I bought this car in January 2016 for around-town duties with the kids, as well as the occasional drive to/from work, which meant driving along a long, winding road in NSW’s Southern Highlands (Bowral to Nowra via Kangaroo Valley for those that know it). Because of the kids, I needed the safest car I could afford. Because of the location and roads, I needed AWD. Because of the hills, I wanted power, and because it’d be the wife's car more often than not, it needed to be smaller than the X-Trail family hack she didn’t like.
That left the A-Class at the time (and CLA), an X1 or an A3 quattro. Any SUV didn’t really fit the long, winding roads we went along, and for this reason the X1 – one of the least SUV SUVs there is – was dropped off. The A3 was getting on a bit, and so it was next off the list. So off to the Merc’ shop we went, but didn’t really fall in love with the A-Class or CLA (that iPad). So back out to the car for thinking time. Cue the five-year-old: “Daddy, why don’t we get another Volvo?”.
Off to Volvo. We saw this and it was fast, AWD, safe, petrol, and small enough for me to not want to continually ‘borrow’ it instead of my XC70 or work LC200 when I got home (the real reason my wife wanted small).
Performance and Economy
This thing has performance in spades, and the AWD system delivers it beautifully. There’s no need, in my opinion, to get the Polestar upgrade (350Nm to 400Nm), but it’s there if you want it I guess. The economy isn’t too bad, but I drive a lot and really the only beef is the smaller fuel tank of around 60L from memory. It’ll do roughly 8L/100km with the wife driving it, or a fair bit more (maybe 11.5) when I do. It’s neither brilliant or in any way poor on economy.
Cabin Space and Comfort
The front is very good, although in ours the seats don’t seem to be the same comforting and supportive seats that most (and my other) Volvos have. Rather, they’re some sporty thing that is comfortable and made with beautifully thick and quality leather, but I’m just not a sports seat kind of person. But everyone who sits in it appears to love them, so I guess they’re good.
The back seat is another story. Firstly, yes, you can get two baby seats in there (talking the reversible full capsule thing), but only one if the driver is 6ft tall as you need to slide the front seat back too much. Also, if you have two babies, then good luck getting a double pram in the boot (some pram models you can, but not many).
But it does get better... As the kids grow into booster seats, the leg room issue disappears, as does the need for a pram. As they leave these seats and are using just the normal bench, then it gets even better. It’ll only be if they also become 6ft teenagers that we may have an issue. But by that stage we’re talking about getting a new car anyway, or selling it to them before they learn about Volvo depreciation (to be fair, it’s getting better).
Could you use it as the car in a single-car family? Of course you could, but if you’re talking about long holidays away, then you’ll need a roof pod I think. Also, get a tow bar so you can fit a bike rack on it.
Technology and Connectivity
Here I found this Volvo very good (my XC70 not so much). Bluetooth and streaming occurs pretty well seamlessly. My son loves the fact the navigation lady says ‘please’ (unlike my other car, which he considers rude), and it’s a very nice and intuitive set-up once you get to know it. And that’s the rub – all the buttons on the dash seem to get poor reviews from people, but I think it’s far better once you’re used to it than the current Volvo thing of having a screen that you need to touch for absolutely everything.
I don’t have the XC70 anymore, and each time I get into this, I do find I take a little while to get used to it again, but it doesn’t take too long. The best thing to use is the voice control, as that goes through every menu without you having to touch any other dial.
The other safety-related technology is, as expected, excellent. There is one issue, though – since day dot we have continually had ‘pedestrian safety system malfunction – please check’ come up. It’s been in three times for a fix to no avail.
Price and Features
Well, I don’t really know how much I paid for this as there was a trade, and it’s always a mix of doing well in one or the other really. From the fair value of the trade, however, I think we paid about $51K for this when the list price with all the options was around $62K. The features I cannot complain about – it has everything and then some.
Servicing costs are reasonable. Up where I used to live, I paid around $400 a service with every third being $800, and now in a capital city it’s only about another $50 to $100 on top of that – and that’s only once a year. Both my latest Volvos have been similar to that, so I don’t know if Volvo servicing has come down in price or we just happened to pick the two cheaper options. Those figures are from Volvo dealerships.
Ride and Handling
This is an awesome car to drive in a spirited manner, especially along winding, hilly roads. It’s the absolute opposite of the XC70 I had. I don’t find it too hard at all, and I actually prefer softer-riding vehicles. I’ve never had the wheels spin, never lost traction, and it’s a point-and-shoot thing with the steering.
Overall, we’re enjoying the purchase. The pedestrian collision thing (I think it has an airbag in the bonnet) is the only warranty issue so far. The interior quality is excellent. The room is perfectly adequate for a family of four and it’s a great drive.
It is expensive for the size of vehicle you get, but at the same time I’m getting one of the safest small vehicles you can have, and at the end of the day that was my highest priority.
If you’re considering one, ask to take a demo for a day (they offered it to us). You’ll get far more value out of it, as I think Volvo is one of those car brands that wouldn’t usually win a ‘round the block and back’ comparison, but gets better the longer you own it.