12 December 2003

Volvo’s chunky new V50 compact estate was unveiled last week at the Bologna Motor Show. With a starting price likely to be under £17,500, the V50 is designed to bring V70 style to the masses.

Volvo is emphasising sporty appeal rather than practicality with the V50. To enhance the driving experience the V50 has turbocharged engines, a bodyshell stiffer by 34 per cent and uses the next-generation Ford Focus platform.

Spearheading the range will be the turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder T5, which delivers 220bhp through the S60/V70 R’s six-speed manual gearbox and can be specified with optional Haldex electronic all-wheel drive. Other engines include a 125bhp 1.8-litre four-cylinder and a 170bhp 2.4-litre five-cylinder petrol, each mated to a five-speed manual. The 136bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. All models are available with an optional five-speed adaptive automatic.

The V50 is wider and taller than the V40, but a cab-forward design makes it 2mm shorter – despite having a 46mm longer tail than the saloon to boost luggage space.Inside the cabin is the same ‘floating’ centre console as the new S40, with a slim panel for stereo, navigation and climate controls and unusual storage space behind. Another S40 feature carried across is the IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System), which prevents such distractions as the integrated telephone ringing, by delaying the signal until the driver completes a manoeuvre.

Other techno highlights include electro-hydraulic steering, electronic stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes backed up by the latest electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assistance.

As usual for Volvo, safety is high on the agenda with front, side and curtain airbags, WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System) and SIPS (Side Impact Protection System). The car frame is said to keep you as safe as the S80 thanks to separate safety zones made of different metals for controlled deformation in an accident.

Pedestrians are also safer thanks to a curved frontal design with energy-absorbing structure ahead of the bumper and a 70mm gap between the bonnet and the top of the engine, thanks to the space-efficient five-cylinder units

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