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Volvo V50

The V50 Sportswagon belongs to Volvo's versatile V-range, along with the Volvo V70, and is produced at Volvo's plant in Ghent, Belgium alongside the V70 estate and S40 and S60 saloons. In the UK, in its first full year on sale in 2005, 7547 V50s were sold, making it Volvo's best-selling model; globally it is the company's second best-selling model (after the XC90).

The Volvo V50 is a thoroughly modern Sportswagon. Stylish and dynamic with typically simple Scandinavian style, yet versatile and great value compared with many other premium brands, it appeals to customers who need a Sportswagon to enhance their active lives.

"The emphasis has been placed on attractive design and a sense of sportiness," says Volvo Cars' President and CEO Hans-Olov Olsson, "with a practical 'bonus' of extra luggage space."

While instantly recognisable as a member of the modern Volvo family, this Sportswagon asserts its own strong identity. Viewed from above, the Volvo V50 has a boat shape with a curved front tapering down to the rear, and this, coupled with its cab-forward proportions, helps to emphasise its sporting aspirations. While the stacked rear lamps and near-vertical tailgate are familiar, the car has a softer, more sculptured rear end than a more traditional estate, such as the Volvo V70. Subtle modifications to the grille and front fog lamps also help differentiate it from its saloon car sibling, the Volvo S40.

Inspired by classic Scandinavian design themes and high-tech electrical equipment, the interior has a layered construction that focuses attention on a unique, ultra-slim, free-floating centre stack. This houses the controls for the audio system and climate control, and includes a display for a menu system that allows the driver to personalise preferences for door locking/unlocking, and audio settings, etc.

The Volvo V50 is 46mm longer than the Volvo S40 saloon, with an overall length of 4522mm. At 1457mm in height and 1770mm wide (not including wing mirrors), sitting on a wheelbase of 2640mm, it offers a spacious cabin environment for up to five adults. With the rear seats in place, there's a generous 417 litres of cargo space and this can be extended to a maximum of 1307 litres by folding flat the split/fold rear seats. The front passenger seat back also folds forwards to allow extra-long loads to be carried.

For 2009 Model Year, the Volvo V50 benefited from a larger and more widely spaced exterior emblem on the boot lid making the Volvo brand easier to spot from a distance. The car experienced a few more changes in 2008 Model Year where it moved closer to the Volvo V70 estate, with a sportier new grille and headlamp layout and distinctive three-part front air intake and features Volvo's deep-set chrome-collared grille and larger Volvo badge. The Volvo V50's distinctive rear styling benefited from slimmer tail light units that are equipped with LED brake lights, enhancing the car's shoulders. A new boot handle, restyled bumper and a revised pair of exhaust pipes complete the look. Restyled lower door mouldings and side sills also underline the visual changes between old and new Sportswagon models.

Volvo designers and engineers also gave the cabin of the V50 a thorough revision to add more storage space and carrying versatility as well as boosting the choice of interior trims. Volvo's iconic 'floating' centre stack had revised controls and which was complemented by a multi-function centre tunnel storage area, a more compact handbrake design, and a revised armrest that's longer and further forward for greater driver comfort. It can also flip through 180 degrees to act as a useful table for rear passengers. As well as redesigned cupholders, there's now a much larger storage area under the armrest, while the lower sections of the front door inside panels have been redesigned to accommodate larger items. The auxiliary input for the audio system has been repositioned under the armrest and is now standard across the range, while a roll-top cover for the central storage area provides heightened security.

The Volvo V50 appeals to younger, professional people. Its most obvious rivals are other premium brand compact estates, such as the Audi A4 Avant and the BMW 3-series Touring. They are attracted by the Volvo V50's combination of style and design, practicality and, above all, premium brand quality.

Design Concept

The Volvo V50 is a Sportswagon - a sporty, dynamic, youthful five-door car with a smart, modern design. The rear of the Volvo V50 Sportswagon has a softer, more sports-orientated design than a typical Volvo estate, such as the Volvo V70. This effect is also enhanced by the softly rounded nose, the short bonnet and the cab-forward design. The chrome grille provides a design link to the larger Volvo V70 estate.

Designed by Volvo's talented and multi-cultural design teams in Gothenburg, Barcelona and California, the V50 captures Volvo's premium values in a more compact package. The result is instantly recognisable as a member of the modern Volvo family, but also asserts its own, distinct identity and takes the Volvo design language in a new direction.

The Volvo V50 is 2mm shorter than its predecessor, the Volvo V40, but its front track is 63mm longer, while its wheelbase is 78mm longer. The wheels are pushed out to each corner, which benefits the styling, the interior packaging and the car's dynamic stability.

Viewed from above, the body resembles the shape of a boat hull, with a rounded prow, a broad midship section and a narrowing stern. "We wanted it to look solid and efficient, which is why it has a boat shape," explains a Volvo designer.

In combination with Volvo's familiar broad shoulder line, this 'boat shape' promotes an impression of power and dynamism as well as contributing to the Volvo V50's smooth aerodynamics: the drag coefficient is Cd 0.31.

Customers who wish to emphasise the sporting credentials of their Volvo V50 are offered a choice of R-Design Sport and R-Design SE Sport models with fully integrated bodykit including front and rear spoilers, side skirts and a rear roof spoiler, all of which are painted to match the colour of the car.

Driving Dynamics: Engines

The new Volvo V50 Sportswagon is available with a range of eight modern engines, including three diesels, that reflect its role as a premium alternative. Two engines joined the range for 2007: a 145 PS 2.0-litre petrol and a 180 PS D5 turbodiesel. Lining up next to these is a transversely mounted, refined five-cylinder engine: the range-topping 230 PS, 2.5-litre T5. Then there is the 125 PS 1.8-litre petrol unit and the 136 PS 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which has second-generation common-rail technology and plenty of torque, and is Euro IV compliant - good news for both tax-conscious company car drivers and the environment. An environmentally friendly 1.8 Flexifuel engine also joined the range in 2007 along with the entry-level 100 PS 1.6 petrol and 109 PS 1.6 diesel engines which lowered the entry level price.

2.0 and D5

Two engines joined the Volvo V50 range for the 2007 model year: a 145 PS, four-cylinder, 2.0-litre petrol engine with manual transmission and the 2.4-litre, 180 PS, five-cylinder D5 turbodiesel.

The 2.0-litre petrol delivers smooth performance (0-60 mph in 9.0 seconds) together with respectable fuel economy (a combined figure of 38.2mpg), a maximum speed of 130mph and CO2 emissions of 176g/km.

The D5 is already familiar from its use in the Volvo V70 and the rest of the Volvo range (the slight decrease in power here is a result of the restricted cooling capacity allowed by the smaller frontal area of the Volvo V50). Available in R-Design Sport, SE, SE Lux and R-Design SE Sport versions, the D5 has a six-speed manual gearbox, Geartronic transmission available as an option, and delivers excellent all-round performance with 180 PS, 350Nm of torque, 0-60mph possible in 7.6 seconds, emissions of 166 g/km and a maximum of 55.4mpg on the extra-urban cycle.

T5

The five-cylinder petrol powerplant is based on the low-friction units found in larger Volvos, but was extensively revised and repackaged for installation in the Volvo V50. The latest generation is called RNC, with the 'C' indicating Compact.

The 2.5-litre T5 is available with optional five-speed Geartronic transmission and boasts four valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts, together with CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing), to maximise torque at low engine speeds and to reduce exhaust emissions.

The performance flagship of the Volvo V50 range is the 2521cc T5. Equipped with a light-pressure turbo, it generates a potent 230 PS at 5000rpm and emissions of 208 g/km. The peak torque output of 320Nm is available all the way from 1500-5000rpm, proving that top-end thrust need not be achieved at the expense of mid-range flexibility. The manual T5 rockets from 0-60mph in just 6.4 seconds and will reach 149mph. But despite its high performance, it still achieves an excellent 32.5mpg on the combined cycle.

2.0D

Lining up next to the flagship diesel engine, the D5, is the 1997cc 2.0D. It features second-generation common-rail technology, delivering an unbeatable combination of power, refinement and frugality. The 2.0D has a maximum power output of 136 PS, while the peak torque of 320Nm is available at just 2000rpm; it covers the 0-60mph increment in 9.0 seconds and reaches 127mph.

But while the 2.0D's acceleration is petrol-like, its economy underlines the value of diesel power. With this engine, the Volvo V50 Sportswagon returns an outstanding average of 48.7mpg and its carbon dioxide emissions are just 153 g/km. This is not only great news for the environment, but also provides company car drivers with useful tax savings. The engine complies with Euro IV emissions regulations. A Volvo Powershift transmission was introduced as an option in 2.0D in early 2008, this six-speed unit features twin wet clutches to provide the gear changing comfort of a fully-automatic transmission with the performance of a manual gearbox.

1.8

Completing the Volvo V50 Sportswagon range for now is a 1798cc four-cylinder petrol engine. Offering 125 PS and 165Nm of torque, it combines sprightly performance with 0-60mph possible in 10.4 seconds, emissions of 174 g/km and a top speed of 124mph.

1.6 and 1.6D

Both offer good performance and economy - and value for money. The 1.6 provides 100PS and 150Nm of torque, 0-60mph in 11.4 seconds, emissions of 169g/km and 39.8mpg on the combined cycle.

The 1.6-litre turbodiesel also offers strong and flexible performance, with 109 PS and plenty of flexibility provided by 240 Nm of torque from 1750 rpm. It offers the best fuel consumption of the range, with 65.7mpg recorded on the extra-urban cycle, 56.5mpg on the combined and 44.8mpg on the urban.

1.8F

The third engine to join the range in 2007 is the 1.8 Flexifuel. Reinforcing Volvo's long-standing commitment to environmental care this engine runs on renewable E85 bioethanol fuel an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fuels, emitting up to 80% less fossil carbon dioxide emissions than petrol. Choosing a Volvo V50 Flexifuel can help reduce fossil carbon dioxide emissions without having to compromise on either performance or comfort. Based on the 1.8 litre, four cylinder normally aspirated petrol engine producing 125 PS, the 1.8F runs on E85, a fuel that consists of 85% bioethanol and 15% regular petrol. Should E85 not be available, the vehicles can also use unleaded petrol - both fuels can go into the same tank in any mixture offering total flexibility. The car's engine management system monitors the blend and automatically modifies the injection and ignition timings to optimise performance.

Driving Dynamics: Chassis

The compact Volvo V50 Sportswagon delivers an engaging, dynamic driving experience with a high level of active safety. To achieve this, it makes use of a sophisticated suspension system, a high level of torsional rigidity, a wide track and the latest electronic stability systems.

"A modern Volvo should obey the driver's slightest command - immediately and without fuss," says Peter Ewerstrand, the Volvo V50 project manager. "It should be as enjoyable to drive as it is safe. We had particularly high ambitions for the Volvo V50 and we're more than pleased with the result. This is a car you'll truly look forward to driving whenever you get the chance."

To maximise driving pleasure, a Dynamic chassis and Rally Bar (front strut stiffener) are fitted to R-Design Sport and R-Design SE Sport models (except 1.8) and all T5 variants.

The body of the Volvo V50 is 34 per cent stiffer than that of its Volvo V40 predecessor thanks to advanced body design and the use of high-strength materials, including Ultra High-Strength Boron Steel. This high level of torsional rigidity allows the suspension to do its job properly and its provision was integral to the car's design. It benefits not only the ride and handling characteristics of the Volvo V50, but also its crashworthiness.

A further contribution to the Volvo V50's exceptional stability is provided by the wide track (1535mm front, 1531mm rear) and long wheelbase (2640mm). The former helps improve the car's balance, enabling it to cope with high cornering forces, while providing clear and consistent feedback to the driver.

The long wheelbase, meanwhile, contributes to a balanced weight distribution with a low minimal moment of inertia. In practical terms, this enhances the steering response and helps ensure that the Volvo V50 responds in a controlled, predictable manner in all circumstances, making a major contribution to active safety.

Suspension

The advanced, independent suspension system employs spring struts at the front, the geometry of which has been carefully calculated to provide quick and precise steering response, enhancing the car's sports appeal. The rear suspension is a sophisticated multi-link system, which permits a small degree of passive rear wheel steering when cornering. This helps to maximise stability and control. Anti-roll bars also feature at both ends.

DSTC, EBD and EBA

The carefully honed mechanical set-up is supported by the DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control), which is standard on every model. Arrays of sensors monitor the car's behaviour and if it starts to skid, DSTC will automatically brake individual wheels to help the driver regain control. The traction control element also works to alleviate the problems of wheelspin, ensuring that the Volvo V50 delivers a safe, positive driving experience in all weather conditions.

Every Volvo V50 benefits from ABS brakes with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) and EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) which senses an emergency stop and automatically brings the car to a halt in as short a distance as possible.

 

Driving Dynamics: Steering, Brakes and Transmissions

The Volvo V50 Sportswagon has an electro-hydraulic power steering system that has been developed to optimise driver feedback and response. This helps the driver place the car accurately on the road and to assess the available grip.

Ventilated disc brakes are fitted at the front and rear. The disc size is adapted to engine power and wheel rim size, up to a maximum diameter of 16.5in (320mm). As you'd expect from Volvo, an anti-lock braking system is fitted as standard and this is joined by EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), which constantly distributes braking power between the front and rear wheels to ensure maximum retardation regardless of the road conditions or how the car is laden.

Every Volvo V50 model is also equipped with EBA (Emergency Brake Assist). This system automatically senses when an emergency stop is required and adjusts the braking pressure so that the car comes to a halt in the shortest possible distance.

The normally-aspirated petrol engines, the 1.8D and 1.8F are mated to the latest generation of Volvo's five-speed manual gearbox, which has a triple synchromesh to provide faster, more positive changes.

The range-topping T5 uses a six-speed manual gearbox. The ratios have been carefully matched to the engine's characteristics so as to combine strong acceleration with a high top speed. The gearbox has a triple synchromesh and a reassuringly direct shift action.

The 2.0D offers six forward ratios, but this gearbox is not the same unit as that fitted to the T5. The ratios have been chosen to complement the diesel's 320Nm of torque and to provide effortless pull throughout the engine range. The V50 2.0D is also available with the new Volvo Powershift transmission which was introduced as an option in early 2008, this six-speed unit features twin wet clutches to provide the gear changing comfort of a fully-automatic transmission with the performance of a manual gearbox.

Operating as two parallel manual gearboxes, Powershift has twin wet clutches that work independently of one another. One clutch controls the odd gears (1, 3, 5 and reverse) while the other handles the even ratios (2, 4 and 6). The two clutches operate alternately with one engaging while the other disengages, like a slip clutch. This means that at the same time as the engine gets full power and maximum thrust in first gear, second gear is placed ready to be engaged. And when second gear has been engaged, third gear is readied, and so on. This gives a continuous flow of power without any disruption in power delivery or any torque loss. This results in extremely fast and smooth gear changes whilst maintaining acceleration allowing 0-60mph to be reached in 9.2 seconds and boasts a top speed of 127mph.

Apart from gear changing comfort and high performance, Powershift also contributes to delivering improved fuel efficiency. The Powershift Automatic offers an impressive combined fuel consumption of 47.1mpg and a CO2 figure of 159g/km in the Volvo V50.

Powershift gives the driver an automatic transmission that permits sequential gearchanges, just like with Volvo's Geartronic transmission. The difference is that with Powershift even manual gearchanges take place without any time or power losses. Also, unlike a conventional automatic transmission, Powershift does not need a torque converter, planetary gears or multiple wet clutches, there is also none of the added torque losses that these features bring.

The Geartronic system is available as an option on the D5 turbodiesel and T5. The Geartronic system is fully adaptive - it automatically adjusts its shift patterns according to an individual's driving style and can be shifted into 'manual' mode if required.

Interior Design

The interior of the Volvo V50 represents nothing less than a revolution in car design. Its focal point is an ultra-thin central instrument stack, which appears to be free-floating in space. This is a world first for the automotive sector and was previewed on the Volvo VCC (Versatility Concept Car). It is a reflection of Volvo's Scandinavian design heritage and its commitment to premium quality. "The super-slim format is the ultimate icon of the car and a revolution in itself," says its chief designer, Guy Burgoyne.

The inspiration for the interior of the Volvo V50 came from outside the car world: "If you want to be innovative, there is little point looking at what the competition is doing," explains Steve Mattin, Volvo's Design Director. "It is far more valuable to look at what they're not doing."

Volvo's design team were influenced by the Scandinavian design tradition of clean surfaces and uncluttered lines. They drew inspiration, for example, from the elegant simplicity of the classic compression-moulded Series 7 chair, designed by the world-famous Arne Jacobsen. Trends in high-tech electrical equipment, such as cameras, audio systems and computers, were also studied. Notes were taken on how the designers use and combine new materials so that they form part of the user-experience. These disparate influences - classic Scandinavian style and high-tech innovation - were combined to create a radically different interior concept.

The interior is built up of several visual layers. The first is an edge that flows around the base of the windscreen and along the door frames, trimming the entire interior. This provides occupants with the impression that they are safely ensconced in a cocoon.

The second layer is the primary fascia, which is minimalist. The air vents and secondary controls are positioned in individual islands, while the main instruments are grouped in two round gauges, surrounded by contrasting metal bezels. The choice of fascia finish is also significant - Volvo has eschewed the traditional leather look in favour of a new texture that conveys a sense of cutting-edge technical innovation.

The ultra-thin central instrument stack forms the uppermost layer. Boasting a prominent position in the centre of the car, it fulfils the role of a remote control unit in a contemporary home entertainment system. Constructing such a novel feature was no easy task: "It required considerable ingenuity and hard work to find a technical solution for this super-slim format," explains Burgoyne. But no-one will doubt that the hard work has paid dividends. The slim design creates a feeling of luxurious space and the effect is enhanced by 'theatre style' illumination, which discreetly draws the occupants' attention to the unit.

The centre stack has a Bauxite grey metallic finish in S models, aluminium in SE models, while SE LUX models have Nordic Light Oak Trim. R-Design Sport and R-Design SE Sport models have the unique R-Design Deco Aluminium finish.

Comfort and convenience

While the interior of the Volvo V50 Sportswagon places an emphasis on style, form has not been allowed to take precedence over function. The fascia ergonomics have been carefully designed and drivers will find that the controls are sensibly sited and within easy reach. The driver's seat is multi-adjustable and the steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach, ensuring that drivers of all shapes and sizes can get comfortable.

The orthopaedically designed seats benefit from a range of fabrics, including Boda textile for S models, Dalarö T-Tec for SE and Leather/T-Tec fitted to R-Design models. T-Tec is a material that has been specifically developed for Volvo and was inspired by sportswear and travel accessories. Hardwearing but comfortable, the leather T-Tec trim option features the R-Design logo highlighting the car's dynamic appeal. SE Lux benefits from Leather faced upholstery as standard.

Customers will also be delighted to discover an interior packed with clever solutions. The development of the ultra-thin technology, for example, enabled Volvo's designers to introduce a useful storage area behind the central stack, which can be accessed from both front seats.

There is also plenty of room for passengers. At 1770mm wide (without mirrors) and 1457mm tall, with a 2640mm wheelbase, the Volvo V50 offers excellent interior space. Five occupants can travel in comfort and they all benefit from a full three-point safety belt system and a head restraint.

The new Volvo V50 is self-consciously a Sportswagon: "The emphasis has been placed on attractive design and a sense of sportiness, with a 'bonus' in the form of practical details and extra luggage space," said Volvo Car's then President and CEO, Hans-Olov Olsson at the V50's world debut.

But the size of this 'bonus' should not be underestimated. The Volvo signature stacked tail lamps and near-vertical rear door create a wide aperture through which large, awkward items can be loaded.

At 4.52m in length, the Volvo V50 Sportswagon competes with the Audi A4 Avant (4.54m) and the BMW 3-series Touring (4.48m), and its luggage volume reflects this. With the rear seats in place, the Volvo offers 417 litres of space, compared with 442 litres for the Audi and the BMW's 435 litres. But with the rear seats folded flat, the Volvo V50 offers significantly more capacity than the Audi (1307 litres versus 1184 litres) and only a little less than the BMW (1345 litres).

The versatility of this space is enhanced by the split/fold rear seats, which fold to provide a completely flat load surface. The front passenger seat also folds forwards to allow 3m long items, such as a surfboard, to be carried.

Quality and Equipment

A passion for high quality lies at the heart of the Volvo brand's core values. It is inherent not only in the build quality that reflects the ruggedness, durability and reliability for which the marque is renowned, but also in the choice of trim materials.

From the exquisite, free-floating centre instrument stack to the discreet 'theatre lighting', the Volvo V50 exudes a feeling of quality and well-being. The switchgear has a solid, chunky feel, reminding occupants that they are enjoying a premium product. Plus, like other Volvos, the V50's interior is emissions-free as all interior trim materials conform to Oeko-Tex standards and are allergen-free (see Environment).

Customers in the premium sector don't compromise. They expect a high level of luxury equipment and the Volvo V50 does not disappoint, especially when compared with many other premium brand rivals. For example, every Volvo V50 includes an Electronic Climate Control with Volvo's Air Quality System (AQS), alloy wheels, key integrated remote locking and alarm, DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) as well as all the expected Volvo safety features - including SIPS (Side Impact Protection System), IC (Inflatable Curtain), and WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System).

Every Volvo V50 features Volvo's Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS). A car industry first, IDIS uses technology derived from fighter aircraft.

The IDIS function continuously analyses the driver's activity by monitoring steering wheel movements, the position of the accelerator pedal, the indicator function and so on. This information is then processed and each moment is assigned an activity level.

Under normal circumstances, the driver is able to receive phone calls, traffic information, text messages (not while driving) and system warning lights. But when the road conditions require full concentration - such as when they are braking or overtaking - all non-essential signals from the telephone and peripheral systems are withheld until the incident is past.

IDIS is pre-programmed to accommodate future information and communication systems. The more infotainment functions the car possesses, the greater the benefit of IDIS.

The sophisticated electronic networking that makes IDIS possible also allows owners to personalise their Volvo V50's security and audio settings. For example, the Volvo V50's central locking system can be programmed via the menu option on the centre stack to offer the following options:

Unlocking of doors - all doors or only the driver's door

Customers can pick from a vast range of optional extras, and some are conveniently grouped together to offer better value, such as the Winter, Family, and Communications packs:

Winter Pack: Heated front seats, headlamp cleaning system, luxury floor mats

Other practical accessories include ski, surfboard, towbars, or bicycle carriers. And it's even possible to specify a table for the rear centre armrest, which is great news for customers with young families. Each item is designed and built with the same attention to detail as the rest of the car and integrates beautifully into the overall package.

High-quality audio

Volvo employs its own audio development team, rather than relying on an outside supplier. This ensures the audio systems are tailored to suit the acoustic properties of each model.

The standard, high-quality Performance can be further upgraded with the optional High Performance and Volvo Dynaudio Premium Sound system.

The Dynaudio Premium Sound audio system features Dolby Pro Logic II Surround SoundTM with centre speaker and digital sound processor, 5x130w amplifier with a total music output of 650w, 1xCD and a total of 12 speakers, as well as MP3/WMA compatibility and an auxiliary jack input to enable customers to connect personal MP3 players. The result is extraordinary resolution and perfect sound dynamics. These components have been tuned to produce the best possible surround sound everywhere in the car. Even rear occupants are able to hear the sensation of surround sound over the entire music frequency range.

The Dolby Pro Logic II system produces five unique sound channels. Listening to surround sound from the Premium Sound audio system is like sitting in the best seat in front of a live orchestra - you feel you are actually there.

RTI with RDS-TMC

Satellite navigation systems are becoming increasingly popular. Volvo's RTI Navigation System includes RDS-TMC (Traffic Message Channel) which pre-warns of traffic problems and can re-route the driver, if necessary.

The RTI system uses a large, eye-level, remote-controlled colour screen that retracts into the fascia when not in use. It is linked to a hard disk system that can display route information for the whole of Europe, and can be controlled using a joystick-style switch on the back of the steering wheel or by passengers using a remote control.

For 2009 Model Year the RTI navigation system gained a refresh including a new driver interface, new colours and a more premium feel to the menu and symbols.

Volvo On Call

Volvo On Call is a valuable personal safety and security feature using advanced telematics. The system uses an integrated GSM telephone with a built-in GPS unit for satellite positioning, and ensures help is always close at hand.

Volvo On Call - safety package

Volvo On Call comes with a safety package. If an airbag or seat belt pre-tensioner is triggered in the event of an accident, Volvo On Call automatically calls the Emergency Services via BT999 and can also provide data of your location. Alternatively, pressing the red 'SOS' button on the integrated GSM telephone will put you straight through to the Emergency Services.

Also, if the car breaks down or you need help, pressing the Volvo On Call button will put you straight through to a Volvo On Call operator who is only a call away at any time of day to offer personal services such as route guidance or to guide roadside assistance to you.

Volvo On Call - security package

An optional Volvo On Call security package offers the added benefits of a remote door unlock facility if you lock the keys in the car, notification if the alarm is activated and vehicle tracking if the car is stolen.

In the future, there is great potential for Volvo On Call's services to expand; they could include automatically contacting your local dealer when a service is required.

Warranty

As you'd expect, the Volvo V50 Sportswagon is supported by a comprehensive warranty. The standard mechanical warranty is three years/60,000 miles (whichever comes first), plus there's a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty on the paintwork and 12 years' cover against rust perforation. In addition, all Volvos are covered by one year's free RAC cover, which provides full breakdown and recovery assistance, anywhere in Europe, 24 hours a day.

Volvo also offers competitive Volvo Owners insurance with tailored protection, while Volvo Car Finance can make a new Volvo V50 surprisingly affordable.

Safety

Volvo's commitment to safety is as old as the company itself. As Assar Gabrielsson, one of the founders of Volvo, declared: "Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is - and must remain - safety."

The engineers' safety target for the new Volvo V50 was as simple as it was challenging: to replicate the high level of safety offered by the much larger V70 estate and Volvo S80 saloon.

"This was a tough challenge and one that we approached in an entirely new way," says Thomas Broberg, Volvo Cars Safety Centre. In a compact bodyshell, the deformation must be absorbed in a much shorter distance than it is in a large car. The torsional rigidity of the Volvo V50 is 34 per cent greater than its predecessor, the Volvo V40, which improves its crashworthiness. However, to achieve the desired deformation characteristics, Volvo's engineers had to adopt a novel and ingenious approach to the design of the frontal structure.

The structure of the Volvo V50 Sportswagon has been divided into different zones and different grades of steel were employed in each area. The outer zones are responsible for most of the deformation, while those closest to the passenger compartment are designed to remain largely intact, protecting the occupants. The zonal system is one of Volvo's many patented safety designs.

Low-speed deformation zone - The front bumper incorporates a rigid crossmember of Boron steel (Ultra High-Strength Steel). This section takes the form of a 'crash box' which is capable of absorbing the forces of a low-speed collision without damaging the rest of the body structure. The crash boxes can then be replaced individually, reducing repair costs.

High-speed deformation zone - The straight sections of the side members are made of High-Strength Steel, which is extremely ductile and optimised for high energy absorption. The addition of upper side members provides significant protection should the vehicle collide with, for example, a truck. This zone accounts for most of the deformation in a collision.

Back-up zone - The section around the A-pillar acts as a barrier for the passenger compartment. Made of extra high-strength steel, this structure is extremely rigid and also helps to prevent the front wheels penetrating the cabin.

Three-way attachment - A rigid cross-member connects the A-pillars and the lower side members. On each side they form a rigid three-way attachment, which helps to maintain the integrity of the cabin in a severe crash.

The Volvo V50's high-tech transversely-mounted engines also make a valuable contribution to its crash performance. The five-cylinder units are 200mm slimmer than those found in the larger Volvo saloons and this helps liberate space between the engine and passenger compartment. In a collision, the engine can be pushed 150mm rearwards before the engine block makes contact with the cross-member near the bulkhead.

Many of the advanced interior systems from the Volvo S80 have been incorporated into the design of the Volvo V50. The steering column deforms by up to 140mm in a horizontal plane, so that the driver's airbag remains in the optimal position. In the event of a severe impact, the pedal assembly will also collapse to prevent injury to the driver's lower legs.

Impact protection

The two front airbags are 'intelligent' and deploy in two stages according to the severity of the accident, alleviating the risk of facial injuries caused by the occupants' faces impacting with the airbag. They are complemented by three-point safety belts with tensioners, which are fitted for all five occupants. The tensioners activate within a few thousandths of a second in the event of a collision and tighten the belt for maximum protection. The front seat safety belts then release a little so that the driver and passenger are cushioned by the airbags in a controlled manner. A seat belt reminder system is fitted in the front and rear of the car - an audible signal is activated if any of the occupants fail to buckle their seat belt.

The Volvo V50's side impact protection is no less impressive. The Volvo V50 is 54mm wider than its predecessor, the Volvo V40, which liberates extra space for deformation in the event of a collision. The dynamics of the SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) are shared with the larger Volvo S80. A large part of the force of a collision that would otherwise penetrate through the side of the car is dissipated by SIPS via beams, pillars, the floor, the roof and other parts of the car body.

The side impact airbags play an important role in protecting the chests of the occupants. They are fitted in the outer edge of the front seats, not in the door, which ensures that they're always securely positioned next to the occupant's side, whatever the position or angle of the seat. They are also larger than they were in the previous-generation Volvo V50 to provide more effective hip and chest protection.

Further protection is provided by the IC (Inflatable Curtain) airbag, which sits in the headlining and protects both front and rear occupants. In the event of a side impact, the Curtain inflates in a few thousandths of a second and then remains inflated for about three seconds in order to provide maximum protection throughout complex collision sequences.

WHIPS

All Volvo cars tested by the International Insurance Whiplash Prevention Group (IIWPG), which includes the UK's Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre in Thatcham, were placed in the 'best' class of their '2005 Dynamic Seat Assessments'. Volvo was the only manufacturer to achieve this result.

"We are very pleased that the Volvo seats have performed in line with our expectations," says Thomas Broberg, Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "Tests only show a part of what happens in real life. However, this is one of several results that confirm Volvo has the right approach to help reduce neck injuries in rear impacts."

Volvo introduced WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System) in the S80 saloon, and it is now fitted across the Volvo range and helps prevent neck and back injuries in a rear impact. In the event of an accident, the entire backrest moves rearwards to reduce the strain on the occupant's back and neck. Then, when their back has been safely restrained by the backrest, it inclines backwards in order to reduce the force that would otherwise throw their head forwards. WHIPS reduces acceleration forces on the neck by about a half.

The WHIPS front seats have been made deliberately robust so that they can withstand high loads from items such as unsecured luggage, but they are also capable of yielding in the event of a severe crash, when strength and flexibility are both required. "Our seats are far sturdier than those usually found in the compact segment," says Broberg.

Volvo's engineers have also made special provision for protecting the next generation. Both of the outer rear seats can be fitted with integrated child booster cushions for children above three years of age. The front passenger airbag can be disabled with a key and the front passenger seat is factory-prepared for fitting a rearward-facing child seat - it has special anchorage loops so that it can be attached using the seat belt.

Pedestrian safety

The Volvo V50 Sportswagon has been designed to minimise the risk of injury to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of an accident. The smoothly shaped front has an energy-absorbing structure ahead of the bumper which serves to reduce the risk of leg injuries.

The bonnet and front wings have also been designed to absorb collision energy and the petrol-engined models have a generous 70mm of free space between the top of the cylinder head and the bonnet, which reduces the risk of pedestrian head injuries.

Child safety

A passenger airbag cut off switch is available to enable a child seat to be carried in the front of the car, while, in the rear, Volvo has also paid special attention to child safety.

Two integrated booster cushions are available for the rear seats for children aged between 4 and 10 as part of the optional 'Family Pack', which also consists of the Power Child Locks and Passenger Airbag Cut Off Switch.

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