Strong Points: Exterior styling; Interior comfort;
Handling; Steering; Brakes; Safety
Weak Points: Gas tank capacity
Mfr.'s Suggested Retail Price: $31,315
Volvo took a hard look at the small wagon in its lineup, the solid if uninspiring V40, and decided to dump it. It has come up with a completely new model that sets new standards in style, efficient use of space and performance--and just happens to be a station wagon.
The "V" in Volvo's V series could stand for versatility. It refers to station wagons that can haul lots of cargo while passengers travel in comfort and, of course, safety. This the V50 does very well. This is one snazzy-looking vehicle, taking styling themes from other models and incorporating them in a smaller package.
Viewed from the side, the car has a wedge shape, with lines flowing smoothly from front to rear. The rear on many wagons looks as if it was chopped off, but on the 50 it's very well integrated. The Volvo V50's neat-looking interior is comfortable; despite its relatively small size, the vehicle somehow doesn't feel cramped. The upright portion of the center console houses audio and climate controls and is only an inch thick, with a small storage space behind. Very clever.
The interior also features a host of safety devices that remain hidden until trouble arises. Side impact head protection, dual stage side airbags with weight sensor, whiplash protection and safety belt pre-tensioners are just some of the advanced safety systems. Combined with a body made of high-strength steel and energy absorbing impact structures, these features ensure the car will offer protection in just about every imaginable crash scenario.
But we like cars that help you avoid a crash in the first place, and the Volvo continues to inspire. Its available all-wheel drive works with the Stability Traction Control system to provide a huge safety net of excellent handling and control.
We drove the vehicle on a frozen lake in Canada as part of a Volvo special event, and we were amazed at the amount of roadholding and control we had on sheer ice. On normal roads, the vehicle is super-secure and stable. Steering is quick and accurate, responding very well to accident - avoidance maneuvers.
The V50, in fact, stops as effectively as it goes. Emergency braking from high speed showed no drama. Just short, straight stops, time after time, with no apparent brake fade.
If you're getting the idea that we like this car, you're very perceptive. But it's hard not to gush.
This is what cars of the future could and should be: small enough to be maneuverable and agile, and large enough to haul people and a fair amount of cargo comfortably.
A too-small gas tank means frequent fill-ups, but fuel economy is excellent, thus keeping down greenhouse gasses. All this, plus the V50 is on the low end of the smog scale. A really great car!
Engine . . . . . . . . . . .2.5L I5
Horsepower . . . . . . .218 @ 5,000 rpm
Acceleration . . . . . .0-60 mph 8.1 sec.
Braking . . . . . . . . . .60-0 mph 125 ft.
EPA city/highway . .22/31 mpg
Bumper-to-bumper . .4/50,000
Powertrain . . . . . . . .4/50,000
Rust-through . . . . . .8/Unlimited