Steep hills and headwinds are no problem in the Volvo V50. With a brawny 258lb/ft of torque to call upon in a relatively light car, the Volvo flew from 30-60mph in just 11.4 seconds: a full 11 seconds quicker than the Seat Altea XL. That same muscle made short work of the hill start, too. The handbrake held with ease; after a brief spin of the front wheels, the Volvo shot up the hill.
Stability at the legal limit was impressive, and the V50 sailed calmly through the lane-change manoeuvre. The firm suspension prevents any pitching or wallowing, but passengers will feel each bump in the road as a sharp thump. It’s a shame such stability hasn’t been combined with a more supple ride.
You expect an estate car to be practical, but our test team could only fit half our holiday luggage in the boot; many estates can comfortably beat the Volvo’s 417 litres of space with the rear seats in place. Further marks were lost for having an aerosol in place of a spare wheel. And £23,000 is a lot to pay for a relatively small estate car.