Volvo's latest compact wagon debuted at the 2003 Bologna Motor Show in Italy. The automaker began selling the V50 in the summer of 2004, shortly after the comparably redesigned S40 sedan. The automaker says the V50 "blends Scandinavian style with Volvo engineering expertise."
The V50 gets a few new details for 2007. Traction control is newly standard on all V50s, and the switch to engage it has been moved to the steering wheel stalk. Steering-wheel audio controls are standard on all trims.
A 2.4-liter inline-five-cylinder goes into the regular front-wheel-drive V50. The high-performance T5 edition gets a turbocharged inline-five and can be equipped with all-wheel drive. Both the V50 and S40 share technology with Ford and Mazda vehicles.
T5 models with the six-speed manual gearbox have a "pushdown" function to engage Reverse gear. As with the company's other products, safety and crashworthiness are principal themes. The V50 has a stiff body and features Volvo's Side Impact Protection System.
Some V50 design characteristics were borrowed from early Volvo wagons. Designed with softly rounded lines overall, the V50 has a short hood and a cab-forward profile, led by a protruding upright eggcrate grille with a diagonal cross-member. Outside mirrors feature turn-signal repeaters.
Built on a 103.9-inch wheelbase, the V50 is 177.7 inches long overall — 1.8 inches longer than the S40 sedan. Several aluminum wheel styles are offered. For 2007, there's a new body-styling package that adds side skirts as well as rear, front and trunk spoilers to 2.4i models. A Dynamic Trim Package available on T5 models adds skirts and spoilers, as well as 17-inch wheels. On all V50s, the Flint Gray exterior color has been replaced with Titanium Grey.
For 2007, an optional upgrade to the stereo system adds an auxiliary input for MP3 players and a redesigned overhead console. Keyless drive is now optional on T5 models, which also have a new sport steering wheel and gearshift knob option. Sirius Satellite Radio is a new standalone option for all V50s.
According to Volvo, the upholstery in the V50's five-passenger interior was inspired by sportswear. The instrument panel's texture is meant to signal technical innovation to the occupant. An Intelligent Driver Information System helps the driver focus on driving by selectively limiting nonessential information. A storage compartment can be accessed from behind either side of the ultra-slim center stack.
The rear seat is a split, folding unit. The front passenger seatback can also be folded. Four upholstery types are available. A navigation system is optional on T5 editions, and a 325-watt stereo with Dolby Pro-Logic II Surround Sound is optional on all V50s.
Under the Hood
A 2.4-liter inline-five-cylinder produces 168 horsepower in the base wagon. The high-performance T5 holds a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder that generates 218 hp and 236 pounds-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is available on the T5, and both 2.4i and front-drive T5 models come standard with an adaptive Geartronic five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all-wheel drive T5s.
All-disc antilock brakes, side-impact and side curtain airbags, and Volvo's Whiplash Protection Seating System are standard. Electronic stability control with traction control is newly standard on all trims for 2007.
Volvo's smallest wagon is just as refined and tightly built as the bigger V70, if a bit snug inside. Performance is a strong point with the turbocharged model, but the T5's ride can get rough on harsher surfaces and a little jittery even when rolling through moderate imperfections. The T5's manual gearbox operates easily, and Volvo's automatic operates smoothly. An all-wheel-drive V50 behaved admirably on snow and ice.