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Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W review: Great price, not-so-great performance

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
329
inc VAT

Impressive energy efficiency, but washing performance isn’t on a par with our budget favourite

Pros 
Energy consumption is low
Freshcare+ is a handy feature
Cons 
60℃ wash not hot enough
Wash performance behind rivals
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We don’t expect the earth from budget washing machines but Whirlpool is so confident about the talents of this affordable machine that it’s marketing it as having a sixth sense. Whirlpool’s “6th Sense” technology claims to intelligently adapt water, energy consumption and the time required to suit each washing load individually. For a machine that costs less than £350, that sounds like a pretty impressive party trick.

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Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W review: What you need to know

In addition to that feature you also get Whirlpool’s Freshcare+ technology. This aims to keep washing fresh for six hours after the wash programme has finished with a combination of gentle tumbling and steam. For anyone who’s sick of mouldy-smelling clothes after a wash has spent the working day sitting in the drum, it offers a nice bit of peace of mind.

Buzzwords aside, the FWD91496W delivers exactly what you’d expect for the money. It has a 9kg wash capacity, a maximum spin speed of 1,400rpm and an A+++ energy efficiency rating. Meanwhile, the presence of a brushless motor suggests it won’t make too much of a racket in the wash and spin cycles.

Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W review: Price and competition

The Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W looks in initially to be a bit of a bargain at £350 but I’m going save you some time here. Unless you find the Whirlpool going for even less, I suggest you go and buy a Bosch Serie 4 WAN28201GB instead. It costs a little more – around £420 at the time of writing – but offers superior wash performance across the board.

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Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W review: Features, design and ease of use

When it comes to design, there aren’t many surprises here. You get a typically plasticky white fascia and the FWD91496W’s build quality is definitely towards the lightweight end of the spectrum. That’s nothing out of the ordinary for a sub-£400 washing machine, though.

Most people will appreciate the fact that the design doesn’t draw attention to itself, and it’s great to see that Whirlpool has concentrated on the essentials. The simple dial and accompanying buttons are labelled with sensible logos and the easy to understand monochrome display makes it straightforward to navigate through the various functions and programs on offer.

The sizeable door is another big plus point in our opinion. It opens nice and wide and makes it easy to load the machine to capacity.

Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W review: Washing performance

The results in our washing performance tests are middling. The Whirlpool’s Cottons 40℃ programme didn’t tackle stains as well as our favourite budget machine, the Bosch Serie 4 WAN28201GB. While the Bosch left all but the worst stains looking considerably faded and almost completely drained of colour, the Whirlpool left a dash of the original stain’s colour behind with yellows and browns more clearly visible.

The FWD91496W does steal a march when it comes to power consumption, however; it uses 44% less electricity despite the wash cycle taking 9% longer.

Raise the wash temperature to 60℃, and the end result is similar. The Bosch retains the lead with better stain removal while the Whirlpool remains more energy efficient, using 50% less electricity. This time, though, it extends its advantage by taking just 1hr 42mins; over an hour quicker than the Bosch.

This isn’t quite as good as it might initially sound, however. On closer inspection we noted the wash results from both the FWD91496W’s 40℃ and 60℃ washes were almost identical. Further testing revealed the reason: the Whirlpool’s 60℃ wash simply wasn’t getting hot enough.

While the waste water from the 40℃ wash measured 24℃, the water from the 60℃ wash measured only two degrees hotter at 26℃. Our testing suggests it’s normal for the temperature of the water exiting the machine to be roughly 20% below the rated wash temperature, but not by this much. By comparison, the waste water from the Bosch’s 60c wash emerged at 49c – over 23 degrees hotter than that of the Whirlpool. This goes a long way to explaining why its wash performance is so much better.

There are other issues here, though. When a 60℃ wash isn’t a 60℃ wash, you have to wonder how many bugs and bacteria are likely to slip through the net. If you want to kill off potential invisible nasties with this machine – when washing bedclothes or nappies, for instance – I’d recommend opting for the hottest wash possible just to be sure.

Sadly, the FWD91496W’s quick wash doesn’t buck the trend either. In fairness, quick cycles are rarely anything to write home about. In fact, I’d generally only recommend using them for very lightly soiled clothes and, even then, only if you really have to.

The results here were still disappointing, though. The FWD91496W left stains looking several shades darker than the Bosch Serie 4, and some stains looked like they’d barely been touched.

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Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W review: Repairability and service life

As with most budget machines, the Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W is built to a tight budget and isn’t designed to be highly repairable. There’s a sealed tank, a plastic-framed brushless motor and other sealed parts include the door and the water valve to the dispenser.

Other than very minor parts here and there, repairs won’t be viable once the two-year warranty is up. Although the ten-year parts warranty does offer some peace of mind, do bear in mind that it requires you to use Whirlpool’s own engineers so you’ll end up having to shell out for labour and call-out charges anyway.

In any case, we'd advise against taking any extended parts and labour warranty on unless you can get it very cheaply. Over a year or two, those warranty costs would go a long way towards buying another budget machine.

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Whirlpool FreshCare FWD91496W review: Verdict

We could have easily forgiven the Whirlpool’s shortcomings if its wash performance was better, but sadly that isn’t the case.

In truth, it isn’t a bad performer at 40℃ but with questionable performance at 60℃ and a highly mediocre quick wash, it makes our current budget favourite look even better value for money. Ultimately, not even the incredibly low energy consumption and prospect of low running costs are enough to win us over.

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