Volvo V50 estate (2004-2012)
“The Volvo V50 adds the practicality missing from the S40 saloon, but it’s not the biggest estate on the market.”
- Tasteful, high quality cabin
- Diesels are very economical, especially the DRIVe model
- Feels compact for an estate car
- Not the most exciting car to drive
- Lacks practicality of some cheaper estates
- Running costs could be better
The Volvo V50 continued the Swedish maker’s break from its traditionally boxy past. Famous as builder of style-free saloons and estates, Volvo gave the V50 an altogether more curvaceous profile, with soft lines in place of the hard edges that characterised Volvos of old.
Of course, removing the boxiness came at a slight cost in carrying capacity. Not only could the V50 hold less luggage than its forebears, but it was also beaten for boot space by hatchback-derived family cars like the Volkswagen Golf Estate. However, it’s still plenty big enough for most and strikes a good balance between style and substance.
Buyers will find plenty of choice in the range, too. The DRIVe version has extremely low CO2 emissions, but is rather short on pace, while exactly the opposite is true of the fast T5 model at the top of the range.
In terms of both price and image, the V50 occupies a market niche somewhere between ‘mainstream’ compact estates like the Golf Estate, Ford Focus Estate or Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer and compact ‘premium’ estates like the BMW 3 Series Touring.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The V50 DRIVe makes headlines for fuel economy: it can return an average of 72mpg and shouldn’t drop below 50mpg even when driven around town. It’s not the quickest, though, so keen drivers might want to swap a little of its parsimony for a bit more performance.
You’re in luck if you do, because even the far more powerful D4 diesel engine can return 55.4mpg. That makes this our favourite of all the V50 engines, providing plenty of pulling power without too many pauses at the pump.
We’re less keen on the petrol engines, with the possible exception of the T5, which can be good fun if you’re in the mood and can afford the fuel consumption. The others are best avoided, particularly as this car is likely to frequently carry heavy loads. The petrols need to be worked hard to get the most out of them, so economy can suffer quite a bit.
Engines, drive & performance
The V50 never feels less than composed and secure on the road. It’s very easy to find a good driving position because of the wide range of steering wheel and seat adjustment, although the absence of a clutch footrest means drivers will be riding the clutch in manual versions. Nonetheless, the controls all feel solid and well engineered, especially the gearbox - it's precise and pleasant to use.
The V50 feels compact from behind the wheel, with a direct, light feel to the steering and good all-round visibility. What it never feels, though, is sporty. The quickest petrol and diesel versions, the T5 and D4, boast potent overtaking power, but fail to excite on a twisty road. Arguably, though, that’s not what the V50 is for, it’s actually a very comfortable car to use on a daily basis.
Interior & comfort
Wind, tyre and engine noise are kept well out of the cabin in the V50, most of the time, although whistling is more obvious around the front windscreen pillars on the motorway. What the V50 does do well is smooth out uneven roads. There’s a hint of firmness to the suspension, especially when encountering potholes, but nothing that sends the V50 into the realms of uncomfortable.
Space for front occupants is excellent, but less so for those in the back - six-footers will feel their head rubbing the roof lining at times.
Practicality & boot space
A boot capacity of 417 litres is smaller than that of the VW Golf Estate (505 litres), and seems a little disappointing against the expectations you might have. The floor is narrow, eaten into by the rear suspension, although it’s at the same level as the lower lip so it’s easy to load.
The rear seats fold completely flat, too. In the cabin there are few spaces for oddments, and the glove box is too small for anything more than a handful of CD cases.
Reliability & safety
Although the V50 hasn’t enjoyed a flawless reputation for reliability since its launch, cabin quality is excellent - with soft touch materials on the upper dashboard and a solid feel to the switches. The V50 gets a five-star adult occupant safety rating from Euro NCAP; Volvo’s reputation for safety is not without merit. A side-impact protection system unique to Volvo helps prevent injuries, there are airbags all round and an optional blind spot monitoring system.
Price, value for money & options
Because the V50 vies with premium cars, all versions get alloy wheels and air-conditioning, with SE models adding cruise control and commanding a smaller premium for leather upholstery. R-DESIGN versions get sportier trim and a body kit. It’s not a cheap car to buy, but feels well made and equipment levels make it feel like good value.