Volvo recently revealed the XC40, the first vehicle in its forthcoming 40-series lineup. The 40-Series cars will be based on a new Compact Modular Architecture that will underpin all of the brand’s forthcoming C-segment models and be shared with Geely’s new premium upstart brand Lynk&Co. Niels van Roij revisits one of the original 40-series sportswagons, the Volvo V50.
Introduced at the 2003 Bologna motor show the V50 was the station wagon version of the Volvo S40. The polarizing C30 three-door hatch and C70 convertible belonged to the same family, all sharing the Ford C1 Focus platform.
These cars were a fantastically relevant take on the Volvo brand DNA; their surfacing was strong and their down-the-road graphic confident – but not brash. The bigger V70 and S80 of the era didn’t come close to their smaller siblings with regards to exterior design finesse in proportion, volumes, graphics and surfacing.
The interior boasts the unique floating center stack and wide door panels, all designed with a consistent and pure design language, linking exterior to interior.
This compact series of Volvos was clean, pure and confident, without being aggressive as many of their contemporary competitors. Which manufacturer, for instance, dares to make a hood surface without any go-fast lines or sculpture?
The voluminous five-spoke wheels on this model are a link to the T-5R 850’s — a great complement to the car’s body. A visually short wheelbase and vertical doors (referencing the iconic Volvo 200 series) vertical chrome or egg-crate grille up front (depending on trim level and market) and a more dynamic take on the typical Volvo vertical taillights were all relevant choices and well-interpreted elements of important Volvos of the past.
As a sculpture, the C30, S40 and V50 are consistent and well defined throughout; a proper link to heritage, all while being utterly modern. These compact cars were designed by fellow Dutchman Fedde Talsma (under then Volvo Cars’ design director Henrik Otto).
“The V50 is the result of a consistent design strategy, in which the authentic Volvo character has been developed for each new model,” Otto said in 2005 Volvo press release. “Our new sportswagon is indisputably a genuine Volvo but, at the same time, it has its own, totally individual and distinct profile — with characteristics from classics like the Volvo 1800 ES, Volvo 480 and its most recent predecessor, the V40.”
The facelift of the series introduced interesting new color and trim options for both interior and exterior, with blond woods, fresh leather and interesting cloth options. Unfortunately it also completely ruined the Scandinavian DNA of the exterior design, introducing an almost childishly aggressive front fascia to the C30, poorly executed surfacing front and back on all models and losing most of the rich volume in the nose for V50 and S40.
Despite the fact that modern Volvos are devoid of the bold shoulder present on the C30, S40 and V50, and the V90 has an even faster raked D-pillar compared to the then very dynamic looking V50 D-pillar, they are great looking cars. The new models consistently sell well in every major market, boosting the image of the brand and moving the company into the premium territory it never before occupied.
It is good to see Volvo is back on track with regards to their Scandinavian design promise and the XC40 proves the brand feels confident, comfortable and is full of new ideas on how to take that into the future.