Volvo’s eco V60 fuel-sipping mile-muncher

Matt Joy puts Volvo's new V60 DRIVEe to the test with a real-world 830-mile trip on one tankful of diesel.

If you've managed to get this far in your motoring life without sparing a thought for fuel bills or the environment then I'm secretly impressed, because there's nothing like the tide of public opinion to raise something to the top of the agenda. It wasn't that long ago that hardly anyone knew about carbon dioxide emissions, but these days it's more socially acceptable to banter about g/km than bhp.

Volvo isn't ashamed to admit it has been in the business of making family cars for decades: it knows what works and what doesn't. Its long-deserved reputation for safety is still an ever-present, yet perhaps of greater interest now is an emphasis on creating cars that are good to look at and very economical.

There's a new V60 DRIVe that represents a serious attempt to fill all of those roles. You should be familiar with the regular V60 by now – a slick, modern Volvo and yet still able to do all the boring stuff like they always have. But the DRIVe model achieves some remarkably efficient figures. Try 62.8mpg and 119g/km for the V60, a fraction better for the S60 saloon.

What's more, rather than the pie-in-the-sky figures that many seem to think official statistics are, a little application makes them achievable. To prove it, Volvo set us the task of driving a new V60 DRIVe from its UK headquaters in Marlow in Buckinghamshire to Mayrhoffen in Austria on a single tank of fuel for the Snowbombing Festival of which Volvo is the key sponsor – 840 miles without refulling is no mean feat.

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Even starting with the M25 couldn't diminish the V60's qualities. Despite not even being run in yet the 1.6-litre diesel unit gives the kind of low-speed pull that we've come to expect, thanks to the 199lb.ft of torque available from 1,750rpm. There's a six-speed manual gearbox too, rather than the five speeds that many eco-specials have.

The V60 rattles off the 100 miles to Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel with little effort, and once in France sticking to a steady 75mph is much easier. The cabin does a fine job of looking after its occupants too, with seats that are very supportive and comfortable. There's a healthy complement of equipment too as this is no stripped-out economy model.

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Better still, if you go for the R-Design model innocent passers-by would mistake it for the hot model in the range. R-Design gets you very attractive, large alloy wheels, a tasteful bodykit for sportiness but not showiness and sharper suspension. Much as we'd like the more handsome version here, we're thankful for the softest suspension over broken French roads. By the end of day one we were comfortably in excess of 60mpg, with 420 miles to go and more than half a tank left.

Day two meant getting on with it. The temptation of derestricted autobahn through Germany was largely resisted, although we did up the pace a little as even in a comfortable and attractive cabin, the seven hundredth motorway mile was beginning to grate.

We also began to make even more use of the decent cabin space. As with any road trip the amount of accumulated detritus increases but the V60 swallowed it all quite happily. The increased urgency had also chipped away at our average economy, and so as we approached Mayrhofen we had to fully exploit the roadholding in order to avoid braking unless absolutely necessary – thankfully the V60 was faithful, benign and grippy, despite low rolling resistance tyres.

Remarkably, and despite the seemingly-dubious end to the story, the V60 indicated zero fuel in the tank and zero range with 15 miles still go. Holding our breath and everything else (particularly over the level crossing) it trundled happily up to the hotel without a single cough or splutter – 830 miles down, 56.4mpg on the trip computer.

It might not be the kind of thing a family will regularly undertake, but the point was proven emphatically. The V60 DRIVe demands very little in the way of compromise from its occupants, yet delivers pretty impressive fuel efficiency with a little in reserve – which proves that you don't have to sell your soul to save the planet.

Volvo V60 DRIVe SE

Price: �26,770

Engine: 1.6-litre, 113bhp four-cylinder turbo diesel

Transmission: Six-speed manual driving front wheels

Perfomance: 0-62mph in 11.3seconds; top speed 118mph

Economy: 62.8mpg

Emissions: 119g/km of C02

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