Volvos have often sat in a hinterland between mainstream and full premium products (between Ford/Vauxhall and BMW/Mercedes, for example), but residual values suggest the S60 is retaining its value more in line with the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes than Ford or Volkswagen.

Official fuel consumption figures suggest all diesel models should be capable of more than 60mpg, with the D4 – the standout performer – claiming 74.3mpg with a manual gearbox. Its CO2 emissions are competitive, too: no manual-equipped diesel records more than 119g/km. Again, the D4 impresses most here with its 99g/km rating, which makes it road tax exempt.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Volvo seems to prefer to offer different trim levels than try to tempt you to spec your car with options

Judged through this narrow prism, the S60 is in a class of one. No other premium saloon emits less than 100g/km without the expensive help of hybrid tech. Equally, no other close rival can quote a combined claim of 74.3mpg. In our hands, the S60 achieved 45.8mpg overall.

Volvo's challenge is all the more serious for its sudden determination to compete aggressively on price. The S60’s four original trim levels were arguably priced too closely to its German rivals to conquer much of the capitulated sales ground.

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Now, in a guess-who-it’s-for Business Edition trim and with the new four-cylinder engine, the car is more than £5k cheaper than a 320d SE. That model misses out on some desirable items, but the essentials (DAB tuner, climate control and cruise control) are included.

Inevitably, factoring in bigger wheels, more kit, prettier external features and a better-appointed interior does even out the scales – the SE Nav car tested, weighed down with options, was a fairly inconceivable £35,995 – and, objectively, the S60 isn’t a match for the 320d’s handling finesse or its air of sophistication.

But that’s measured on our broad and highly discerning scale, which won’t necessarily be shared by the market.

Specify an automatic transmission and you’ll see running costs escalate, in which an auto boosts CO2 emissions by a costly 35g/km.

Residual values should be good, however; our experts say there's little between the D4 and a 320d after three years of ownership, for example.

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