Okay, so it’s not a van, but as an LCV-derived MPV the Vauxhall Combo Life is the prelude to the Combo panel van that What Van? will soon be reviewing, and which hits showrooms in December 2018.
Given that both the van and car are essentially the same vehicle, to get a taste of what the load-carrying version will be like to live with Vauxhall loaned us one for a weekend family trip to Alton Towers and an overnight stay at the Hilton at George’s Park, Staffordshire, the home of England’s national football teams.
We drove the standard-length five-seater model that measures 4.4m, although there’s also a 4.75m Combo XL (that provides a seven-seater option too).
Both have a height of 1.8m. There are two diesel engines – a 1.5-litre turbodiesel with outputs 100hp or 130hp, both of which are Euro6.2-compliant – and an 110hp 1.2-litre petrol engine. Our test vehicle came with the lower-powered diesel with a 0-60mph time of 12.7 seconds and a top speed of 107mph.
CO2 emissions are quoted as 111g/km with an official combined fuel economy of 67.3mpg. Five- or six-speed manual transmissions are available. In addition, there’s an eight-speed automatic that can be ordered with the 130hp 1.5-litre diesel.
All-round external visibility from the driver’s seat is particularly impressive, which is helped by the large windscreen. But inside the aesthetics aren’t helped by the chunky-looking eight-inch touch-screen, which looks obtrusive because it isn’t integrated into the dash; instead it feels like it’s been plonked on top of the central air vents, which protrude to accommodate it.
The screen is a standard feature on the Energy trim level, but not on Design.
That screen, though, does deliver access to the likes of the smartphone-friendly Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, plus options such as satnav (which, incidentally, couldn’t locate our hotel accommodation at St. George’s Park) and a panoramic rear-view camera for reverse parking.
However, one should bear in mind that Vauxhall says only 90% of the tech on the car will transfer over to the light commercial, although to compensate there will extras the van gets that won’t be available on the MPV.
Vauxhall is promising lots of safety kit too for the van and car, with tech such as Forward Collision Alert and Driver Drowsiness Alert being shared across both.
On the road you won’t get Alton Towers-style thrills because the Combo Life definitely errs on the side of offering a comfortable experience, which is probably what most MPV owners would want. Engine-wise, although I didn’t try it, I suspect my personal preference would be for the 130hp engine with six-speed transmission, although that means higher emissions (113 g/km) and lower consumption (65.7mpg).
As for the looks, I’m not sure you’d want to park the Vauxhall next to the array of Premier League footballers’ vehicles that occasionally adorn the grounds of St. George’s Park – it is a van design, after all – but I bet it offers more practicality, with the sliding side doors useful for getting rear passengers in and out of tight parking spaces, while there’s plenty of room in the back for three kids, with Vauxhall claiming there’s enough width for a trio of child seats.