THERE’S a sculptural look to the Volvo XC90, with impressive lines that bring true kerb-appeal and down-the-road presence.

So, there is no doubt that the boxed marked ‘great design’ is ticked.

And the qualities seen in that exterior style continue in virtually every element of this big car, making it one of the best luxury SUVs (sports utility vehicles) on the market, combining a high-quality, spacious and versatile interior with plenty of kit and top-notch safety.

There is top tech too, for the updated XC90 was the first mild hybrid to leave the factory since it was announced two years ago that every new Volvo model would receive some kind of electrification.

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Our road-test car, a new B5, was diesel-fuelled, the 2.0-litre, 235bhp turbocharged four-cylinder engine supplemented by a 48-volt starter motor/generator and battery that can regenerate power through braking to then aid the engine under acceleration. Volvo says this assistance delivers fuel-efficiency savings and emissions.

The mild-hybrid system is so well integrated as to be near-imperceptible. Help from the battery is subtle and aids acceleration, allowing the car to go from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds - a fast mover for a seven-seat SUV weighing more than two tonnes. The car returns 43.5mpg (manufacturer’s figure).

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The electric starter/generator is smooth on ignition, with no sense of shudder and the stop/start system, which chimes in while driving in traffic, is seamless in operation.

That smoothness further enhances a comfortable and relaxed ride, coupled with a pleasing driving experience – push the car hard and it holds itself well on a variety of surfaces, with consistent steering and predictable handling.

New technology isn’t the only change for the latest model, with a new-look front grille that echoes the rest of Volvo’s line-up, as well as a fresh selection of alloy wheel designs and paint colours.

Our car was an AWD R-Design Automatic laden with lovely kit, and the model boasts such features as heated front and rear seats with fine leather upholstery, veneered inlays – our car had grey ash – a 360-degree surround-view parking camera, dark tinting for rear-side windows and cargo area, powered glass tilt-and-slide sunroof, four-zone electronic climate control including a cooled glovebox, and ambient door and instrument panel lighting, rear footwell and sidestep illumination, and integrated sun curtains for the rear doors.

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Volvo has long been a byword for safety and security, and a whole host of features include: speed limiter, stability and traction control, home-safe and approach lighting, oncoming lane mitigation, driver-alert control with lane-keeping aid, and a side impact protection system plus airbags aplenty and much more.

Back in 1990 – the year of the H plate – Volvo's sales were dominated by its 740/760 and 940/960 saloon and estate car ranges. Three decades later and it's the SUVs which are by far the most popular models, from the compact XC40, through to the larger XC60 and on to the big bro’… the XC 90, a thoroughly-satisfying, handsome hunk of a motor – with eco-credentials via its mild hybrid system, too.

Price: £64,550