Tested: Vauxhall Combo Life 1.5TD Energy – 7/10

Mike Humble

“Don’t let its LCV underpinnings and plain Jane looks turn you off. The Combo Life is a cavernous, practical and likeable vehicle with a general ride comfort that’s bordering on limousine standards”

combo life front
The new Combo Life 1.5TD BlueInjection

I’ll confess, when the pictures first came through, I wasn’t impressed. The all new Vauxhall Combo Life in 2D doesn’t do itself any justice, although I did agree with the panel haunches over the wheel arches. Its clearly a van platform unlike the outgoing Zafira that was very much car based. This new MPV is the latest fruits from the orchard that is Groupe PSA following in the path made by the Crossland and Grandland X models. But to say it being van based isn’t really a bad thing, especially when the vehicle its based on just happens to be the 2018 European Van of The Year.

Combo Life ultimately comes in two models, a five or seven seater. The model I tested was the 130PS BlueInjection five seater in Energy trim level which tips the scales at £23,185 on the road. There’s also a 110ps turbo petrol 1.2 and a brace of 1.5 diesels – the other power option being 100ps. The transmission is a 6 speed manual with its selector lever mounted on the dashboard to free up space around the floor. I did notice the test vehicle having a slightly cumbersome change action, but I would expect this to loosen up as the mileage increases and the tightness of newness eases.

Ergonomically speaking there’s little to complain about with the Combo. Most of the switches, knobs and twiddly bits fall to the hand easily enough and the traditional dials are clear to see. Plenty of storage for odds n sods are to be found around the cabin including a full width shelf just above the windscreen and deep door pockets on the doors. Despite the equipment list, the Combo Life does feel a bit spartan and utilitarian partly thanks to acres of unpadded trim on the dashboard. All isn’t lost however, the seat comfort is pretty good and long distance driving didn’t seem a chore or an aching experience despite a lack of lumbar support.

combo life dash
Good ergonomics and build quality but acres of hard unpadded plastic that reminds you of its commercial underpinnings. Very effective air conditioning but those facia vents are awkward and fiddly to operate.

 

Refinement is fairly good so long as you aren’t wringing the neck of the 1.5 PSA sourced diesel. My only gripe is the noticeable interior wind noise from the roof area caused by the wireless aerial. Motorway speed driving despite the aforementioned is quiet enough to hold debate with a passenger or play along to pop master. Staying on the subject of cruising, I was amazed at just how good the ride comfort is. I have driven one or two prestige luxury cars with more suspension intrusion – I kid you not. But its cruising and racking up the miles where this car excels – its not sports car in the bends.

“if sports car handling and a G force adrenalin rush is what you yearn for then sell the wife and kids on Gumtree and buy a Caterham, sporting the Combo Life is not. “

Not that that this makes any difference of course. The handling is predictable and safe but the steering is light and lifeless with body roll coming into the equation when you press on harder. But the $64,000 question is who is going to drive a lofty five or seven seat MPV like a complete loon on a switchback road? Exactly… if sports car handling and a G force adrenalin rush is what you yearn for then sell the wife and kids on Gumtree and buy a Caterham, sporting the Combo Life is not.  For running around town or traveling County to County, the Combo Life proved to be an almost perfect partner.

combo life int
Roomy, quiet and a ride comfort quality that almost left me speechless. Oh yes… this thing rides better than some prestige branded vehicles costing twice as much!

Performance is swift and instant providing you keep the revs above 1500rpm. Allow the engine to slow down too much and the torque just disappears. The maker claims 300Nm of torque from 1750rpm, keep the engine spinning at this or higher and the quickest prod of the throttle rewards you with a swift response. Mid range grunt & go is more than adequate and its motorway cruising gait is aided by it revving at well under 2000rpm at an indicated 70mph. Passengers remarked about the comfort, space and ease of entry / exit thanks to the sliding passenger doors.

“Mid range grunt & go is more than adequate and its motorway cruising gait is aided by it revving at well under 2000rpm at an indicated 70mph”

The compact rear suspension makes for a loading sill height which is incredibly low – almost too low in fact. Cargo space is quoted as being 597 litres up to the glass line behind the seats. Fold them down and you have what basically what the car is based on – a van. Overall, the Combo Life is one of those vehicles you have to experience to fully understand. Don’t let its LCV underpinnings and plain Jane looks turn you off. The Combo Life is a cavernous, practical and likeable vehicle with a general ride comfort that’s bordering on limousine standards.

AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 7/10

The Humble Opinion:

Okay, so its van based but the refinement, comfort and equipment more than makes up for that. 

The interior space is cavernous and the equipment is generous too. Its not bad to drive either, and as I have mentioned, the ride comfort is bloody impressive.

All it needs is a little more seat bolster support and a more car like texture to some of the interior trim to make it feel more passenger friendly.

All in all though, try before you decide. Its genuinely rather pleasant to drive and be driven in.

Model Tested: Vauxhall Combo Life 5 seat 1.5 Energy

Price: £23,185 excluding options on the road

Power Unit: 1499cc 16v Euro6 Turbo Diesel

Driveline: FWD 6 speed with terrain selection feature

Power / Torque: 130Ps & 300Nm

Performance: *0-60 in 10.6 seconds with 115mph maximum speed

Fuel Economy: *65.7mpg (58.2mpg recorded on test)

Co2: 113G/km

*= Manufacturers or Government claimed data

WHAT’S GREAT:

  • Drives so much better than it looks
  • Superb ride comfort
  • Soaks up the miles with zero effort
  • Feels solid and built to go the distance
  • Good performance
  • Cavernous and practical interior
  • Motorway refinement

WHAT GRATES:

  • It’s unmistakably based on a small van 
  • Questionable looks
  • Lifeless steering
  • Fiddly heater vents
  • Front seat bolster support is lacking
  • Torque drops off alarmingly quick below 1500rpm
  • Too much rock hard interior trim

To find out more just CLICK HERE

3 comments

  1. Thanks for the review Mike, we have just tested one of these and agree on your view of the ride comfort. It is very good.

    Though it’s a shame we found our local dealer pushy and too keen to make us sign on the line there and then.

    Can you recommend a friendly dealer to us please?

    Kent / Home Counties

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