Volvo’s stated aim is that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020 and judging by a drive in some of its latest models, that goal could be more realistic than it sounds.

The Swedish car maker has been synonymous with safety since it introduced three-point belts in the front seats of its cars 60 years ago – an innovation that made its way in to almost every car and is estimated to have saved more than one million lives.

Fire up a modern Volvo and the digital display instantly lights up a list of safety features. It is extensive and underlines that while passive safety – strong bodywork, airbags and the like – is clearly fundamental, a huge amount of effort is being paid to preventing collisions occurring in the first place.

The host of systems packed into new Volvos covers everything from automatic low-speed braking that also detects pedestrians and cyclists and large animals, even in darkness, to automatic braking if the driver turns in front of an oncoming vehicle at a junction.

Other systems work to help drivers to avoid collisions with vehicles in an oncoming lane by providing automatic steering assistance if they drift off.

Speaking at a driving day at Southrop, near Burford, Kristian Elvefors, Volvo Car UK's managing director, said 2018 had been a ‘fantastic’ year for Volvo with 600,000 cars sold worldwide for the first time since the company was founded in 1927 – the fifth consecutive year of record global sales.

And he said that sales success had continued in 2019 with UK sales up 27 per cent and 32 per cent in Germany so far.

Last year, Volvo sold more than 50,000 cars in the UK, the highest total for 28 years and in the first six months of this year sales rose to 30,000 cars.

He said as little as two years ago, 75 per cent of Volvo sales in the UK were of diesel models and the current figure is about 50 per cent. With improved supply of plug-in hybrids he said significant hybrid sales increases were expected next year.

He said: “Our aim is for fully-electric cars to make up 50 per cent of global sales by 2025 and we also predict one third of sales will be of autonomous cars by the same year.”

Volvo is clearly in a real hurry to embrace the shift away from fossil fuels by becoming the first car maker to offer plug­in hybrid versions of its entire model range, with the debut of the XC40 T5 Twin Engine which is due here early next year.

The front-­wheel-­drive hybrid system uses a 180 horsepower, three­-cylinder, 1.5-­litre petrol engine with an 82 horsepower electric motor which Volvo says has CO2 emissions from just 38g/km and combined fuel economy of up to 141.1mpg. It has an all­-electric driving range of up to 28.6 miles and avoids any vehicle excise duty. An all-electric model also joins the XC40 line-up next year.

Mr Elvefors said: “The XC40 T5 Twin Engine is the first plug-­in hybrid car in the premium compact SUV segment, and its technology brings real day­to­-day cost benefits in terms of tax and fuel consumption.”

Volvo media relations manager Ben Foulds said buyers would ultimately have a choice of three versions of each model – mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric – with five fully-electric models being launched in the next few years.

As well as safer and cleaner cars, Volvo aims to make them cleverer and is installing a data SIM card as standard in all new models, creating a WiFi hotspot and giving access to apps, real­time traffic information and safety alerts.

Giving access to up to 100GB of data, independent of the user’s own SIM­enabled devices, the Vodafone SIM is available for up to 12 months for no extra charge on top of the car's price.

Potential Volvo buyers in the UK are also being offered a chance to book up to one hour’s test drive and test drive opportunities for up to four days through an online or telephone booking system. It will initially be available for the XC40 with other models being added soon.

And finally, to send a strong signal about the dangers of speeding, Volvo is limiting the top speed on all its cars to 112mph from next year.