Launched in 2004 to replace the V40 the Volvo V50 was a product of the company's tie-in to Ford and is based on the chassis of the Focus. That's no bad thing as the Focus is one of the best medium hatches when it comes to driving dynamics. Engines at launch were the 1.8, 2.4i and 2.5 T5 petrols plus a 2.0-litre 136bhp diesel. A 2.4-litre 180bhp D5 diesel was added to the range in 2006 along with a 145bhp 2.0-litre petrol. The T5 performance version is available with all-wheel drive.
A reshuffle of the range in 2007 saw Volvo V50 prices cut and trim levels tweaked – the SE getting a powered drivers seat and updated stereo – ahead of a facelift that brought in a new grille and interior changes as well as the introduction of Flexifuel models capable of running on bioethanol. Sporty R-Design Sport and R-Design Sport SE models were introduced late in the year with body kits and revised interior trim.
In 2011 a 2.0-litre 5-cylinder diesel joined the range along with an economical, low-emissions 1.6 diesel. Trim levels were revised too with ES taking over as the base model.
Bang for your buck
Although it has the same chassis as a Ford C-Max don't go away with the idea that this is simply a re-badged focus. As you'd expect from a Volvo there's strong emphasis on safety. The engine is designed to be more compact to leave extra space for crumple zones and the car uses different grades of high tensile steel to improve crash protection.
It's designed to stop you having a crash in the first place too with an Intelligent Driver Information system that monitors how hard you're driving and will hold incoming phone calls and sat nav instructions until they're less likely to distract you.
The outside of the car might not get you too many admiring glances but the inside is stylish and well designed. Everything is easy to use and presented with a touch of Scandinavian design flair.
What you'll pay
An early 2004 2.4 petrol second hand Volvo V50 will cost you around £3,500, expect to pay a few hundred more if it has the Geartronic auto box. A 2008 (08) 2.0-litre diesel should be around the £5,000 to £6,000 mark. Prices can vary quite a bit depending on mileage and spec so be prepared to shop around. A late model 1.6 diesel on a 61 or 12 plate will set you back around £17,000.
What to check
The used Volvo V50 for sale is beautifully built and there are few major problems. There are a lot of ex-fleet cars around so check for wear and tear on high mileage examples – the interior trim scratches quite easily. Check too for wear to tyres and brakes, especially on T5s which are likely to have been driven hard. Timing belts and tensioners need changing at 4 years or 60,000 miles. Some ABS units fail on 3 to 5 year old cars and require replacement of the entire control unit and pump which is pricey.
Spares costs for wear and tear items aren't too bad. A clutch assembly will cost in the region of £175 and a full exhaust around £350. A new alternator is about £165 and a starter motor £110. Front brake pads are £55 and rears £45.
How it drives
If you spend a lot of time on the motorway you'll find the V50 to be a fine cruiser. The high sixth gear means that the engine is turning at under 2,000rpm at the legal limit. There's good punch in the lower gears too making it good on fast A roads with plenty of power for overtaking. Ride comfort is excellent and handling is impressive if not quite in the BMW 3-series league.
The range topping T4 sprints to 60 in 6.5 seconds and goes on to 150mph but its low-profile tyres make for a harder ride. The more common 2.4 will still get you to 60 in 7.9 and will feel a lot less frantic along the way. If you can track down an AWD model you'll find the handling slightly less tidy due to the higher suspension but it does a good job of putting the power down and will cope well with bumpy tracks.
The used Volvo V50 is a surprisingly attractive package. It gives you an entertaining chassis, reliable engines and – on the inside at least – a dash of design flair. All of this adds up to a car that will hang on to its resale value.