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Vauxhall Combo Life review 2020

The Combo Life is Vauxhall’s spacious van-based MPV – offering affordable pricing and seating for up to seven.

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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Very spacious
  • Great value
  • Plenty of standard safety kit

Cons

  • Uninspiring styling
  • Not very fun to drive
  • Low rent interior
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

The Vauxhall Combo has been a part of Vauxhall’s range since the 1980s – existing as the brand’s standalone van (a smaller Corsa-based van has also been available).

But it wasn’t until the 2000s that Vauxhall decided to add a more MPV-like version – the Combo Tour. This remained on sale until 2011, when it was replaced by an all-new version, which shared plenty in common with the Fiat Doblo. Oddly, no MPV derivative came on this model, despite Fiat doing well with its consumer-ready Doblo.

With plenty of manufacturers launching these van-derived MPVs though in recent years, Vauxhall has decided to once again enter the market with its new Combo Life.

Current model

With Vauxhall now being owned by the PSA Group (who owns Peugeot and Citroen), the firm cut its ties with Fiat on this model. Instead, the new version utilises the same platform and underpinnings that you would find on the Peugeot Rifter and Citroen Berlingo, which is certainly a good base to have.

Arriving on sale at the end of 2018, the Combo Life is a spacious and exceptionally versatile adaption of the Combo van (which, oddly, followed later). Available as either a five- or seven-seater, this model comes impressively well-equipped. Vauxhall has brimmed the Combo with tech and gadgets not typically found on a model like this, with highlights including a head-up display, a heated steering wheel and adaptive cruise control.

It’s also available in two sizes – the regular model and the XL, with the latter adding 35cm to the overall length. That said, you can choose either version with the option of five or seven seats.

Value for money

Prices for the Vauxhall Combo Life start from £21,755, which is similar to its Peugeot Rifter stablemate, if £500 more expensive than the Citroen Berlingo. It still makes it good value for money, though. An option to have seven seats is unfortunately not available on the base trim level, so you’ll have to choose the mid-spec Energy grade for that, with prices starting from £23,155.

It’s an additional £500 to have seven seats – money we think is worth spending, even if you’re only going to use them every now again. XL models cost £24,180, and it’s £600 extra for the seven-seat version on these. However, you can have a more stylish dedicated MPV for not a lot more money – the Renault Grand Scenic (costing from £24,575) being a good example.

But the best place to look is on the used market, with the Combo Life available with some massive discounts for a nearly-new model. We saw a one-year-old version with 10,000 miles on the clock for just £12,000, albeit in entry-level trim. Expect to pay another £1,000 for mid-spec Energy models.

Looks and image

As with all MPVs that started out in life as a van, it’s safe to say the Combo Life isn’t a model you’ll be buying for the way it looks. It is all about being spacious and useful, which is why you won’t find any swoopy and stylish designs, but instead a very boxy shape. It’s much the same as any model in this class, though we’d argue that its sister products – the Peugeot Rifter and Citroen Berlingo – are both more stylish thanks to their personalisation possibilities.

Vauxhall is quick to point out that that the Combo Life isn’t just a modified van, but that it was designed to be a ‘car’ from the offset. It shares its underpinnings with models such as the Vauxhall Grandland X, which helps it to feel more composed than rivals. Its soft suspension actually does a great job of making this model feel comfortable, too.

Elsewhere though, it still feels like a van behind the wheel and not as composed as true MPV rivals. It tends to lean through corners when hurried, though drive it more sedately and it does a reasonable job of keeping things together.

Space and practicality

Where models like this have to excel is on the spaciousness front, and the Combo Life certainly doesn’t disappoint. Whether you opt for the regular model or the longer XL cabin, you’re treated to an incredibly useful and practical cabin.

As mentioned earlier, the seven seat models are more versatile, and even if you don’t intend to use the third row very often – they’re useful to have and store out of the way when needed. Regular Combo Life versions have 597 litres of boot space past the rear seats, though this increases to 850 litres with the rear seats folded. The XL models also have individually folding seats, whereas regular models have a 60:40 split instead. If you’re regularly going to carry seven, the XL model is worth choosing, but for most, the regular Combo Life will be more than roomy enough. The only downside is that it lacks the versatility of some rivals – overhead storage being optional, rather than fitted as standard, for instance.

  

Engines

Four engines are available with the Combo Life, with the range starting with a 99bhp 1.5-litre diesel unit mated to a five-speed manual transmission. This engine is also available with a 128bhp output, which comes with a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic as an option. With the manual, it’s the quickest engine in the line-up – accelerating from 0-60mph in 10.4 seconds and reaching a top speed of 115mph.

On the petrol front, a single 1.2-litre petrol engine is available. You can have it with either 108bhp or 128bhp, with the former just coming with a six-speed manual transmission, and an eight-speed auto is available on the latter.

 

Running costs

Regardless of which engine you for with the Combo Life, neither should be particular inefficient. For the lowest running costs, though, the diesels are the best options – particularly the 99bhp 1.5-litre diesel. With this, Vauxhall claims it would return up to 52.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 142g/km. The petrol options can still return more than 40mpg, though, which is decent for slab-sided models in this class.                                                                     

Things to look out for

The Vauxhall Combo Life is still a new model, and even the earliest examples will be under manufacturer warranty until the middle of 2021.

Given it now utilises engines and tech widely used across the PSA Group – including a whole host of Peugeot and Citroen cars and vans – there should be little to worry about.

  

Rivals

While not an especially desirable class, it’s a rather popular one, with there being no shortage of options available.

Two of the closest rivals are its sibling products – the Peugeot Rifter and Citroen Berlingo, though other models that should be on your shortlist include the Ford Tourneo Connect and Volkswagen Caddy Life.

  

Depreciation

Models in this class are not especially desirable, and it means there are some vast savings available on Combo Life models – especially nearly-new examples. With up to £10,000 savings on list price on examples that are just a year old, we’d highly advise browsing pre-registered models to take advantage of those big savings next to brand new models.

Trims Explained

Three trim levels are offered on the Combo Life – Design, Energy and Elite. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.

'Design'

Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, DAB radio, air conditioning and electrically adjustable and heated front mirrors. It also comes laden with standard safety kit, with all Combo Life models coming with autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and automatic lights. Cruise control and keyless entry and start is also offered.

Priced from £21,755

'Energy'

Upgrade to the Energy if you want to be able to have seven seats (this being a £500 extra), along with if you want a touchscreen – an eight-inch unit being fitted to this model. It also gains front and rear parking sensors, front fog lights, automatic wipers and body-coloured trim.

Priced from £23,280

'Elite'

It’s quite a step up to the top-spec Elite models, and they’re not cheap, however it gains a whole host of additional kit. Features include satellite navigation, wireless charging, a reversing camera and heated front seats. It also comes with climate control, larger 17-inch alloy wheels and blind spot monitoring.

Priced from £28,130

Summary

  1. Available in two lengths – regular and XL (35cm longer)
  2. Can be had with five or seven seats
  3. Loads of standard safety kit
  4. Impressively spacious
  5. Lacklustre design
  6. Huge savings on nearly-new models
  7. Utilises engines widely used in Peugeot and Citroen models
  8. Not particularly good to drive
  9. Top-spec models are expensive
  10. Very useful and spacious MPV, it’s just not very desirable

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