Vauxhall living life to the full with new Combo people-carrier!
Vauxhall has moved into the van-derived people-carrier market with its new Combo Life - it's not pretty but it's certainly spacious and practical, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
I accepted being dubbed ‘Postman Pat’ in the ruby red Vauxhall people-carrier – I’ve heard it all before… and worse! But Vauxhall’s new Combo Life – passenger version of the van – is more of a red-letter day for the brand.
Now, as part of the French PSA Group, it’s the first time the Combo van has spawned a lifestyle multi-purpose vehicle. Sitting alongside the Citroen Berlingo Multispace and Peugeot Rifter, it benefits from those manufacturers’ pedigree for good van-derived people-carriers.
Looks and image
There’s no mistaking its van roots – tall, long and slabby, as shapely as a brick. But, for maximising space and practicality for families and active outdoorsy types, square is anything but… square is good.
Two versions are available – standard and longer XL – and both are available with five or seven seats, the latter arriving early next year.
Under the bonnet
Engines are also shared with its French siblings – nothing wrong with that given they are 110PS 1.2-litre turbo petro – a 130PS version arrives next year – and 100 and 130PS 1.5-litre turbo diesels, the latter also in eight-speed automatic guise.
The lower-powered diesel has to be worked, even with a light load, so overtaking needs careful planning and stirring the five-speed gearbox which contributed to the 50mpg overall. That said, it cruises happily once up to speed.
Space and comfort
The great thing about van-derived passenger vehicles is generous space and even the standard five-seat version has vast legroom, huge headroom and a totally flat floor. Three large adults easily fit in the individual rear seats but they do not slide as in many conventional people-carriers.
That space is not at the expense of load-lugging with the standard five-seater’s 597-litre boot deep, flat-sided and with a very low sill so easy to load but you need lots of room behind to raise that huge tailgate.
Sliding rear side doors give good passenger access, especially in tight spaces, but only have hinged pop-out windows.
Fold the 60/40 split rear seat backs – 35/30/35 on seven-seater models – and you really have a small van with 2,126 litres for cargo but the painted backs could get scratched without protection and are slightly raised. Long-wheelbase XL offers 850 litres, with the extra two rear seats removed, and a maximum of 2,693 litres.
How it drives
The ride is geared for comfort so does a good job of cushioning occupants from bumps and lumps but progress is a mite wallowy travelling light on undulating roads.
It doesn’t do the handling any favours either, not helped by the tall body, with more roll into corners than car-like people-carriers but it not alarming and more planted when loaded.
At the wheel
The raised, upright driving position is more van than car-like but, with deep screens and side windows, means good all-round visibility and Energy trim – there’s also entry Design – gets parking sensors and rear camera.
The fascia is simple with clear dials and gauges – you can add a driver information head-up display for £355 – and Energy’s high touchscreen but small heating and ventilation buttons are fiddly. The gear lever, extending from the centre console, next to the steering wheel falls readily to hand while a drinks-holder on top of the fascia may be workmanlike but very handy! Its utilitarian roots are evident with swathes of unappealing, hard, plastic but it’s durable and easy to clean.
Good storage includes a big cubbyhole and lidded box on the passenger side and shelf above the sun visors.
More about space than style, practicality than panache, the Combo Life is a roomy, family-friendly, versatile workhorse. If your transport is more about lifestyle than looks, its appeal is equally huge.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Vauxhall Combo Life Energy 1.5 Turbo D 100PS £21,540 (range from £19,610)
Engine: 1,499cc, 100PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel with five-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-60mph 12.7 seconds; top speed 107mph
MPG: Urban 62.8; extra urban 70.6; combined 67.3
CO2 emissions: 111g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 26pc
Insurance group: 8E to 9E (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,403mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,107mm; H 1,841mm