Why it's a great used buy
The Volvo XC90 SUV is a good choice for those who need to seat up to seven but don't want an MPV. The current XC90 has been in production since 2002 and has remained largely unchanged except for a mainly cosmetic facelift in 2007 (some new engines were added to the range, too). This means there are lots of used XC90s to choose from, even if it means going for a higher-mileage model to get one under £10,000 – Volvos have a premium image and XC90s hold their value well. However, the XC90's interior is solid and durable so even older cars should still look good and be able to withstand more years of abuse from kids.
What it's like to drive and use
The Volvo XC90 is a bona fide SUV but with MPV levels of versatility, including three individual middle-row seats that each slide and recline to help everyone get comfortable – including those in the back, where limited legroom makes the rearmost seats best suited to children.
While the centre middle-row seat is smaller than the outer two, it's big enough to enable some narrower models of child seat to fit three abreast here; alternatively, children over the age of four can use the compact integrated booster cushion on the middle rear seat, leaving the adjacent seats free for larger child seats. All five rear seats fold flat, and even with the rearmost seats in use the Volvo offers more load space behind than many seven-seater MPVs.
As in any SUV, you sit high up in the Volvo, which gives you a superior view of the road, although the high bonnet makes it tricky to see the car's front corners. Volvo is famous for its comfortable seats and the XC90 is no exception.
The XC90 is pretty good to drive – it's not as sharp or agile the Audi Q7 or the BMW X5 and the steering feels a bit artificial, but it's easy to control and its supple suspension gives a smooth ride on most roads. The diesel engines are rather noisy – they grumble at low speeds and roar when you accelerate – but for many this won't be a major concern.
The Volvo's interior looks and feels both smart and built to last, and even the cheapest trim (S) comes with alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, four electric windows and eight speakers for the stereo.
2.4 D5 SE Geartronic
Typical price £9285 for '06/06 with 90,000 miles
The 2.4 D5 engine is the most economical choice in XC90s of this age, while SE spec brings a lots of equipment as standard, with electrically adjustable driver's seat, power folding door mirrors, automatic wipers, a CD changer and bigger alloys all added to the standard spec. Geartronic is the name of Volvo's automatic transmission. It works well with the XC90 and you can expect around 35mpg with it.
2.5T SE Geartronic
Typical price £7297 for '06/06 with 90,000 miles
The 2.5T has plenty of power, though it won't manage much above 20mpg in daily use. Geartronic automatic transmission makes the XC90 feel very smooth, while SE trim brings lots of equipment including an electrically adjustable driver's seat, automatic wipers and bigger alloy wheels than on the entry-level trim (S).
Safety info on these models
Euro NCAP rating Tested only under pre-2009 system, and before a separate score for children was introduced: five stars for adults.
Rear airbags? Yes, for both rear rows
Isofix? On outer middle-row seats only
Front passenger airbag deactivation? Standard
Problems to watch out for
The Volvo XC90 has proved very reliable on the whole. It's well screwed together, too, so if you notice any rattles, ill-fitting trim or uneven gaps between the body panels, be suspicious – this may signify that the car has been abused and may have suffered crash damage. Look underneath for damage from off-road driving and check the car's four corners, which are particularly susceptible to parking damage. Ensure the electric door mirrors adjust properly. There have been a few reports of transmission failure, and the injectors can fail on the diesels, costing £1200 to fix – so, if a diesel model is reluctant to start, walk away.