A good premium alternative
August 28, 2018
I bought a 2006 Volvo V50, 5 cylinder turbo, 6 speed manual transmission as a family car. It is a nice alternative to other premium cars. It gets 30mpg on regular gas (a bonus for a turbo car) and is very comfortable. The 5 cylinder engine combined with the low RPM torque from the turbocharger, makes for a silky smooth power delivery throughout the entire rev range. The 6 speed transmission shifts great, even after 120k miles and is geared very well for the weight of the car. I find no matter what you are doing or how fast you are going, you always feel like you are already in the right gear, something very rare nowadays. The car is typically wide for its segment so it does not turn particularly tight and feels like it takes up more road than older cars, but no more so than competing cars of the same time period. All around it is quite low (ground clearance, roof line, seat height) and features thick A-pillars, so visibility is not outstanding. The side mirrors are very small which makes for abnormally large blind spots, particularly on the passenger side. The ride quality is what you should expect from a car of this design featuring front wheel drive and McPherson struts (like most other cars). It is quiet and smooth with a Volvo-typical nonathletic poise, but passes very well and is comfortable and feels safe in any driving conditions.
The 9 speaker premium sound system with 6 disc changer sounds crystal clear and incredibly balanced, but unfortunately does not have Bluetooth or auxiliary input capability, something standard nowadays. The seats are small and larger people would find the interior cramped but I find the car very comfortable, especially over long distances. The sunroof operation is a little funny (a complicated switch) but I use it often because it is very quiet and does not disrupt the cabin at all. The floating HVAC & stereo controls look great and have aged very well. The storage is minimal, but that is typical for a Swedish car and I am not bothered by it at all. Every seat has a map pocket which can prove useful to offset the lack of compartments. Backseat room is typical of this segment car. Plenty of hip, leg, shoulder, and head room for smaller adults and children, but larger folks would find it uncomfortable over time. The seats themselves are very comfortable and the leather is high quality and has aged incredibly well over the years. The rear headrests are very large and do not fold down like the V70 of the same time period, so unfortunately I keep them removed and in the trunk so I can see better out of the rear view mirror. The car has a typical suspension design which makes for a narrow and unfortunately typically small trunk. The trunk over all is average in size by today's standards, but small compared to older Volvo's which utilized more unique rear suspensions. I believe this choice of suspension also takes away from valuable rear seat room. The trunk loads flat so there is no picking up or dropping things into or out of the trunk, which can make moving heavy objects a breeze.
Over all, I think this V50 (and the S40 of the same time) feels much less unique than other Volvos. It feels safe and secure and certainly nicer than non-premium cars, but not extraordinarily so. It lacks any quirkiness that Volvo has been known for which also means it doesn't feel as special. However, the T5 engine punches far above its weight, with smoothness, power, quietness, efficiency, and packaging that is far superior to any BMW or Audi of its time. I still strongly recommend this car as well as other Volvo's to people looking for something in its segment. It has aged incredibly well and looks and functions 100% still. What more can you ask for?