A shift in the trend...

PREMIUM cars with manual gearboxes might be about as common as MPs shared opinions on Brexit these days, but they remain the most efficient way to shift gears.

Since 2007 the number of automatic gearboxes sold in the UK has risen by over 70 per cent and this has been partially driven by the growth of the premium segment, with PCP finance plans giving more motorists access to cars from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

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It was something of a surprise that fast-growing Volvo recently offered me a new V60 D3 Momentum to test with a six-speed box to stir, therefore, and I duly accepted.

Claiming fuel consumption of 48.7 to 55.4mpg and CO2 emissions in a range of 133 to 153g/km under the new WLTP test regime, the V60’s front-wheel-drive entry level drivetrain is the most efficient in the current line-up.

Delivering 150PS, the D3-badged Drive-E two litre turbo diesel engine should also accelerate to 62mph in 9.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph — the same as the eight speed automatic equivalent.

Shifting gears might not be everyone’s cup of tea in this part of the market, but the Volvo’s short-throw gearbox’s oiled yet precise action is as stress-free as they come and I still derive a sense of added control and ownership of the driving process from co-ordinating left leg and left arm to good effect out on the road.

I guess I’m part of a dying breed.

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What aren’t part of a dying breed are those who appreciate the new generation of Volvos’ mix of safety-conscious technology, premium styling, a relaxed ride and clutter-free Swedish cabin design.

The brand’s UK sales jumped by over 20 per cent in a declining market during 2018 and were already a whopping 48 per cent up by the end of February this year and the V60 is playing its part.

Up against the likes of the Mercedes- Benz C-Class and BMW 3-Series, prices start at £31,810, with the V60 D3 Momentum Pro Manual tested here coming in at £34,060.

Undercutting its key rivals on price, the V60 feels refreshingly un-Germanic in its approach, though.

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Soft supple seats, a bright airy interior and a nine-inch Sensus touchscreen infotainment system — positioned distinctively in portrait — all deliver a unique appeal to the cabin.

From inside and outside the V60 it’s hard to feel you’re short-changed in size compared to its V90 big brother, the high quality fit and finish are identical and the space on offer feels equally ample.

At 4,761mm long and 1,850mm wide, it’s around 170mm shorter and 30mm narrower, but interior space is generous and the 529-litre boot perfect for family life.

For some, a manual gearbox may now feel a bit old-school in a car from the premium sector.

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For me, when they’re this slick and well-matched to the car, it just feels right…

And Volvo’s V60 is another product of the Swedish brand which delivers that sense of inherent ‘rightness’ on many levels.