I paid. I have been in it, but honestly the Volvo is streets ahead in terms of comfort and fit and finish.
If you get a chance, sit in one and take it for a spin. You will be won over.
Note: due to an earlier problem with our image uploaded, we have used CarAdvice photos for this review.