Volvo get Mayor to change his mind but what’s their car like?

Volvo has been successful in its challenge to The Mayor of London to review the current Congestion Charge alternative fuel exemption that, which Volvo believes, gives an unfair advantage to hybrid cars over other low-emitting vehicles. In his response to the campaign, The Mayor confirmed that the exemption to the Congestion Charge was introduced to incentivise the take-up of more environmentally-friendly vehicles but that he recognised that vehicle technology has developed considerably since then. Transport for London will report their recommendations by the end of the year.

So congratulations to Volvo are in order as, hopefully, they will be successful in changing the legislation which is no mean feat. When we reported on their initial challenge to the mayor back at the beginning of July we asked around the offices of MTI to see if anyone had actually driven a Volvo with the new “DRIVe” system and, at the time no one had. Luckily for us –and maybe you – “Serman” subsequently went out, got his hands on A Volvo V50 DRIVe Stop/Start and has given us his findings.

What is it?

This is one of Volvo’s new line-up of eco-friendly cars, aptly named ‘DRIVe’. Specifically designed as a low emission alternative, the V50 is the latest Swedish model to get the economical treatment. If 104g/km of CO2 and 75mpg floats your green coloured boat then read on and if that’s not enough to tempt you it now comes with “Stop/Start” technology.

What’s it like to drive?

If you’re looking for a bit of punch for your money then you’ll certainly feel a bit short changed. The DRIVe models are all about economy. The only engine option is Volvo’s 1.6-litre turbo diesel which is underlined by its 0-62 mph time of 10.9 seconds (no wonder ‘performance’ isn’t mentioned in the brochure). However, saying that, it does feel relatively peppy and can run under its own steam around town quite nicely but get on the dual carriageway or motorway and you’ll probably be flashed to get out the way as you struggle to overtake slower cars, especially uphill which just shouldn’t be the case with modern engines.

The limited engine doesn’t match the spaced gearing (for better economy) either and you always find that you want a quicker response through the gears. On the flip side the V50’s steering feels light and its small package is easy to navigate and park. The suspension is also tuned to minimise load pressures and has been lowered in the process. Despite feeling slightly sportier in a straight line it still has a tendency to be soft and floaty when cornering. Even normal driving around country lanes will get you gripping the wheel for extra support as the suspension leans way too much and the body control is appalling. Also, beware if you’re average in height as the seat comfort is dreadful and it won’t adjust into a decent position whilst the A-pillar is way too low meaning you’ll bang your head every time you get in and out, and as a result, the cabin feels closed in and small.

The one impressive factor is the Stop/Start technology. This clever piece of engineering cuts the engine whilst you’re stationary in traffic then as you dip the clutch, the engine restarts seamlessly and you pull away normally. This process cuts fuel consumption and CO2 emissions considerably. If only every new car had this feature.

Should I spend my money and buy one?

OK, here’s the catch. If you want to be green you’ll have to pay for it. This V50 Stop/Start DRIVe SE spec will set you back £20,345 on the road. It seems every “green” car on sale in the UK is just, well, over priced and the V50 is no exception. Sure you’re getting exceptional economy but with a disappointing engine and an awful ride, you really have to sacrifice your pocket just to make a small contribution to the environment. The best advice is to buy a better, higher capacity diesel used estate and save yourself thousands in the process. Thanks to the economy at the moment there’s plenty to choose from.

The V50 DRIVe is another overpriced, and disappointing green alternative.

There you have it. You probably didn’t hear that here first.

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