Volvo calls the V50 sportswagon "a perfect car for people who want a youthful, cool look", but the company's designers may have interpreted the marque's obsession with safety too literally.

Volvo calls the V50 sportswagon a perfect car for people who want "a youthful, cool look", but the company's designers may have interpreted the marque's obsession with safety too literally. reported last month that the V50 would break cover in December and take on rivals such as the Alfa 156 Sportwagon and Audi A4 Avant. Unlike the model line up of the previous V40/S40 range, the V50 is a separate car built on the all new Ford Focus platform, which will also form the basis of an SUV version of the V50, the XC50.

The exterior of the Volvo V50 combines rounded roof lines and an abrupt tail with a softly rounded nose, short bonnet and the marked cab-forward design. The track and wheelbase have been extended (the V50 is 46 mm longer than the new S40) to increase luggage space. But c an the looks of this Volvo lure prospective V50 buyers away from other premium brands?

Inside, the model has been fitted with the so-called "floating dashboard" that links the tunnel console with the instrument panel. The integrated centre stack can be specified with different decor panels.

The V50 has class-leading levels of protective and preventive safety systems, which, some might argue, more than make up for the 'wagon's looks. The frontal body structure of the V50 is divided into several zones, each made of different grades of steel, to aid the deformation process in the event of a smash. The closer the collision forces get to the passenger compartment, the less the materials used deform.

In a collision, the engine can be pushed 150 mm rearwards before being stopped by the cross-member near the bulkhead. The new Volvo V50 also shares the same type of interior safety system as that found on the larger Volvo models, including Whips (whiplash protection system), Sips (side impact protection system) with side-impact airbags and inflatable curtains.

Volvo also designed the V50 with pedestrians' safety in mind. The curves and panels of the car's front end are shaped to help reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a collision. An energy-absorbing structure ahead of the bumper helps reduce the risk of leg injuries, Volvo claims , and the bonnet and front wings were "designed to absorb collision energy" and reduce the risk of head injuries.

The bodyshell of the V50 is 34 per cent stiffer than that of its predecessor, the V40. The suspension consists of spring struts at the front and a multilink system at the rear. The rear suspension provides a certain degree of passive steering to counteract any tendency to skid, the manufacturer claims.

Depending on the market, the new Volvo V50 comes as standard - or can be specified with STC (stability and traction control), DSTC (dynamic stability and traction control), ABS with EBD (electronic brake-force distribution) and EBA (emergency brake assistance) and Keyless Drive locking system.

In addition, the intelligent driver information system (IDIS) apparently helps the driver to avoid being distracted while driving. In demanding situations, such as overtaking or braking, "signals from the integrated GSM telephone and peripheral information are delayed until the situation is calmer".

The new five-cylinder, in-line engines have a displacement of 2,4- and 2,5-litres respectively. The normally-aspirated engines are mated to a new generation of Volvo's five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox with an adaptive gear-changing pattern.

The most powerful engine, the T5, offers a maximum of 162 kW and 320 N.m of torque, but there is also an entirely-new 100 kW four-cylinder diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Original article from Car