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If you don't mind settling for the base engine, the 2009 Volvo V50 is a stylish and relatively affordable alternative to German sport wagons. However, the turbocharged model is expensive, and its performance pales in comparison to similarly priced competitors.
Excellent seats, posh interior, ample safety features, nearly as much cargo capacity as a compact SUV, available turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive.
Pricey in T5 AWD R-Design trim, tepid acceleration with base engine, handling falls short of true sport wagons, so-so safety scores.
Available V50 Wagon Models
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The 2009 Volvo V50 can only be had with a five-speed automatic transmission, as the slow-selling manual transmission has been discontinued. The front-wheel-drive T5 model is also no longer available. And Volvo has made a number of features standard this year, though that means a commensurate hike in price.
Wagons have become an endangered species in the U.S. market over the past couple decades, but the Volvo V50 is a good example of how the wagon design still makes sense. Rather than pretending to be a trail-busting champ, it's a smartly styled small car for people who need to carry more stuff than a sedan can handle.
The 2009 Volvo V50 is a wagon variant of the compact S40 sedan, offering all of that model's European elan along with an impressive 63 cubic feet of cargo capacity. This figure puts the V50's pack-mule credentials in the same ballpark as compact SUVs, yet the Volvo offers gas mileage that's comparable to or better than those models -- and it's actually a car, as opposed to "carlike," so its handling is relatively nimble and secure.
For 2009, a number of formerly optional or unavailable features are standard, such as Bluetooth compatibility, a six-CD changer and a sunroof. As ever, the V50 carries on Volvo's tradition of offering top-notch safety features and superbly designed seats. Moreover, despite a hefty price hike for 2009, the base V50 2.4i still undercuts entry-level German sport wagons by a few thousand dollars, making it a viable alternative for car shoppers who want the style and accoutrements of a premium sport wagon without the hefty price tag. With just 168 horsepower, the V50 2.4i is not an impressive performer, but there's a case to be made for it if styling, comfort and safety are high priorities.
However, it's hard for us to recommend the 227-hp T5 AWD R-Design model at its newly inflated price point. Last year's T5 AWD model was an interesting "tweener" of a wagon at a base price of $31,565, offering zesty all-wheel-drive performance and European sophistication for thousands less than comparably equipped German rivals. However, the 2009 V50 T5 AWD R-Design's base price has ballooned to $35,500, which makes it more expensive than the better handling and more sophisticated Audi A4 Avant 2.0T Quattro. You'd have to really dig the V50 T5 AWD R-Design's distinct brand of Swedish style (or get a killer deal) to pick it over the A4 Avant, not to mention BMW's competitively priced 328i and 328xi wagons.
There's plenty to be said in the 2009 Volvo V50's favor. It looks sharp inside and out, it's safe, it's got some of the best front seats in the business and the base 2.4i model is a compelling alternative to upscale compact SUVs. But we'd recommend taking a hard look at the abovementioned competitors, as well as the Saab 9-3 SportCombi and top-rated compact crossover SUVs like the Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35, Mazda CX-7 and Subaru Forester.
The 2009 Volvo V50 is a premium compact wagon available in two trim levels: 2.4i and T5 AWD R-Design. The new-for-2009 "R-Design" suffix refers to a collection of sporty exterior and interior styling cues. The V50 2.4i comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sunroof, a trip computer, a power driver seat, neoprene-like "T-Tec" cloth upholstery, a tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, full power accessories, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. In addition to its more powerful engine and AWD, the T5 AWD R-Design adds a sport suspension, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated front seats with a memory function for the driver seat, automatic climate control and "R-Design" styling cues, including a sport steering wheel and a watch-like gauge cluster.
Options for the 2.4i model include the Climate Package, which adds heated front seats, headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers. Leather upholstery is a stand-alone option, as are wood inlays. The T5 AWD R-Design can be equipped with a Dynaudio Package that includes a 12-speaker sound system. Stand-alone options for the T5 AWD R-Design include keyless ignition/entry and a navigation system (which is not available on the 2.4i). Active bi-xenon headlights and Volvo's blind-spot information system (BLIS) are options on all V50s.
The 2009 Volvo V50 2.4i is equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter inline-5 that generates 168 hp and 170 pound-feet of torque. The T5 AWD R-Design receives a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 that pumps out 227 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is mandatory on all models.
According to Volvo, the 2.4i will trot from zero to 60 mph in an unhurried 8.5 seconds. The T5 AWD R-Design accomplishes the same task in a more respectable 7.1 seconds. EPA fuel-economy estimates stand at 20 mpg city/28 highway and 23 combined for the V50 2.4i, while the T5 R-Design AWD yields 18/26/21. While these fuel economy numbers aren't bad, they're a bit disappointing given that some compact SUVs are just as fuel-efficient.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are standard on all 2009 Volvo V50s. All models include front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags, along with whiplash-reducing head restraints in all outboard positions. BLIS is optional across the lineup.
The V50 has not undergone official crash testing. However, in front impact tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, its S40 sibling was awarded four stars for driver protection and five stars for front passenger protection, and it netted a perfect five-star rating in the NHTSA's side-impact crash test. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset testing, the S40 earned a top rating of "Good." In IIHS side-impact testing, the car was rated "Acceptable." Additionally, the S40 is one of only a few cars to earn a "Good" head-restraint rating in the IIHS rear-impact test.
If you like to shop at Ikea -- or at least admire the company's über-modern designs -- then the 2009 Volvo V50's interior should strike your fancy. The piece de resistance is the ultra-slim "floating" center stack, which is suspended between the console and the dash, but pretty much everything about the V50's interior design is a direct challenge to the relatively austere interiors found in some competing models. Fortunately, there's plenty of function behind the V50's impressive form, as most controls are a model of simplicity. Furthermore, the quality of the interior materials is excellent, and the ergonomically designed seats are extraordinarily comfortable and supportive. Maximum cargo capacity is 63 cubic feet, and the rear seat folds 60/40.
The base 2.4-liter engine provides acceleration that's only slightly sprightlier than your typical four-cylinder family sedan. The turbocharged 2.5-liter unit is far superior, though it does have a rather peaky power band, with noticeable turbo lag off the line. Handling is crisp and entertaining with either the standard or the sport-tuned suspension, though the V50 isn't as sharp as the A4 Avant or 3 Series wagon. The base suspension is firm without being uncomfortable, but the sport suspension can be harsh over broken pavement.
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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2009 Volvo V50 in WA is: