SIZE no longer matters. That's what car manufacturers the world over are proving.
Just take a look at one of the new additions to the Volvo line-up.
The entry-level mid-size S60 sedan is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, which Volvo is aiming at the eco-conscious who don't want to skimp on space or the premium finish.
And best of all, it starts from under 50 grand.
But surely a turbocharged four-potter pushing 1.5-tonne of car would be lucky to pull the skin off a rice pudding?
Despite sitting at the base of Volvo's S60 tree, it doesn't feel like a poverty pack derivative of the sedan.
Soft leather seats which have good bolsters at the base and lateral support, along with electric adjustment of the driver's seat and a steering wheel with rake and reach movement makes for a welcoming environment.
Leather on the doors along with shimmer graphite inlays on the centre dash deliver a chic ambiance - the wood décor for an $700 isn't worth the extra money.
We have enjoyed the interior set-up of the S60 previously with a different engine, and our opinion hasn't changed.
The driver has two main dials, speedometer and revs, which flank a digital trip computer in the middle. Readability is good, although a digital speedo would be a handy option in the computer menu like is available in many other marques.
Four adults would appreciate the cabin surrounds, aided by dual zone air-conditioning up front and also vents for the back mounted in the B-pillars.
On the road
The powerplant is a version the EcoBoost which has been employed in the Ford Focus.
On paper the statistics don't speak volumes. A 1.6-litre four-cylinder pushing nearly 1.5 tonnes.
Yet the turbocharged four-potter is peppy and responsive. Most drivers will find the performance excellent in varying circumstances.
Acceleration is impressive, although particularly strong from 2000rpm.
At low speeds we found the T4 could be difficult to drive smoothly without feathering the throttle for easy gear shifts, and on a few occasions there was some torque steer when accelerating hard.
When traversing steep hills its worthwhile making use of the manual style shifter and maintaining revs to ensure the S60 doesn't get bogged down and lose momentum.
Although when up and running the sleek sedan moved along wonderfully and was up to every overtaking challenge on the highway.
The steering feel borders on light, yet it was fine when things got willing in the corners and was required to change direction quickly.
What do you get?
Complimentary on the spec sheet is a power driver's seat, auto wipers, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloys, High Performance Multimedia with Bluetooth audio streaming and a seven-inch screen, three-spoke steering wheel featuring a décor inlay and a grocery bag holder in the luggage area.
Five-star safety includes stability control and anti-lock brakes, as well as the City Safety which can automatically stop the car to avoid a collision at low speeds.
You do have to fork out a reasonable amount of coin to get some options, with rear parking sensors costing $795, the sunroof is $2650 while sat nav is a hefty $4175.
The Volvo does have an edge in the pricing department, with the closest premium competitors the BMW 320i ($57,600), Mercedes-Benz C200 CGI ($58,900) and Audi A4 TFSI ($58,700). Some cheaper options include the Skoda Superb 118 ($38,990) and Volkswagen Passat 118 ($38,990).
Volvo has run some impressive specials of late, the most recent including free registration, free CTP, free stamp duty plus three years scheduled servicing, three years warranty and three years roadside assist.
Fuel consumption is not too thirsty, the official average claims just over seven litres/100km and our test proved only slightly higher.
With four adult capacity, five at a push, the S60 has a wide appeal. There is easy access to the child seat anchorage points on the back parcel shelf, while the back seats fold quickly courtesy of a lever in the boot.
Space in the boot isn't massive, but you'll easily accommodate the weekly grocery trip.
The S60 is an attractive sedan. Coupe-like lines at the rear make it among the more appealing offerings in the genre, even up against the big guns from Germany.
Searching for European styling and performance for under $50,000?
You would be hard pressed to do better than the S60 T4.
While good value, it's only an extra $3000 to get the T5, which provides a useful boost in power and torque. The S60 T4 is an extremely likeable premium package, with good looks, lovely interior and solid performance from a small engine.
- Model: Volvo S60 T4
- Details: Four-door front-wheel drive mid-size luxury sedan
- Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 132kW @ 5700rpm and peak torque of 240Nm @ 1600-5000rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Performance: 0-100kmh in 9.0 seconds; top speed 225kmh
- Consumption: 7.4 litres/100km
- CO2: 173g/km
- Bottom line: $48,990
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