Having driven one for over a year now, I’m feeling well-positioned to write this Volvo V50 review and share with you my personal ownership experience so far.
If you’ve landed on this article, chances are you’re in the market for a Volvo V50 of your own and looking for some honest advice and real-world experiences of owning one of these Swedish cars.
Much of what I will go into in this V50 review will apply to the entire Volvo V50 range, but there will be more specific detail on the Volvo V50 1.6 diesel review as this is the model I personally own.
For clarity, my car is a 2011 Volvo V50 diesel 1.6D DRIVe, the one with the later 8v engine, stop-start, dry DPF system, 6-speed gearbox, and the £0 tax bill.
It has relatively high mileage already at 135,000, which I’m told are “motorway miles”. But my example appears to have been well looked after by its previous owners and, still very presentable.
So let’s jump right into the review.
Volvo V50 Reliability
Volvo as an automotive manufacturer are not only renowned for safety but it’s also the general consensus that Volvo reliability is exemplary.
This is easy to believe when you see how many Volvo estate cars are still smoking around, it’s very common to see 90s Volvo’s still on the road even now.
When it comes to Volvo V50 reliability though, we have a few more factors to consider. Those old reliable Volvo estate cars I mentioned are generally Volvo products through and through, with no external influence.
They were built like Swedish tanks, and the engines in those older models, while known to provide mediocre or even poor fuel economy, were notorious for carrying on forever.
It’s worth remembering that the Volvo V50 is somewhat of a collaboration between Ford and Volvo in not only its chassis but also its motor.
It’s certainly worth considering whether this is a best of both worlds scenario, but my Volvo V50 review speaks from my own honest experience of the car.
Volvo V50 Estate Problems
Like any modern car, you’re only an internet search away from pages of horror stories, and the Volvo V-50 is no exception.
The V50 gets a hard time, even from the diehard Volvo fans who are sceptical about its Ford Focus relation, although it’s a chassis shared with Mazda too.
Search Volvo V50 estate problems online and you’ll be faced with every problem under the sun, and without context, it can be difficult to determine which issues are worth worrying about, and which are simply user error.
The truth is, they produced 519,007 Volvo V50s between 2004 and 2012, and with more than half a million cars out there, you’re going to see the full spectrum of negativity online.
Another useful thing to note is that people who have positive experiences generally don’t rush online to say anything, so it’s easy for those without issue to be underrepresented and drowned out by those with a problem and looking for a solution.
The representation you see online is disproportionate to reality.
However, this many years later, there are certainly Volvo V50 estate problems that carry through the range and deserve to be acknowledged.
Here are some of the common problems with Volvo V50 cars:
- Volvo V50 DPF Problems
- Volvo V50 Electrical System Problems
Volvo V50 1.6 Diesel DPF Problems
Stick with me here, it’s where things get a little complicated between the different V50 1.6 models.
Read any Volvo V50 review online, and it will list the DPF as a key weakness. The Volvo V50 1.6 diesel DPF problems are very real, as are many DPF problems with most diesel cars from around this era.
However, there are distinct changes through the model years. Some are lumped with expensive to fix, ticking timebomb wet DPF filter systems, and others have much cheaper to fix, and also much less likely to fail dry DPF systems.
To be clear on which is which There are two different 1.6 diesel 2 engines found in V50s.
The earlier 1.6 V50s came with a 1.6 16v engine with 109bhp, this was marked up as 1.6D or DRIVe (DRIVe model being equipped with start-stop). An additional point of reference for these is they all have a 5-speed gearbox.
These early models have a wet DPF system which requires replacement at certain mileage intervals (75k I believe) and an EOLYs fluid top up every so often too. In my humble opinion, these cars are probably to be avoided at this stage in their life thanks to that pesky system.
In late 2010 the 1.6D V50 got a new engine which interestingly had fewer valves.
This 1.6 8v engine had a little more power and torque at 113bhp and is marked up as D2 or DRIVe. These cars all have the 6-speed gearbox and the dry DPF system which is relatively trouble-free.
I was aware of this difference when I was purchasing my 1.6 diesel V50 and I’m still confident my 2011 model with dry DPF was worth the extra I paid as opposed to an earlier one.
Sadly the V50 2.0D models all seem to be equipped with the wet DPF system which is worth
Volvo V50 MPG
Unlike most Volvo V50 reviews, having lived with my 2011 1.6D V50 Estate as a daily for a whole year, I can genuinely speak from experience when it comes to Volvo V50 MPG figures.
Like many other reviews, my Volvo V50 review will point out the discrepancies between what manufacturers promise in terms of MPG, and what can be achieved in the real world.
I believe the official Volvo MPG figures for the 1.6 diesel model are as follows:
- 1.6D DRIVe: 62.8 mpg
- 1.6D DRIVe Start/Stop: 72.4–74.3 mpg
My experience differs from this somewhat, and looking at those, they seem very ambitious. But first, let me outline my circumstances and comparison points.
I’m using the V50 for a relatively short daily 8 mile each way commute on country roads, with the occasional longer run out, usually to pick up parts for one of our various projects.
With the short commute, it’s safe to say that the Volvo V50 has barely gotten into its stride at full operating temps by the time I’m arriving at the office. So I’m probably not doing the car any favours when it comes to MPG.
Despite this, I’ve found the car to produce a good 53-54 mpg if driven normally over a whole tank with this type of day to day usage.
I reckon with more careful throttle and braking applications on my daily commute, I could realistically hypermile the 1.6D V50’s engine to around 56-57 MPG external factors permitting.
However, this isn’t the whole story. On a long run out with mostly motorway miles I’ve been able to get the V50 to produce just over 60 MPG. So I think these longer trips are where the V50’s economy shines.
As a point of comparison, I ran a 2005 Ford Fiesta 1.6 diesel for a quite few years and this was relatively easily producing high 50s, low 60s. This experience is what attracted me to another 1.6 diesel vehicle in the first place.
It’s worth noting that the Fiesta did not have start-stop, nor did it have a 6th gear. But what it did have on its side was less weight, and also the lack of any kind of DPF system disrupting exhaust flow.
I think a part of me was expecting a 2011 1.6 diesel engine to be more economical than a 2005 one, but accounting for the V50 being larger and heavier, I think the efficiency of the two engines are similar.
Although the V50 engine runs notably cleaner and with no smoke, unlike the Fiesta which laid smoke like a destroyer.
Volvo V50 Specs
There are various trim levels that dictate Volvo V50 Specs. The top-spec in the V50 model being the R-Design version which features a sporty body kit, lower suspension, fancy 17-inch wheels, 2-tone leather seats and fancy blue clocks on the dash.
You can get the R-Design in all engine sizes so you can even get the lowly 1.6 diesel looking far more sporty than it really is with R-Design trim.
Aside from this top-spec, there’s a choice of the following trim levels:
- SE Lux
While these all look similar inside and out, the feature list varies with the SE Lux generally being the best equipped.
Volvo V50 Boot Space
On paper, the Volvo V50’s luggage space is 417 Litres, which is decent although modest compared to larger estate cars. Many Volvo V50 reviews go on to slate the Volvo V50 boot space.
Luckily the V50 is very versatile and the rear seats fold completely flat to increase this space to a more generous 1307L. It’s also worth noting that the front passenger seat can be folded flat too for those trips to Ikea where you end up trying to squeeze a flat pack wardrobe in.
By Volvo estate car standards, the V50’s boot space doesn’t even come close to the Volvos of yesteryear. One major factor for this is the shape of the space, I suspect this is to aid in the cars aerodynamics and drag coefficient. The days of the flying brick are well and truly over.
Bearing in mind its Ford chassis underpinnings, the V50 is a versatile small estate car that should be ample for the majority of people.
Volvo V50 Dimensions
While the Volvo V50 is an estate car, it’s a small estate car in the grand scheme of things. Volvo V50 review based on this factor alone probably won’t come across too positive.
Bear in mind the V50s Ford Focus underpinnings and you’ll quickly realise that it’s a mid-sized vehicle at best, especially compared to modern-day SUVs.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some of the models vary, however, if you’re looking up Volvo V50 dimensions then you’re probably more interested in whether it will fit on your garage or be too heavy for your trailer, so the below figures are the most generous ones available, so the largest and heaviest figures available for the Volvo V50.
Volvo V50 dimensions are listed as follows:
- Length: 4,522mm (178.0in)
- Width: 2,022mm (79.6in)
- Height: 1,460mm (57.5in)
- Wheelbase: 2,640mm (103.9in)
- Weight: 1,590kg (3,510lb)
Volvo V50 Towing Capacity
The Volvo V50 towing capacity is fairly modest, as you’d expect for a modestly sized car. However, if you’re intending to tow a small caravan, or a small trailer then the V50 could be just the ticket for you.
The Volvo V50’s towing weights are as follows:
- Unbraked Towing Weight: 700kg
- Braked Towing Weight: 1500kg
Volvo V50 Interior
Jumping into a Volvo V50, you wouldn’t believe it bared any relation to a Ford Focus. The quality of the materials feels good, and the general feel of everything is sturdy.
The design is very simple, with the fanciest feature being the floating centre console, which is about the only thing that creaks on occasion.
As far as the seats go, they are remarkably comfortable and luxurious for an economical car. The leather is supple yet sturdy and seems hard-wearing.
And there’s plenty of cubby and storage space around the car for your convenience.
I’ve certainly been less comfortable in much more luxurious cars.
It would be difficult to describe the Volvo V50 interior as stylish, but it’s certainly functional and inoffensive, and as a result, doesn’t appear at all dated even now.
One thing to note, while the front space is better than expected, the rear space is worse, you won’t comfortably seat 3 adults in the back, 2 modestly sized ones will get by just fine though.
V50 1.6 DRIVe Performance Figures
For the purposes of my Volvo V50 review, my car is the later 1.6D diesel-engined V50 with 8 valves as opposed to 16, which stacks up slightly better on paper compared.
This is a surprising fact as my expectation would be that 16 valves are better than 8, but in this case apparently not and these later engines have a couple of extra ponies and a reasonable amount of additional torque.
The Volvo V50 1.6D puts out 113hp at 3600rpm and 270 N⋅m (199 lb-ft) of torque at 1750rpm.
These top-level figures are certainly nothing to write home about in the car world, but they do make the Volvo V50 feel somewhat spritely to drive. It never feels powerful, but it never feels gutless either. Ideal for this kind of daily driver.
The fact that these top number appear so low down in the engines rev range tricks you into feeling like the engine is more powerful than it really is, and you can waft around on the torque in comfort.
Although if you ever get the urge to try and take a gap to overtake someone you are quite quickly reminded about that lack of top end.
Volvo V50 Review – Final Notes
While it’s not lighting my world on fire, as a daily driver my diesel V50 has so far been a joy to live with day to day, comfortable to take on longer journeys, and has never let me down either.
As I’ve grown attached to the car, I’ve found myself wanting to take good care of it and keep up the maintenance, which is a good sign.
You might have seen our previous how-to post where we performed a V50 timing belt replacement and full service, which was challenging but doable for the keen DIY mechanic.
The original Volvo-supplied AGM battery was still going strong when I purchased the car, but since then my start-stop function stopped working and I was getting the occasional battery alert on the dashboard.
Since then I’ve replaced the AGM battery for a new one and the car has been perfect again.
I’ve also rotated the tyres to eek another MOT out of them.
Hopefully, there will be many more years of economical and comfortable daily driving to come from this Volvo V50.
Unless forced, I can’t see me exchanging it for anything else until it’s time to move over to an EV daily. I’ll look to revisit this Volvo V50 review in the future and update it as time goes along.