An all-new model in 2005, the Volvo V50 wagon receives only minor updates for 2006. The T5 AWD model receives Instant Traction, which allows faster torque distribution when required. T5 models with a six-speed manual transmission also receive a “push-down” function to engage reverse gear. A new Sport Styling Package is available for the T5, including rear spoiler, skirt kit, sport steering wheel and shifter knob with aluminum inlays, leather shift boot and unique floor mats. All models receive improved cupholders and new software logic for the rear seatbelt reminder.

The V50 is the wagon version of the S40 sedan; it’s built on a global platform also used by the Mazda3 and the European Ford Focus. It’s available as the 2.4i, with 2.4-litre, naturally-aspirated inline five-cylinder engine, or as the T5 with 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo. The T5 AWD uses a Haldex electronically-controlled system that delivers most of its power to the front wheels, until it detects slippage, whereupon it sends torque to the rear wheels. The Instant Traction includes a non-return valve to prevent system drainage, and a “pre-charge” to the system when accelerating from a standstill, to make engagement faster than on the previous system. The 2.4i uses a five-speed manual gearbox, while the T5 uses a close-ratio six-speed; both can be optioned up to a five-speed automatic with Geartronic manual mode.

The 2.4i includes 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors with puddle lights, rear fog light, 60/40 folding rear seat, cruise control, manual climate control, power windows with auto up/down on all four, tilt and telescopic wheel, and CD player with six speakers.

The T5 adds stability and traction control, 16-alloy wheels, colour-coordinated door mouldings, power sunroof, front fog lights, height-adjustable folding passenger seat, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, dual-zone electronic climate control, high-performance sound system with eight speakers, and trip computer. The T5 AWD adds traction control and dynamic chassis.

The V50 is a good-looking vehicle, with quality materials and workmanship. Its most noticeable interior feature is a “floating” console that’s more form over function; it look great, but it contains no small-item cubbies, and the storage space behind it is small and difficult to access. Its controls are small, and require a bit of a learning curve.

Volvo calls the V50 a “sport wagon” and they’re right; it handles more like a sport sedan, with sharp and responsive steering. But large-shoe buyers beware: the pedals are small and close together, and in manual mode, you may find there’s no room beside the clutch to put your left foot between shifts.

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