Volvo V50 R-Design

Sporty styling and hi-tech auto gearbox give compact Volvo estate a boost.

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

THE V50 has always been a very stylish estate – it’s just not as spacious or as much fun to drive as the Ford Focus on which it’s based. Still, the car is much more practical than its S40 sister, and better looking to boot. This R-Design Sport model takes things a step further with a finely judged assortment of racy styling enhancements. As for the Powershift gearbox, it’s smooth and works well with the diesel engine to offer a refined and classy driving experience. However, keen drivers would probably be better saving their money and going for the manual version.

The V50 is Volvo’s top-seller – so how do you make it even more appealing? Simple: add a racy bodykit and give it parent firm Ford’s latest twin-clutch auto gearbox. The result is the V50 R-Design Sport Powershift.

However, while the compact estate has always been popular, it’s also costly and not very spacious. Are the updates enough to overcome this?

We’ve already seen the R-Design Sport styling upgrades on the C30 (driven in Issue 990), and they’re just as striking here. With a mesh front grille, bodykit, 17-inch alloys, roof spoiler and R-Design badges, the car stands out. Cabin changes include the introduction of two-tone hide upholstery, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, aluminium centre stack and blue dials.

The visual updates are worthwhile – but what about that box? The Powershift six-speeder is the same as in the Focus. A rival to the likes of VW’s DSG, it is available only on the 134bhp 2.0-litre diesel model at present. Thanks to a hefty 320Nm torque output, the V50 covers 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds (two-tenths down on the manual version), while averaging 47.1mpg and emitting 159g/km of CO2.

The transmission feels like a very smooth auto. But keen drivers would still be better off with a conventional three-pedal set-up; there is no sport setting or steering wheel paddleshifters, and the manual mode is not especially intuitive.

Still, leave the selector in ‘D’ and you can cruise in a relaxed manner. The engine is quiet and there’s very little road noise. Only the firm ride hampers refinement. The V50 isn’t much fun in corners – the steering is numb – but fine build quality gives the car a prestige feel.

The Volvo isn’t as big as a Focus estate, offering 417 litres and 1,307 litres of load space with the seats up or down respectively. Also, when you add the £1,250 Powershift gearbox, this R-Design Sport weighs in at a hefty £22,420. We’d go for the regular manual car, which with the R-Design Sport tweaks is slick and stylish, but at a more reasonable price.

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