Volvo XC60 appealing option among small SUVs

2009_volvo_xc60Smaller, more fuel efficient and infinitely more fun than the brand’s bloated XC90 crossover, the five-passenger XC60 comes to the table with modern Swedish design and an intriguing new safety feature.

The XC60 is pricey and its fuel economy could be better, but Swedish carmaker Volvo’s little SUV is an appealing new entry in a segment crowded with good but not great vehicles.

Prices for the XC60 start at $37,200. All models come with all-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission and 281-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine.

I tested a well-equipped XC60 that cost $41,425. All prices exclude destination charges.

The XC60’s price puts it in the heart of the market for five-seat luxury crossovers.

It competes with the $33,895 Acura RDX, $39,700 BMW X3, $33,300 Infiniti EX35 AWD, $39,100 Lexus RX 350 AWD and $39,695 Lincoln MKX AWD, among others.

Promising newcomers to the class include the Audi Q5 and Cadillac SRX, which are to go on sale shortly.

Adding to the XC60’s appeal is a long list of standard features including leather seats and a new system to prevent low-speed crashes, and an introductory package that throws in a big, two-panel sunroof at no charge. The sunroof is free now, but will become a $1,200 option at some point.

The XC60 is a comfortable, roomy SUV that offers good power and handling in a very attractive body.

The XC60 offers a generous 101.9-cubic-foot passenger compartment that provides good front and rear seat comfort. The cargo compartment is a useful 30.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat-bigger than the RDX and X3, smaller than the MKX and RX 350 – and 67.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat.

The interior features the modern and elegant design that’s become a hallmark for Volvo, a unit of Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. It is enhanced by high-quality materials and simple controls.

Large sideview mirrors and big windows provide excellent visibility in all directions. The body’s flowing fenders and rising beltline fit perfectly with the rest of Volvo’s model line and give the XC60 a unique and appealing look.

Volvo’s smooth turbocharged inline-six engine is among the most powerful in its class, providing plenty of punch for confident acceleration.

The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly. The XC60’s EPA fuel economy rating of 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway trails competitors like the Q5, RX 350 and X3.

The ride is smooth and comfortable, but the supple chassis also performs admirably in quick maneuvers and zipping around curves. Body roll is minimal, and the steering is responsive and nicely weighted.

With its sporty character, slinky Swedish style, room, comfort and appealing price, the Volvo XC60 raises the bar for small luxury crossover SUVs.

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