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The Volvo V50 Is an Amazingly Cheap and Fun SUV Alternative

Nothing gets car enthusiasts riled up like a good “SUV versus wagon” debate — yet there’s one 5-door that has long flown under the radar: the Volvo V50. This little Euro-style wagon is a smart and versatile alternative to small crossovers and SUVs, and it’s a bargain at around $10,000 for a really nice example. Not many people bought the Volvo V50 when it was new — Volvo sold just 5,685 in the U.S. in 2005, and that was by far the wagon’s best year. However, they’re surprisingly common on the used market, and given that 20% of the ones currently on Autotrader have more than 150,000 miles showing, they must hold up reasonably well, too.

The V50 arrived for 2004 and was largely unchanged through 2012, when it was dropped and not replaced by anything in the U.S. market. The V50 shared was identical from the front seat forward to the S40 sedan, and as Volvo was owned by Ford at the time, the 2019 Lincoln MKC is a not-too-distant relative. The V50 was small by American standards, but it has a cargo area that’s effectively as spacious as that in the new Mazda CX-5. With the second row upright, the V50 swallows about 28 cu ft. of goods. Flop the split-folding second row forward (there’s even a ski pass-through!) and that figure swells to more than 62 cubes.

V50 manual transmission

The V50’s interior boasted a “floating” center stack, which admittedly looks as dated as a Vertu phone up against even the cheapest phone AT&T will pay new subscribers to haul out of a store. Still, even base V50s lacked for little. Look closely and they’re easy enough to find with soft leather trim, heated, power-adjustable and memory front seats, and a power sunroof.

Volvo sold the V50 in a remarkable number of configurations in the U.S. Skip the base 168-horsepower inline five in favor of the 227-hp turbo five in the V50 T5. Depending on the model year, Volvo offered both engines with Sun Belt-friendly front-wheel drive (FWD) or snow-ready all-wheel drive (AWD), and both manual and automatic transmissions were available.

Oh, and enthusiasts? Volvo’s Polestar division still offers a dealer-installed chip that upgrades the V50 T5 AWD to 250 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It’s only available for the manual transmission, but what enthusiast would settle for an automatic?

Enthusiast publications have long crowned the CX-5 as the sporty choice among SUVs. Maybe they forgot about the V50. Find a Volvo V50 for sale

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  1. Great car!! My Dad gave me a 2005 T5 automatic that he owned for close to a decade for my 16th birthday. Even with close to 260k miles on it, it can still pull it’s weight and provides a fun and unique driving experience compared to the cars my friends own in a similar price point.

  2. I owned one of these for a good spell.  It was even the enthusiast spec: T5, AWD, manual!  I put about 40k miles on it starting around 110k and it wasn’t too bad to own.  For anyone curious, I did an ownership report on it prior to my time here at Oversteer – which can be found here:

  3. Some more info on the Polestar Upgrade:

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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