People will buy almost anything if the right badge is nailed to it. Look no further than Volvo’s old V40 for proof of that. No amount of negative press seemed to make a difference to the public’s buying habits: between them, Volvo’s lacklustre range of S40 and V40 saloons and estates racked up an impressive 20,000 annual sales in Britain. Never mind that the car – a result of a joint venture with Mitsubishi and sharing a substantial portion of DNA with the absurdly named Carisma – was short on space, quality and ability. It was a cheap Volvo and that was enough for many buyers.
The new V50 shares its platform with another manufacturer’s car, too, but we had a fair idea that we wouldn’t be disappointed this time around. This is because the platform comes not from a second-rate Japanese saloon but from the next Ford Focus, successor to the finest-driving small car of recent years.
Not that you’d get the connection just by looking at this shrunken V70. The finished Peter Horbury design successfully hides its roots so the naked eye sees no more than the strong shoulders, gothic rear lights and V-shaped bonnet – all the trademark Volvo estate features. There’s more than a hint of A4 Avant to the finished product, too – no surprise given that the four-ring ‘lifestle estate’ is one of the V50’s key rivals now that the Swedes have made a concerted effort to push their smallest load-lugger upmarket.
Peruse the specification, though, paying particular attention to the cargo-area measurements, and you’ll see that Volvo’s penchant for making wagons only slightly less capacious then the average Pickford’s truck is alive and well. Because, while boot capacity with the seats in place (417 litres, up 4 litres) is still less commodious than either the A4’s or the 3-series’, with the rear seats folded, luggage space jumps to 1307 litres, 10 per cent more than its rivals.
And that’s without counting the extra cubes released when you fold the front passenger seat flat, MPV-style. All good news, except for tall drivers who’ll need to duck under the open tailgate which doesn’t lift far enough. But a bigger wheelbase and the resulting increase in cabin space means that’s the only occasion when you’ll want for space.