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VOLVO V50,

Overview

The Volvo V50 wagon comes in two trim levels: 2.4i and T5. All 2.4 models are front-wheel drive; Standard items on the V50 2.4i include 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, manual climate control with a pollen filter, a CD player and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with telescopic adjustment. Option V50 T5 gives an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, automatic climate control, a cargo-area 12-volt power outlet, aluminium trim, a trip computer and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Inside

The V50's interior is a study in simple elegance. Especially eye-catching is the slim center stack, which replaces the typical centrepiece clutter with spare lines and a "less is more" aesthetic that gives the car a thoroughly modern feel while opening up valuable storage space. The ergonomically designed seats are available in different upholstery types, though we like the standard "T-Tec" cloth best of all. Adults will find adequate legroom in both the front and rear. A 60/40-split-folding rear seat adds versatility, should you need to haul very long items. Maximum cargo capacity is 62.9 cubic feet -- 7 cubes more than you get in the Audi A3.

Driving

Handling is crisp and entertaining, though the standard tires are taxed by more aggressive cornering. An unfortunate downside to the V50's sharp reflexes is that cruising comfort suffers a bit, particularly with the optional sport suspension. The 2.4i model offers adequate if uninspiring acceleration, so driving enthusiasts should head straight for the spirited T5 model. The optional all-wheel-drive system is a good bet for buyers seeking a relatively affordable, premium-brand wagon that can brave the winter snows.

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