2009 Volvo V50 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 3, 2009

The 2009 Volvo V50 combines the available safety features and poise of a larger sport wagon with the efficiency and compactness of a small car.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Volvo V50 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's car enthusiasts researched available road tests on the new Volvo to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

Volvo’s small V50 wagon returns for the 2009 model year with significant revisions inside and out.

A longer list of standard and luxury features highlights the changes for the 2009 Volvo V50 sport wagon. The base 2.4i receives a high-performance sound system with six-disc in-dash CD player and MP3 capability, Sirius Satellite Radio, 17-inch "Spartacus” wheels, aluminum inlays, power moonroof, front fog lights, power driver's seat, and Bluetooth.

For 2009 the front-wheel-drive V50 T5 was discontinued, but the T5 AWD remains and is enhanced with standard aluminum roof rails, power driver seat memory, heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass. The T5 AWD also receives a unique grille with matte silver surround and R-Design logo, a sport body kit with color-coordinated side skirts and front and rear spoilers, Off Black Flextech/Crème premium leather seats, aluminum sport pedals, sport shift knob, R-Design inlays, watch dial instrument cluster, and sport steering wheel.

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The 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder engine powering the V50 2.4i makes 168 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque, and it's mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. At 31 mpg on the highway, fuel economy is especially good in the 2.4i. The higher-powered V50 T5 models take on the turbocharged, 2.5-liter inline-five, which functions especially well with the five-speed automatic; the engine increases from 218 to 227 horsepower.

The 2009 Volvo V50 T5 AWD model has the latest version of the electronically controlled Haldex all-wheel-drive system. The system relies on slippage from the front wheels before torque is sent to the rear, but responds well to the V50’s needs on wet or slippery roads.

In general, the 2009 Volvo V50 has the refined responsiveness of a larger sport wagon. Both the 2.4i and T5 models offer impressive stability and poise during high-speed cruising and when navigating curvy mountain roads. Though the ride of the T5 can be somewhat pitchy at lower speeds, the handling of the T5 feels markedly sportier than Volvo’s larger sedans. Road noise is not the problem it can be in other small wagons and sedans, although the T5 is a bit louder in TheCarConnection.com's experience.

The interior design of the 2009 V50 is especially distinctive with a thin, "flat panel" center control stack housing audio and climate control functions. A pass-through area between the driver and passenger foot wells provide a feeling of greater spaciousness. In front, generous seats permit an upright, near-perfect position for most, but the backseat area is quite limited in legroom.

Active bi-xenon headlamps, which swivel in the direction the car is steered, are available on the 2009 Volvo T5 AWD, as are a navigation system and keyless drive. Safety features are by no means forgotten; Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) is an option on the V50, along with a new integrated child booster-seat system—a Volvo exclusive.

The 2009 Volvo V50 has not been crash tested, but standard safety features on the V50 include front side impact airbags, side curtain bags for front and rear outboard occupants, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control.

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2009 Volvo V50

Styling

The 2009 Volvo V50 has a design that's straightforward and somewhat basic on the outside while quite distinctive inside.

The 2009 Volvo V50 remains fresh and modern with exterior and interior tweaks to keep it competitive and fix some interior complaints. Exterior changes for '09 include high-intensity LED rear lights and restyled front projector beam headlights.

Car and Driver describes the Volvo V50 as “athletic, highlighted by short overhangs and bulging fenders,” According to Cars.com, a “V-shaped hood bulge runs into a more sculpted nose.”

Kelley Blue Book says the V50’s interior is “Scandinavian in nature” and must surely “qualify as no-frills.” Inside the V50 resides a functional, cool place to work its controls. The interior retains “the button-and-knob-infused stack” that “isn't immediately intuitive,” according to Car and Driver, but Volvo has made numerous updates in response to complaints. Chief among the changes are additional storage cubbies for “more storage space in the doors and the center console,” says Motor Trend. Cars.com adds that “the center armrest is modified for greater comfort, and the handbrake handle is smaller and less intrusive.”

Of the V50’s tailgate, Automobile feels that its “V70-like tailgate,” a standard clamshell design, is “a shame—designers should have gone with a wackier C30-like butt,” although TheCarConnection.com editors are happy with the decision, as the C30's fashionable hatch design sacrifices functionality and privacy.

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2009 Volvo V50

Performance

The 2009 Volvo T5 AWD offers the best performance but brings a hard ride.

From sedate to ferocious, comforting to kidney-jarring, performance reviews of the 2009 Volvo V50 are all over the map.

Opinions regarding the Volvo  V50’s 2.4-liter inline five-cylinder engine, which registers 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet, range from “perfectly adequate” (Edmunds) to “unimpressive, especially up long grades” (ConsumerGuide).

The optional 2.5-liter turbo in the T5 increases horsepower to 227, but perhaps even more significant, its 236 pound-feet of torque is available beginning at 1,500 rpm, allowing, says Car and Driver, impressive “launches off the line” and great highway passing, all with “no noticeable turbo lag.” Kelley Blue Book feels the “turbocharged engine brings the little V50 to life.”

The base engine still has a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic, but “the Geartronic manual shift mode is not as quick nor as fun to drive as the discontinued six-speed manual,” declares Edmunds. “Go easy on it and the stick can be slid from gear to gear with barely two fingers,” remarks Kelley Blue Book reflecting general praise for the manual transmission. Of the automatic, they feel it “seemed to work quite well.”

The stiffly sprung sports suspension, standard on the T5 AWD and included with the Sports Package, “makes for an uncomfortably stiff ride,” discloses ConsumerGuide. Car and Driver hails the base suspension’s “firm ride that manages to be both comfortable and compliant.” Cars.com agrees: “curves produce only modest body lean, and the sedan corners crisply.” Edmunds concludes, “most drivers would be more content with the standard setup as it offers a more livable compromise between performance and comfort.” Of note is the electro-hydraulically assisted power steering standard across the board. It's a willing ally with the V50’s responsive chassis, one that Edmunds says provides “high-speed confidence and low-speed ease.” “Just the right amount of effort,” agrees Road & Track.

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2009 Volvo V50

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Volvo V50 brings unexpectedly high standards of refinement, though backseat passengers will want more room.

The quality construction belies the 2009 Volvo V50’s mid-20s base price, Ford Focus roots, and entry-level status, while seats provide industry-leading comfort.

The quality of the interior is undisputed. “From something as simple as a high-quality headliner to the clean and classy gauges, the cabin conveys an upscale feel from top to bottom,” says Edmunds. Up front are ergonomically designed chairs whose “comfort on long drives is undeniable,” remarks Kelley Blue Book. Volvo also addresses a sore point with the interior and wisely adds “more storage space in the doors and the center console,” according to Motor Trend.

Alas, the rear seat isn’t as hospitable, but none of its European rivals have Cadillac-large backseats either. ConsumerGuide says that “two adults get decent head and elbow space, but three will feel pinched,” while Kelley Blue Book criticizes the “cramped rear seat and moderate headroom.”

Pricing for the 2009 Volvo V50 starts in the mid-20s for a base 2.4i, making it a strong competitor in the marketplace. But prices go all the way to the low 40s for a fully loaded T5 AWD; Kelley Blue Book remarks that it “undercuts the base Audi A4 and BMW 335 by a good margin,” but notes “the pricing gap closes quickly once comparable features are added.”

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2009 Volvo V50

Safety

In its class, the V50 likely remains one of the safest choices.

Volvo designs the 2009 V50 with the same active and passive safety features found on many of its newer platforms, although surprisingly, its crash-test record isn't perfect.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the S40 “good” across all measures for its frontal offset test. We expect the V50 to perform similarly when it is tested. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, the S40 scores four stars for the driver and five for the passenger in frontal crash tests. It scores five stars for side impact testing for both front and rear seat passengers.

Hazard lights automatically engage any time the airbags are deployed. And with standard EBL (Emergency Brake Light) functionality, the brighter LED rear lights flash rapidly in a panic braking situation. Standard active safety features include side impact and side curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, electronic stability system with traction control, and tire pressure monitoring.

Building on the foundation of what Volvo dubs “Intelligent Vehicle Architecture,” it seems the company has attempted to include “the levels of safety found in the flagship S80 luxury sedan,” according to MyRide.com. That means four grades of steel in the front structure “to create optimal crumple zones” (Car and Driver) and “extremely rigid cross members for side-impact protection” (Kelley Blue Book).

Volvo’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), “which lights an indicator just inboard of either of the V50’s side mirrors when a car occupies its corresponding blind spot,” according to Cars.com, is a stand-alone option. Self-steering bi-xenon headlamps are available in T5 models.

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2009 Volvo V50

Features

Brilliant audio systems, navigation, and other technophile features make the 2009 Volvo V50 a great choice among its competition.

As with Volvo's C30 hatchback and S40 sedan, the base model of the V50 is reasonably well equipped and very attractively priced, with an extensive list of options and ever-escalating prices.

Kelley Blue Book reports that “popular options are mostly bundled into packages,” such as the Climate Package and Select Package. Stand-alone options include leather seating (2.4i), the Blind Spot Information System, and the five-speed Geartronic automatic transmission (2.4i). The T5 offers active bi-xenon headlamps, a sport steering wheel, sport suspension, 17-inch "Zaurak" wheels, navigation, and Volvo's Keyless Drive remote start system.

Autoblog describes Volvo’s Dynamic Trim package as “a $1,895 bundle of body kit baubles we would normally forego.” It incorporates front and rear spoilers, rear valance panel, side sills, and lower moldings at the doors’ edges.

“Even in the base 2.4i trim, [the Volvo V50] features air conditioning, side-curtain airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), an engine immobilizer, traction control, rear fog lamp, keyless remote entry, heated power mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, a single CD player, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel,” says Kelley Blue Book.

The Auto Channel mentions “more dynamically styled instrument panels for the T5 model, Dynaudio speakers for the Premium Sound system, a new hard drive-based RTI road traffic information and satellite navigation system and a redesigned remote key fob with Auto Open and Auto Close for all side windows and sunroof.” The biggest changes for technogeeks and audiophiles seem to center around the updated Volvo center stack, which can now be ordered in Nordic Light Oak or Virtual White (think Steve Jobs).

Of the optional Dynaudio stereo, Jalopnik warns, “Don’t expect bass-thumping demonstrativeness…it’s strictly about midrange clarity.” Navigation is standard on T5 models but not available on the 2.4i. Bluetooth is standard across the board. But inherent in the Volvo’s unique center panel design is the inability to upgrade to an aftermarket radio.

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Styling 8
Performance 7
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