Looking for a family-friendly vehicle that's big on safety? Our husband-and-wife team of car enthusiasts, Royce and Angela Pedersen, check out the Volvo XC60
What he says
The publicity material for the new Volvo XC60 calls it "the world's most beautiful crossover". Indeed, enthusiasts can visit www.volvocars.com and vote on which features they like the best. New Zealanders, apparently, prefer the Black Sapphire Metallic colour best out of the 13 finishes the XC60 comes in, along with the Achilles 7.5x19" Diamond Cut Silver Stone Matt wheel rims and the Anthracite Black interior. It's easy to get distracted playing with the virtual XC60 online, but even better, of course, to play with the real thing in person.
The Volvo XC60 impressed me with its simplicity and tight design. It exhibits, in its interior and exterior, an attention to detail that doesn't over-complicate or over-clutter the overall look, feel, and operation of the vehicle. As someone who enjoys tinkering on cars, I would have liked to see a few more computerised controls and gauges accessible to the driver, but these were sadly lacking. My feeling was that Volvo thinks their drivers are just concerned with getting from Point A to Point B without much interest in things like fuel economy or the ability to alter the performance. At heart, it's a simple car that motorheads like myself might not be terribly won over by.
Handling was good, and the vehicle felt tight and well attached to the road. The steering was responsive without being too sensitive, but the power didn't impress me - for the price tag, I expected more performance. Perhaps the lack of power was a result of the XC60's reduced fuel emissions and fuel consumption?
Visibility was good, and the boot size was larger than we expected due to a lower floor than other SUVs we've tested. There was ample leg space in the rear seats, to reduce the likelihood of little feet kicking the back of your seat while you're trying to concentrate on the road. My favourite feature, however, was the car booster seat, which pops up in the rear seat - excellent for families with toddlers who would otherwise have to struggle with installing a bought booster seat that might not necessarily suit the car. I wish more vehicles would follow their lead in this respect.
What she says
For a long time now, I've felt that Volvo should change the exterior design of their range of cars. The squarish, boxy shape that defines them has been outdated for a while, but the introduction of the beautiful curves that the XC60 features has, in my eyes, increased Volvo's brand desirability and potential market as well.
Perhaps Volvo has been thinking for too long about every other safety and performance feature they could possibly create to improve their vehicles' overall design, as it is very obvious from driving the latest XC60 that they really do think about who will be driving their car and have implemented a number of very family-friendly and safety features.
The XC60 is up there with many of the high-end market SUV's yet doesn't share the same cost - that's not to say everyone has a spare $76,000 lying around, but in comparison to others on the market, this price stacks up well and provides very good value for money.
Other than its good looks, the most noticeable attribute the car has is its unique City Safety feature - basically, it causes the vehicle to brake for you if you get too close to the car or other obstacle in front of you. I must say, when first being shown how this feature worked, it was odd to be told to drive slowly toward the barrier in front of me. My instinct, on getting closer to the barrier, was to put my foot right down on the brake - I couldn't not brake! So I had to reverse and try it a second time, this time keeping my foot away from the brake despite my inclination.
It was fantastic - the car braked on its own as I got close to the barrier, and I didn't hit it, even though I was cringing the whole time. This feature will be useful when you're sitting in rush-hour traffic where you're just inching along at 5km an hour, not necessarily paying attention to how close the car in front of you is.
The second thing that I felt noteworthy was the attention to detail of their target market's requirements. The XC60 is a family vehicle, and this is evident with the introduction of an in-built booster seat that raises up from the rear passenger seat for your toddler.
From the point of view of practicalities and safety requirements mothers would look for, the XC60 is car is ideal - there are ample airbags, the auto braking system rocks, it fits three carseats in the rear seat (especially pertinent given that we've just had our third child), the boot space is great and overall, it feels safe and robust.
My bottom line: I really liked the Volvo, I would buy one for me and my family and would enjoy it and have peace of mind.
Royce and Angela Pedersen are the parents of three children: Ella (three), Eva (one) and newborn Jesse. Angela is OHbaby!'s Managing Director and Publisher.