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Volvo V50 DRIVe SE Start/Stop

Click to view picture gallery“Volvo’s V50 DRIVe is a hidden gem
  for tax dodgers… well, not exactly
  tax dodgers; just us motorists who
  want a sensible, medium-sized car
  of high specification with a desirable
  brand name
...”


OUR CAR MUST HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO PERFORM well, to be comfortable and fuel- and CO2-frugal, which of course leads to us being clobbered for less tax: less road tax for retail buyers; less Benefit-in-Kind tax for company car users. And less fuel tax for all of us. And for those travelling to London in a V50 estate, it's now free of the Congestion Charge because of its 99g/km CO2 emission level.

Food for thought — the Volvo V50 DRIVe, because of its 99g/km emissions, is in VED road tax band A, the same as a Toyota Prius hybrid hatchback meaning no road tax plus it's roomier and nicer to drive.

The V50 DRIVe is also lower for VED than a Honda Insight Hybrid hatchback which costs £20 a year. Unfortunately, not being a Hybrid means 13% BIK company car tax instead of the 10% the Prius and Insight incur. No wonder Volvo claims the V50 DRIVe to be the most versatile sub-100g/km vehicle on the market today.

The official Combined
Cycle fuel economy is an
amazing 74.3mpg
and during my brief test
drive over busy
country roads, the V50
DRIVe returned a very
creditable 55.5mpg
...”
The V50 is no 'spring chicken' in the Volvo range — it's about five years old — but the DRIVe, with the new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine, has given it a fresh lease of life although other 2.0/2.5-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbodiesel models are still in its line-up.

It's a medium sized estate car, just over 4.5-metres long with a five door layout; five seats and with load space of 417 litres with all seats in position and 1,307 litres with the rear ones folded flat.

V50 prices range from £19,495 to £26,260 with ES, SE, SE Lux and R-Design specifications depending on which engine is chosen. The DRIVe versions with ES, SE and SE Lux levels of specification and all these fuel-frugal models have Start/Stop as standard. The new DRIVe 1.6-litre turbodiesel models range in price from £22,425 to £25,515.

The V50's main competitor is, ironically, probably Volvo's own new V60 estate launched at the end of last year. The V60 model is slightly larger than the V50, looks more modern, costs more to buy and as yet does not have a DRIVe version.

Other rivals for the V50 include the smaller Audi A3 Sportback, BMW 3 Series Touring, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate, Ford Focus Estate and the new Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. None, however, match the tax savings and low CO2 emissions of the V50.

Inside, the V50 DRIVe estate — there is no saloon version — there is ample room for five adults and the estate load area, while not huge, is perfectly adequate. It's well put together and it is very comfortable.

The specification is relatively high but not modern-day glitzy; a bit bland, in fact, but it has all the core essentials such as electrically-operated windows and door mirrors, air conditioning, a good sound system, loads of safety equipment, steering wheel remote controls and alloy wheels — and it feels solid and well made. Stability and traction control systems are standard-fit items.

The handling and ride comfort are exactly what most people want — a very comfortable ride quality. The suspension ironed out potholes with relative success and it felt well planted on the road, if not quite as sharp — or as uncomfortable — as its modern day competitors.

The new 1.6-litre
turbodiesel felt like a
2.0-litre unit and
with 113bhp it was very
responsive with good
torque so very flexible at
low speeds and quick
to react when
more was asked of it
...”
Crucially, it's in the performance versus running costs equation where this DRIVe version excels. Initially, before looking at the specification, the turbodiesel engine felt like a 2.0-litre unit rather than the new 1.6-litre engine.

With 113bhp it was still very responsive, with good torque (177lb ft from 1,750rpm) so it was very flexible at low speeds and quick to react when more was asked of it. And strong enough to tow a braked 1,300kg.

The six-speed manual transmission works well with this unit and even top gear can be used at relatively low speeds driving over winding roads. On the open road, it felt relaxed and unruffled at high speeds.

The official Combined Cycle fuel economy is an amazing 74.3mpg and during my brief test drive over busy country roads in Berkshire and Hampshire, the V50 DRIVe returned a very creditable 55.5mpg.

The figure that sticks out most though is the 99g/km of CO2 emissions which means a £0 cost for road tax. For a car of this size and class that is remarkable and company car drivers will also enjoy the low 13% Benefit-in-Kind tax charges.

Top speed is a not-insignificant 121mph and zero to 62mph acceleration takes a brisk 11 seconds. For the record, the Start/Stop system worked really well and I didn't find it intrusive in the least.

For an estate car of this size and quality, the V50 Estate DRIVe is brilliant for fuel economy, with very low CO2 emissions, no road tax costs, low BIK company car tax, no London Congestion Charge — and it's stylish and good to drive.

It is just a pity that with all the fuel and tax savings costs the V50 DRIVe offers, the SE specification model I tried costs £24,240, so to really save money I'd go for the ES version at £22,425 which still has all the equipment that most drivers can happily live with in today's cost conscious world. — David Miles

Volvo V50 DRIVe SE Start/Stop
| £24,240
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-62mph: 11 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 55.5mpg
Power: 113bhp | Torque: 177lb ft | CO2 99g/km