Downside: The fellow who checked my oil at a New Jersey Turnpike service station. Dude, you did not tighten the oil filler cap. Caused some smoke. No damage.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories, with and without luggage. Braking was excellent (ventilated front discs/solid rear discs with standard four-wheel anti-lock system).

Head-turning quotient: Got favorable nods everywhere, even in hard-to-impress New York City.

Body/style: The V50 T5 is a front-engine wagon with four side doors and a rear hatch. It is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The V50 also is available as a base 168-horsepower V50 2.4i.

Engine/transmission: The V50 T5 wagon is equipped with a turbocharged 20-valve, 2.5-liter, inline five-cylinder engine that develops 218 horsepower at 5,000 revolutions per minute and 236 foot-pounds of torque at 1,500 revolutions per minute. The engine is linked to a standard six-speed manual transmission. An optional five-speed automatic, which can also be operated manually, is available.

Capacities: The V50 T5 has seating for five people. Maximum cargo capacity is 46.2 cubic feet. Maximum towing capacity is 2,000 pounds. Fuel capacity is 15.9 gallons of gasoline. Premium unleaded is required.

Mileage: I averaged 26 miles per gallon in combined highway and city driving.

Safety: Loaded! Anti-lock brakes, side air bags, head air bags, traction control and Volvo Intelligent Vehicle Architecture (VIVA uses different grades of steel to absorb crash forces at strategic points) are all standard. Electronic vehicle stability control is available as an option.

Price: Base price on the tested V50 T5 front-wheel-drive wagon is $27,260. Price as tested is $30,690, including $2,745 in options and a $685 destination charge. Dealer's invoice price on base model is $25,660. Dealer's invoice with selected options and destination charge is $28,880. Please note that car prices are seldom firm, or consistent from dealer to dealer. Prices derived from Volvo marketing and

Purse-strings note: Compare with any premium compact wagon. It's a buy.