Volvo V60: France trip

  • Our 600-mile trip out to the French Vendee coast tests V60's practicality and comfort
  • Roof box improves upon V60's relatively svelte boot space adding another 430-litres of space 
  • Extra weight and drag adds a hit to the fuel consumption, which will improve now we're home

For the summer holidays, I decided to join some friends and head out to a camping site north of La Rochelle in the the Vendee area of France.The aim was to get there within a day’s travelling, plus I had to book in before 8pm in the evening at the camp site to pick up the keys to the chalet.

The V60's roof box conveniently augments the limited boot space.

Need for more load space

Holidays test load limits to the extreme, and it was no different for our V60 as there were five of us travelling. So given the boot’s limited capacity (at 430-litres it’s 65-litres smaller than in a BMW 3 Series Touring) I was going to need extra carrying space.

Enter the roof box. Volvo does its own range so I had roof bars and a low-slung box that barely looked tall enough to fit in a packet of sandwiches. However, what it lacked in depth it made up for in width. It also has a clever hinge that allows you to open the roof box from either side – very useful for even loading.

The roof box is the ‘Space Design 520’ and is claimed to be much more aerodynamic than standard boxes lessening the impact on fuel consumption and reducing wind noise. More importantly for me, it added another 430 litres of carrying capacity – so another V60 boot's worth of space. It’s not cheap though – reckon on about £600 for the roof box alone.

The V60's comfortable interior.

Long distance comfort

One upside of the more limited boot space is there is more room for rear passengers. With three teenagers on board, all intent on ‘securing their space’ I feared for war breaking out within an hour.

As it turned out, despite a journey lasting more than nine hours in total there were only minor skirmishes. As any parent will tell you that is something of a minor miracle.

Yes, game boys, iPods and portable DVD players contributed to peace in our journey time but the Volvo V60’s comfortable seats meant the three teen amigos never felt the need to constantly wriggle around to secure a more comfy seating position.

The two adults up front never had any cause for compliant either and I felt pretty refreshed even after the nine-hour slog from home to the camp site in France.

Fuel efficiency – the real world test

Officially the D4 version (tuned for 179bhp) of the 2-litre diesel engine should return 57mpg, which is rather impressive given the power and automatic gearbox.

With the majority of the journey on motorway this was a good chance to see what the Volvo could achieve in the real world - roof box or not.

The on-board trip computer had the fuel consumption pegged at around 44-45mpg, which on the face of it may seem a tad disappointing.

However, bear in mind that top box and roof bars would have increased drag causing the car to drink harder from the fuel tank. This thirst was only made worse by my desire to ‘press on a bit’.

I only had to fill up once in France in the entire two weeks, however, and that included several long distance trips out.

The inside of the Volvo's roof box.

Neat practical touches

Top of the pile of very useful kit is that roof box; not only does it open from both sides and comes with internal straps to squash down the bags (essential if you are going to get the lid closed and locked), but it keeps the overall car height to below 1.85m – just.

That meant I could get into the EuroTunnel’s Flexiplus Customer area (there are several height restrictors to get to it) while other cars fitted with top boxes had to go around.

It was incredibly easy to secure and remove from the roof bars thanks to the internal knobs, which you simply twist to wind the clamps on and off the roof bars.

Overall, the Volvo V60 proved more than up to the task of transporting five out to France and proved reasonably frugal doing it. However, the roof box was essential otherwise the choice would have been leaving someone or their luggage at home. Not a great way to start a holiday.

Miles: 1,862    Economy: 44.6 (trip computer)