Vauxhall has long offered MPV passenger-carrying versions of its compact Combo van on the Continent. Now it brings that kind of package to the UK market in the form of this small but spacious People Carrier, the Combo Life.
Combo Life buyers choose between three engines. There's a 1.2-litre 110PS petrol unit. Or a 1.5-litre CDTi diesel, developing either 100 or 130PS. The units are combined with five and six-speed manual transmissions. In addition, in a segment first, a low-friction eight-speed automatic with Quickshift technology can be ordered in combination with the top-of-the-range 1.5-litre 130PS diesel. Under the skin, there's an independent Bi-link suspension system that can provide reasonably supple ride comfort, yet is firm enough to resist body roll and support heavy loads. It's a decent compromise.
Whichever variant you choose - standard or long - you'll find that the driving position pretty good, with the steeply raked windscreen and low bonnet combining to give great visibility. Couple that with big panoramic door mirrors and the result is a vehicle you can be confident about driving even the most congested city streets where the light steering facilitates a tight turning circle, 11.2m in the short wheelbase version and 12.5m for the long wheelbase model. As for refinement - usually a van-based MPV issue - well, the slightly clattery note at start-up settles down quite acceptably once you get up to speed. Ultimately, probably the biggest compliment you can really pay this Vauxhall is that at times, it's easy to forget you're driving a van-derived product.
The Combo Life is available in a 4.4-metre standard length version or a longer 4.75-metre long model, with two sliding rear doors as standard. Both variants have a height of 1.8 metres and are available with either five or seven seats. Style-wise, compared with other van-based MPVs in the segment, this one has a shorter front overhang and a higher bonnet, making it look more balanced. From the front, it displays a typical Vauxhall identity and the high bonnet features two crisp lines, which go from the windscreen down to the grille and emphasise the stability of the vehicle.
As with most van-based MPVs, you get plenty of boot space. The five-seat, standard length version has a minimum luggage volume of 597-litres, while the long wheelbase model has a minimum luggage volume of 850-litres. With the rear seats folded down, the boot volume of the standard version more than triples to 2,126-litres. The longer version of the Combo Life offers even more capacity when the rear seats are folded down with up to 2,693-litres available. For passengers, there are five and seven-seat variants. Either way, you get three individual rear seats, all with ISOFIX child seat brackets, and you can specify an optional panoramic glass roof.
Vauxhall builds more vans in Britain than anyone else, so why can't one of them be diverted towards the passenger market? It's taken some time for the brand to come around to that conclusion, but the Combo Life shows that when done well - as here - this kind of van-based MPV can be quite appealing.
This one is more sophisticated than you might expect, yet it's as big - for people and for packages - as you'd expect an LCV-derived People Carrier to be. In short, it does enough to be spotted by the people who count. People who'll find this Vauxhall difficult to ignore in their search for a compact MPV unafflicted by style pretention or attempts at badge equity. Job done.Click here to find out more about our Vauxhall Combo Life range