Volvo V50 (2004-2012) review
The versatile Volvo V50 is a handsome and desirable family estate car, despite its age
Although the V50 has been around for years, the compact Swedish estate still has plenty to recommend it. Handsome lines and a robust interior help give it an upmarket look and feel, plus the DRIVe diesel models are cheap to tax and will return around 50mpg. Ford Focus underpinnings mean the V50 is decent to drive, while comfortable seats and strong refinement make the Volvo a relaxing long distance cruiser. However, rivals such as the VW Golf Estate are bigger and more practical.
Our choice: Volvo V50 D2 DRIVe SE Lux
The years have been kind to the V50, as it still stands out from mainstream rivals such as the VW Golf and Vauxhall Astra Sport Tourer. The mix of traditional Volvo boxy lines and soft curves help give the car a surprising amount of upmarket appeal. There’s a choice of ES, SE, SE Lux and R Design trim levels, with all versions benefiting from alloy wheels silver finish roof rails. Go for the range-topping R-Design and you’ll get a sporty bodykit, matt-chromed door mirror housings and a unique front grille. The V50’s cabin is well laid-out, robustly built and includes the brand’s trademark ‘floating’ centre console design.
Underneath the boxy exterior of the V50 are Ford Focus Mk2 underpinnings. It’s agile and poised through corners, though the steering lacks feedback. DRIVe models get lowered sports suspension for better performance – although the trade-off is a firm ride. The engine line-up is limited to a 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a pair for diesels – a 113bhp 1.6-litre and the 143bhp five-cylinder 2.0-litre D3. The performance of the petrol is no better than the small diesel. The range-topping D3 has plenty of mid-range pace, but the smooth 1.6-litre unit is stronger and more efficient.
Volvo has an unrivalled reputation for safety, so it’s no surprise to find the V50 has a five-star EuroNCAP rating. All models get six airbags, electronic stability control and daytime running lights, while a blind spot warning system is available as an optional extra. The Volvo feels robustly built and promises to provide many years of trouble-free running. To prove the point, the V50 finished in an impressive 24th place out of 100 cars in our 2011 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
In the past, Volvo estates were famed for their space and practicality. Sadly, the V50 can’t live up to the legendary load-carrying reputation of its predecessors. The boot will swallow only 417-litres of luggage, 88-litres less than the VW Golf. However, fold the rear bench flat, and space increases to a respectable 1,307-litres, and the front passenger seat can be folded flat to accommodate long loads. While the Volvo’s seats are comfortable, rear occupants will feel cramped and you’ll only seat three adults at a pinch. At least the cabin is packed with plenty of storage cubbies.
For maximum cost efficiency, the DRIVe models should be at the top of your shopping list. A frugal 1.6-litre diesel engine, stop/start technology and tweaked aerodynamics return a remarkable 74.3mpg and emits only 99g/km of CO2. As a result, it’s a cost effective choice for both company users and private buyers. The punchy D3 returns around 50mpg, but the 2.0-litre petrol is thirsty and dirty, emitting 176g/km. However, poor residuals of between 36 and 40 per cent mean the Volvo suffers from much heavier depreciation than premium rivals.