Volvo V50 D5

With gutsy and efficient performance, the new Volvo V50 has strong appeal

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Styling tweaks and a mild makeover inside have made the V50 more appealing. Rivals from BMW and Audi have a stronger image and offer a larger boot capacity, but the Volvo remains comfortable and desirable. The new diesel engine and gearbox combination provides gutsy and efficient performance as well.

The new 207 SW isn't the only small load-lugger to be driven for the first time this week - Volvo's facelifted V50 has also hit the road.

The S40-based estate has been on sale for four years, although the changes to its looks are unlikely to cause much of a stir. At the front, there has been a minor update, with the car getting a slightly wider grille, new headlamp covers and a reprofiled bumper.

It's a similarly subtle approach at the rear, where the lights feature LED bulbs and brake indicators which flash in an emergency stop. Otherwise, the car looks much the same as before, which is no bad thing.

Inside, Light Oak trim now covers the floating centre console and doors. Cubby space has also been improved, with larger door bins and cup-holders. Luggage capacity is unchanged at a less-than-impressive 417 litres. But that's not to say the car isn't practical; the upright tailgate does mean you get a usefully square load area.

Everything feels well put together, and material quality is on a par with that of class-leading German premium rivals. The V50's seats are also among the most comfortable around.

Under the facelifted nose, Volvo's 180bhp D5 diesel unit is now available with the slick-shifting, six-speed manual transmission. The engine also offers a boost in torque output from 350Nm to 400Nm, so performance is impressive, particularly when overtaking. Under full throttle, the oil-burner even has a distinctive engine note.

As the V50 shares its underpinnings with the Ford Focus, it's entertaining to drive, too. The car remains composed through corners and provides plenty of grip. So although its size makes it something of a one-off, the Volvo is still a class act.

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