Coming up trumps
THE Volvo S60 marked a sea change for the Swedish company. Smaller Volvos had never really cut it in the eyes of British customers, being viewed with the same suspicion afforded large Italian saloons, peripatetic driveway layers, Eastern European bicycles and 99p all-you-can-eat Cantonese buffets.
The S60 was the first compact Volvo to seriously threaten the German establishment — a tough nut to crack by any means.
As a used proposition, the S60 looks to offer many of Volvo's traditionally sensible values whilst injecting a dash of Scandinavian style into the equation. Should a nearly-new Mercedes C-class, Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series fail to appeal, the S60 should most definitely be on your shortlist.
This is an all-out sports saloon, aimed squarely at prestige compact executive rivals like BMW's 3 Series, Mercedes' C-class and the Lexus IS200.
It's also unmistakably a Volvo: check the C70-style rear three-quarter view, the V70 front end and the distinctive S80 'catwalk' shoulders which run the entire length of the car. Yet somehow, there's a sense of style and spirit we've not seen from Gothenburg in the past.
Safety of course, remained uppermost in the designers' minds throughout development: Volvo may have ditched many of its marque values in recent years but it can't afford to lose this one.
Hence the inclusion on every model of dual-stage airbags for front driver and passenger, SIPS (the company's patented Side Impact Protections System) with side airbags, WHIPS (the Whiplash Protection System), an inflatable curtain to save your head from smashing against the side glass and five three-point seatbelts.
A clutch assembly is around £190, whilst an exhaust system is in the region of £400.
Thin front brake pads will require the thick end of £60, whilst rears are £40 a pair. A new alternator will require alternate plans for £180, but a new starter motor is a fairly reasonable £120. A replacement headlamp is £180.
As part of Ford's Premier Auto Group, Volvo has a responsibility to not only offer class-leading safety and environmental performance, the S60 had to be a winner on the road.
In certain respects, most notably when considering £ per bhp, it succeeds admirably.
Take the entry-level 2.0-litre turbo model, with 180bhp. Faster and generally better equipped than all of its direct rivals, it's also much cheaper than rival German marques: cars like the 163bhp Mercedes C200K or the 170bhp BMW 320i.
If you're after solidly built and effortlessly quick transport that makes everything else look a little contrived, the S60 comes up trumps.
A basic 2.0t looks to be the pick of the range, at least until the D5 model starts fetching sensible money.