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Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
by Karl Peskett

Strong car, but it has strong competition

Model Tested:

  • 2010 Volvo V50 2.0D Powershift; 2.0-litre, four cylinder, diesel; six-speed dual-clutch transmission (Powershift); four door, wagon: $45,950*


  • Heated seats $325; Bluetooth connectivity $450

CarAdvice Rating:

When Volvo announced its 2010 model range for Australia late last year, there were some interesting changes to its smallest series of cars. The C30/S40/V50 siblings were blessed with the addition of a new 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, which replaces the warbly five-cylinder diesel previously known as the D5.

Along with the new engine, a new transmission was introduced. Called Powershift, it’s Volvo’s version of DSG – a dual-clutch, instant-change gearbox – and it’s the only transmission offered with the 2.0D. Not that it’s a bad thing; the Powershift transmission is possibly one of the smoothest dual-clutch gearboxes going around.

Our test car this week was Volvo’s baby wagon, the Volvo V50, and finished in crisp white you begin to notice things like the darkened surrounds for the head-lights and tail-lights, the flat sides broken by the concave “Volvo” line that runs from front to back, and the very long glasshouse for such a compact car.

Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test

What the masses of windows do is increase visibility, with the V50 being easy to see out of in all directions with the only possible exception being the slightly thick A-pillars. Of course, Volvo’s focus has always been on safety, which means strengthening the passenger cell is the first priority. Combined with housing the airbags, wider A-pillars result.

But what that focus on safety does is also shape the door trims around the SIPS (Side Impact Protection System). The top of the door trims is almost square in cross-section, where the steel runs across the doors. In terms of styling, Volvo has disguised it remarkably well, with the chunkiness continued onto the rear doors, as well as where the window switches sit.

We’ve seen this styled interior with some minor tweaks for quite a few years now, which means the dash is looking rather dated. The instruments are also looking a little bland now, so although the quality is still very good with nice dashboard plastics and smooth metal used across the centre console, Volvo’s small cars are probably in need of an interior update. Yes, functionality may be fine but with other small wagons in the marketplace exhibiting more modern styling, it’s going to be difficult to maintain the same look for much longer.

The cloth seats (which were heated on the test car) still have that smooth fabric, with contrasting stitching and easy-clean properties making for a particularly practical pew. They’re very comfortable – although initially seeming a bit firm – and despite the dash layout, actually look quite sharp. The rear seats have inbuilt boosters for young children, but they may not be able to be used with the new laws regarding child seats, so as a selling point, it may not work.

Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test

Legroom in the rear is reasonable despite the small platform, due to the decent wheelbase (2640mm) and entry and egress is also simple. Boot space is better than the S40, as expected, however at 417-litres, it’s comprehensively trounced by the new Volkswagen Golf Wagon at 505-litres. The Golf is also over $9400 cheaper. More about that later.

Turn the key and the diesel engine rattles into life. At idle with the windows up it’s reasonably quiet, but despite matching specs with Volkswagen and Peugeot’s 2.0-litre diesels, the V50’s mill is nowhere near as smooth and refined. It is better than some truck-spec Japanese offerings (Mazda being a notable exception), but still has a way to go to match the German and French offerings.

Engine aside, the rest of the drive is a very smooth affair. The Powershift transmission is worthy of praise in its own right. Some DSG-style ‘boxes tend to shunt a little at low speed, whereas the Powershift holds the revs for a little longer before selecting the next cog. What this seems to do is smooth the changes out so that you’d think you were in a regular automatic. At full throttle it’s not as quick-shifting as a German DSG, however this is a diesel, so you’ll be riding the mid-range torque and not exploiting top-end power. It makes for beautiful gear-swaps and gives a nice, relaxed feel.

Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test

Braking comes on fast on strong with plenty of assistance, and it steers pretty well, although the feel is a little numb. It is weighted nicely, and it turns in like a decently sprung sedan. In the handling stakes you’d call it capable, but not quite sporting. The fact it’s a diesel means it will lap up a twisty hilly road, but this is still a family car, so don’t expect to be Jensen Button winning the Aussie GP when you’re behind the wheel of a Volvo V50.

The fact is, you’ll be buying this car for its practicality. It’s safe, it’s efficient, it’s got decent room for such a small car, and it’s easy to get things in and out of. There’s just one thing standing in its way – Volkswagen.

Yes, the moment the Golf Wagon was introduced onto the Australian market, the V50 had nowhere to hide. Let’s do a quick comparison.

So the Golf has more power, uses less fuel, has more space and is over $9000 less. It also rides and handles better, has the same ANCAP five star crash rating, is more modern inside, but is not as good looking outside.

If you’re in the market for a European wagon which is cheap on fuel, is safe and practical, then the Volvo V50 may be right for you. But if you want to use even less fuel and have more space, then there are certainly other choices which make more fiscal sense.

Volvo V50 Review & Road Test
Volvo V50 Review & Road Test


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*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory charges.

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  • Able

    Ford Focus Wagon isn’t sold here guys, and i’m pretty sure there are other rivals like the Skoda Octavia that are closer priced and offer more, Golf Wagon is a stupid car!

    • Davo

      How is the golf wagon a stupid car? it is based on what is reagarded by most of the worlds motoring press as car of the year and it has 505 litres of boot space
      more than most mid sized suv’s . It is a great practical car.

      • Tim

        Its a good car, but it is based on the older Mark 5 Golf, which is now quite old.

  • lm

    is this the 2.0litre diesal motor used by pugeot

    • Carl

      Im, if you’d bothered to actually read the article you’d know the answer to that question

    • The Oracle

      Regardless what the article says, I’m pretty sure this is the Ford/Peugeot engine and is in fact the same engine and DCT that is available in the Focus sold here. If so, why is it not as smooth in this car as in others?

      Really, I think this is a poorly researched article. There are several puzzling statements. The author should know the origins of the drivetrain and state it. But the two questions I have is, are the booster seats legal now or not? If not, why not and what is Volvo’s opinion on this? What’s your advice, Car Advice?

      Also, he states that the A pillars are thick, in part due to the housing of the curtain air bags. I don’t now of any airbags in the A pillar on any car, I think they are all housed in the roof header and the pillar only has a couple of wires for the activation and control.

      Can we have some answers to these questions?

      • http://www.caradvice.com.au Karl Peskett

        The Oracle, many thanks for your questions.

        Yes, the engine is the same as the PSA engine, however we put the V50 side by side with a Citroen C4 2.0 diesel (same engine) and let me tell you, the Volvo was noisier, both inside and outside. It’s also noisier than the Pug 308 I had recently.

        The booster seats are illegal to use in Victoria. In Western Australia, for example, you’re free to use the car’s in-built seats, however that is set to change. Who knows how long it will take for the laws to pass, though. Therefore my advice is to buy a booster seat with inbuilt harness and use that instead.

        As far as the airbags are concerned, plenty of cars use them in the A-pillars:


        • noj

          Ah there is always one Karl, good article by the way.

        • The Oracle

          OK Karl, thanks for the answers. My point was that these points could have been expanded or clarified in the article. I’m happy to be corrected about the airbags, but I’m not sure what that photo is showing. Is it part of the expanding portion of the airbag or a tether strap? I now recall that many cars do indeed have a tether in the A pillar and the cover is blown of when the bag fires. I installed a while ago a bluetooth microphone in my car and I had to remove the A pillar trim to feed the wire through and there were tethers for both the curtain bag and the trim panel.

          I am curious about possible reasons for the increased noise levels with this engine. Engine mounting, sound insulation or was it something peculiar to this particular car?

          Regarding the booster seats, it seems that the law may indeed be an ass. Have Volvo made any comment on this? I recall something from them recently about the ISOfix mountings for boosters.

          Noj, what’s your point? The idea of these blogs is to comment and question isn’t it? I thought the article was generally favourable, but lacked a bit of research and clarification. Karl’s addressed my points and I appreciate his time and effort in doing so.

        • Richard

          KArl, please explain your statement “The booster seats are illegal to use in Victoria. In Western Australia, for example, you’re free to use the car’s in-built seats, however that is set to change. Who knows how long it will take for the laws to pass, though. Therefore my advice is to buy a booster seat with inbuilt harness and use that instead.”

          Vicroads website states “Can I use an integrated booster cushion/seat?
          An integrated (or integral) booster cushion is forward facing and is built into some vehicles by the vehicle manufacturer. The occupant minimum and maximum weight restrictions for integrated booster cushions are specified in the vehicle owner’s manual.

          An integrated booster cushion is considered to be an Approved Booster Seat under the Victorian Road Rules (effective 9 November 2009) and is therefore able to be used by a child aged 4 to under 7 years.

          For children aged 7 years and over, it is recommended that the child continues to use the integrated booster cushion until they reach the maximum weight restriction as specified in the vehicle owner’s manual.

          Note – the integrated booster cushion must comply with clause 34.8 of the Australian Design Rule 34/01 – Child Restraint Anchorages and Child Restraint Anchor Fittings to be permitted for use in Victoria. Please refer to your vehicle owner’s manual or contact the vehicle manufacturer to identify if your integrated booster cushion meets these requirements.”

          Which one is correct???

  • Lagoza

    Go for a much better car, Subaru Outback Diesel.

    • Rob

      Or a Mazda 6 Diesel wagon …

  • Pete

    the V50/S40 is very short, around 4.5m, and this makes it easy to park, garage etc, but it is surprisingly roomy in the back, enough for 2 teenagers easy, 3 at a squeeze. They are quite pretty, too, especially in the r-design, and that translates to a better interior as well. Dont know how they compare to the VW, but they are a pretty good car.

  • nick

    I quite like the interior. The centre console is good, no other manufacturer does anything like it, but I do agree that the rest of it is bland. In saying that though, a Golf wagon definitely looks better in the numbers, if not visually.

    • Devil’s Advocate

      Toyota do something similar to this Nick in the Corolla hatch and IIRC the Kleuger. Whilst the console panel is not as thin and elegant as the Volvo’s, they do have a storage space behind it.

      • nick

        It isn’t the same in the Corolla. I know there is a storage space under the centre console but the console isn’t like this one.

        • Devil’s Advocate

          That is why I said SIMILAR in response to you saying that “no other manufacturer does anything like it”. Similar is still something ie, a storage space behind the centre console! :-)

  • filippo

    That comparison with the Golf wagon should also note rear seat space, which is generous in the Volvo but virtually non-existent in the Golf.

  • Tom22

    That dash is horrendous.

    • Mal

      This Volvo’s cabin is a very special place to be. It ain’t so “horrendous” when you sink back into those seats. I test drove the Volvo S40/V50 a few years back and was impressed with the build and the nicest seats I’ve ever come across. Believe me, I suffer chronic back pain and the seats are lovely. What turned me off was the price, equipment levels, thirsty petrols and lack of a diesel. I settled for a Passat instead. I test drove the Passat, Pug 407, Mondeo and Mazda 6 diesel and the Volvo was the ONLY car out of the lot which didn’t squeak or rattle.

  • CA resident physio


    In my opinion, i don’t think the Golf is truly deserving of such a title. The exterior design is quite bland, the interior is nothing special, and sure the build quality is right up there, but to be awarded the car of the year is quite frivolous.

  • Hooky

    Looking to replace my Volvo 850CD, the V50 now available in white with an economical diesel may have been a candidate. But I drove a Golf 103 TDI Wagon with premium audio and have ordered one as it seemed better value for money – the Volvo would really stretch the budget.

Volvo V50 Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$15,620 - $17,750
Dealer Retail
$16,840 - $20,020
Dealer Trade
$12,300 - $14,200
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
320Nm @  2000rpm
Max. Power
100kW @  4000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:1500  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
205/55 R16
Rear Tyres
205/55 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Lower control arm, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Anti roll bar, Gas damper
Standard Features
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones
Control & Handling
16 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Traction Control System
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors
Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Xenon Headlights
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Centre Top Scuttle
Country of Origin