It wasn’t so long ago that Volvo was commonly thought of within car industry circles as ‘that funny Northern European, semi-premium car-maker that nobody wants’.

Former custodian Ford had reportedly been pitching around for a new owner for the firm for more than a year when, in 2010, China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Ltd invested $1.8bn to buy the ailing car-maker – and then promptly invested even more in brand-new engines and platforms.

At the time, it looked like some particularly bold decision-taking. How things change.

Five years on, Volvo’s story is continuing to look like the perfect advert for Chinese ownership of a big European car-maker; Volvo is flourishing, and Geely’s strategic vision is paying off too.

Global sales are 20% up from where they were five years ago, while profitability is up 50%; and, with Volvo’s help, Geely has developed the technology it needs to launch China’s first European-style premium car brand of its very own: Lynk&Co. Suddenly you can see why Geely invested all that money.

And now the first of the really big-selling new-breed Volvo models has hit the showrooms, and it’s the subject of this road test: the all-new XC60 SUV.

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The ’60-series compact 4x4 uses the same platform and many of the same engines that power its bigger sibling, the XC90, and so in many ways it is exactly what it looks like: a boil-washed XC90.

But a car with the new-groove, tech-savvy Scandinavian design appeal of the XC90 and most of its comfort, versatility and capability, but available at prices starting well under £40,000, could plainly accelerate Volvo’s growth into a new, higher gear.

The XC60 range starts with 188bhp ‘D4’ diesel and 251bhp ‘T5’ turbo four-cylinder petrol models, before rolling in a 232bhp ‘D5’ and culminating with a 400bhp-plus ‘T8’ plug-in hybrid that promises to be an interesting alternative to the usual performance SUV.

Front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions are available, likewise both classically restrained styling options and thoroughly new-age-Volvo ‘R-Design’ trims.

It was a big-selling 188bhp, four-wheel drive D4 R-Design we elected to test.

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First drives

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