What we have here is all the build quality, refinement and longevity of an Audi A4 with better handling (not difficult, admittedly), better looks (IMO) and the screen price of a Mondeo.
My car is Maya Gold which won't appeal to everyone, but to my eye accentuates the almost coupe-like lines beautifully. It's a very pretty car which in styling terms has not dated at all to my eyes. Obviously a Volvo, but understated, sleek and classy in a way one wouldn't necessarily associate with the brand.
The build quality is beyond criticism. The dash doesn't rattle, everything works, the doors still close with a reassuring, well damped "thunk", the paint is still deep and lustrous, and the engine still idles sweetly and pulls like a train.
The 20v turbo five pot is a peach of an engine, with a lovely smooth, but hard edged growl as the revs build. The gearbox and clutch are a little clumsy, but familiarity makes them more than acceptable. Performance is effortlessly rapid, the light pressure turbo responding instantly and piling on the speed at a rate which, while feeling quite ordinary, will get you into ban territory almost comically easily.
Handling is fine, although you'd never call it a drivers car. The steering is overlight, and lacks feel, particularly around the straight ahead. Compared to the rubbery numbness of the A4 though, it's a big step-up, but don't go chasing BMWs around the lanes.
This is the entry level S model, and comes with one of the best standard fit stereos I've ever heard (complete with CD AND tape - remember them?), electric windows, electric mirrors, dual zone climate control, cruise control, half leather, ABS and an electric sunroof.
The interior ambience and quality is so far ahead of my previous Mondeo, the two can barely be mentioned in the same sentence. Even at this mileage, the seats look barely sat in, and there's no wear on the gearknob or wheel rim. Everything feels as taut and crisp as the day it left the factory. Only the flimsy, ill-fitting cover on the central stowage box lets it down which is strange when you look at the impeccable quality and durability of the other fixtures and fittings. Oh and the seats are probably the best fitted to a mass produced car anywhere.
On the road, the suspension works quietly, and the distant warble from the 5 pot engine is beautifully judged in terms of volume. It's never intrusive, but well worth turning the stereo down just to hear it sing its mellow, tuneful song when you work it hard. It's utterly smooth and vibration free right round to the 6,000 RPM redline, and the car can make excellent, rapid progress changing up at 5k. The slow witted gearbox does hamper acceleration off the line, but once over 50 mph, leave it in fifth, and use that muscular engine to pull you through.
Economy is averaging around 32 mpg, but you can knock 10 mpg off that without trying too hard. It's difficult to be sensible with an engine that sounds so superb at high revs, and which responds so eagerly to small throttle openings regardless of revs or gear.
I bought this car in January with a full Volvo history, clear HPI report, one company and one private owner, and 11 months MOT for just UKP 2500. It feels, sounds and looks like it's worth ten times that, and if you stuck a private plate on it, only an anorak would fail to be fooled. Brilliant car, and recommended to anyone.