While sports utility vehicles and electric power are the modern buzzwords, Volvo has proved that a tried and tested formula can deliver something really special.

An estate car with a diesel engine might sound like the most antiquated combination on modern roads, but the practical, versatile and well-designed V60 can take everything a family can throw at it.

And far from being a simple swallower of people and large loads, this sleek, stylish five-door elegantly converts into a classy executive cruiser.

The 190 horsepower, 2.0-litre diesel engine fitted to the car driven here might be falling out of favour, but it still delivers superbly refined performance with some serious economy.

Set the electronic drive selector to the comfort setting and this quiet and solid mid-size estate transforms into an easy-to-manage yet rewarding joy of a car on long journeys.

Sitting at the very heart of the brand, this is a car that Volvo had to get right – and it has.

Its versatility and practicality are matched by good looks and a serious level of interior refinement.

The spacious cabin is dominated by a stylish and uncluttered dashboard and is packed with equipment including the intuitive, tablet-style touchscreen Sensus package that combines car functions, navigation, connected services and entertainment apps and links to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G.

Needless to say, a comprehensive list of safety features come as standard including advanced driver-support systems from Volvo’s top-of-the-range 90 series and the XC60 SUV, making the new V60 one of the safest cars on the road. 

The city safety system with autobrake technology uses automatic braking and detection systems to help in avoiding potential collisions, and is the only system on the market to recognise pedestrians, cyclists and large animals.

Volvo says a pilot assist system – which aids with steering, acceleration and braking on well-marked roads up to motorway speeds – has been upgraded with improved cornering performance. The V60 also includes run-off road mitigation, oncoming lane mitigation and other steering-assistance systems.

An optional cross traffic alert with autobrake further improves safety for people inside and outside the car by spotting oncoming vehicles when the car is reversing.  

Priced from about £32,000, the V60 has already collected a series of awards as a family-friendly favourite.

The car driven here had a number of optional packs fitted that gave all sorts of neat touches ranging from heated front seats, heated windscreen and heated wiper blades, to a fantastic parking camera that gives a 360-degree view around the car, to a parking assist system that will slot the car into both a parallel parking or bay slot.

The £1,625 ‘Intellisafe Pro’ package gives adaptive cruise control, blind spot information, cross traffic alert and auto-dimming on both the interior and exterior mirrors.

A £500 keyless drive package that includes keyless entry and start also allows you to open and close the standard powered tailgate simply by waving a foot under the rear bumper – a real boon if you are loaded with bags.

Choice continues to grow with the launch of a rugged Cross Country version, designed to tackle more challenging conditions with its all-wheel drive, increased ground clearance, robust styling and tailored driver-assistance systems to ensure surefooted performance in slippery conditions.

Reflecting Volvo’s pledge to electrify all its new cars from 2019, the V60 already comes with two plug-in hybrid options to help it keep up with the demands of 21st century motoring.

Auto facts

Model: Volvo V60 D4 Inscription

Price: £44,085 as tested

Insurance group: 30 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 61.4mpg

Top speed: 137mph

Length: 476.1cm/187in

Width: 185cm/72.6in

Luggage capacity: 18.6 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 12.1 gallons/55 litres

CO2 emissions: 122g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles