From £18,825
Traction tames the turbo
  • First Drive

    Volvo V50 1.6D DRIVe SE Lux

    A sensibly stylish small eco-friendly estate. Not exciting, though
  • First Drive

    Volvo V50 D5 Sport

    A decent alternative to the T5 petrol, but a tad expensive and still lacking in overall load-lugging capacity.

First things first. All-wheel drive does improve the Volvo V50 T5. There’s no torquesteer or front wheel scrabble as the Haldex system – similar to the XC90’s – splits torque between the front and rear wheels. It feels more neutral in corners and grips better so power can be put down easier and earlier.

However, there are downsides. The stiffer anti-roll bar and revised damping to compensate for an increased ride height give a more aggressive reaction to scarred Tarmac. CO2 emissions of 229g/km move it up four company car tax bands to 31 per cent, and it struggles to give a 25mpg average in real-world driving.

Going 4x4 adds only 66kg and the extra traction should be more than enough to make up the 0.3sec delay to 60mph compared to the front-wheel-drive car. But we still have difficulty recommending the V50 T5. 

It’s a quality item, but it doesn’t actually feel all that fast – certainly not 220bhp fast. Volvo reckons customers will buy the AWD for load-carrying and towing rather than for dynamic appeal, so it seems strange that it will only offer 4x4 on the 2.5 petrol turbo.

The 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which matches the T5’s 236lb ft, would make more sense as a 4x4, particularly as it costs nearly £4000 less than the equivalent T5. And it’s the price that really kills this car. The cheapest V50 AWD is the £25,513 Sport. Our mid-range SE with xenon lights, keyless entry, metallic paint and parking sensors was a shade under £30,000, which is V70 T5 money.

Volvo estimates that 50 per cent of T5s will be four-wheel drive, but the T5 accounts for just five per cent of V50 sales. This car makes most sense as a practical alternative to a top-of-the-range Audi A3 – it’s too small to provide realistic opposition to a BMW 3-series or Jaguar X-type Estate.

Perversely, the cheaper the V50 gets, the more it appeals. Four driven wheels are often better than two, but the T5 is still the least desirable V50.

Alastair Clements

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run