- We like...Stylish, smooth-riding
- We don't...Boot is small
Volvo's made its name with big estates. But is the make as talented when it comes to smaller ones, like this V50? One thing you should know about this V50 from the off: it’s really a Ford Focus. Ford owns Volvo, so it figures that engines, running gear and car structures would – and should - be shared between the brands. And the V50’s running gear is lifted straight from the Ford.
But for us it’s no disgrace that Volvo borrows from its humbler cousin. Because the Focus is the finest-driving small car you can buy this side of a BMW or Audi. And Volvo’s engineers have been allowed to tinker with the V50s ride so that stepping from a Focus to a V50, you can tell the difference.
That aside, the V50 gs against all that you expect from a Volvo. Yes, it is an estate but, no, it isn’t styled as squarely as a packing case. Nor ds it match the load capacity of an ocean-going freighter. In truth, when it comes to lugging large amounts of stuff about, it’s more about looks than usefulness.
Let’s get to the load-carrying part of the car. Compared against the cars that Volvo sees as rivals – the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series – the V50 acquits itself well enough. Space is about on a par and there’s a useful folding boot floor that acts as a luggage divider and also brings into play hooks and other devices to keep your shopping in order while driving home.
But dropping the seats to extend the load area isn’t as easy as in Volvos of old, and there’s no opening rear window on the tailgate.
The cabin, meanwhile, is handsome and upmarket, cosseting occupants in two-toned leather chairs in ours. The ‘floating’ centre console adds to the impression of style and opulence without adding anything in usefulness. And while it’ll be sufficient for a couple and three kids, it isn’t especially roomy. It is very well equipped, though, and includes keyless entry, although the fob you must carry is a whopper.
And while Volvo dubs it the ‘Sportswagon’, the ride is clearly set up for comfort, rather than press-on driving. It’s smooth enough, but in achieving that it loses some of the vigour and agility from the steering that makes us admire the Focus so.
Ours had the Powershift transmission that’s optional if you choose the 2.0-litre diesel engine. It’s supposed to perform as well as a manual but give the comfort and convenience of an auto, using twin clutches and a six-speed transmission.
In our hands, though, it fell somewhere between the two transmission types and ended up less satisfying to use than either for that reason. Leave it in ‘auto’ mode and it hesitates before changing gear, so you’ll make best progress by nudging it through the gears by hand. It is, at least, economical and low on CO2 emissions.
The V50’s attractive, well-priced and an interesting alternative to a BMW or Audi. It may not be everyone’s idea of what a Volvo should be but it’s a good car, nonetheless.
To view new and used Volvo V50s, go to motors.co.uk
- Engines2.0 diesel
- 0-60 mph9.7sec
- Insurance groups10E
Motors.co.uk value verdict: