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First drive: Vauxhall Combo Life. Image by Vauxhall.

First drive: Vauxhall Combo Life
You can have the Vauxhall Combo Life in a variety of versatile guises, but can it rival the appeal of an SUV?


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Vauxhall Combo Life

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The Vauxhall Combo Life may draw heavily from its PSA Group partners, but that's not a bad thing when you experience how it drives. In this budget-conscious segment, the latest small people carrier serves up a generous offering.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Vauxhall Combo Life 1.5 Turbo D Energy
Pricing: 25,675 as tested; starts at 19,610
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door MPV
CO2 emissions: 113g/km (VED Band 111-130: 165 in year one)
Combined economy: 65.7mpg
Top speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 11.4 seconds
Power: 130hp at 3,570rpm
Torque: 300Nm at 1,750rpm
Boot space: 597-2,126 litres

What's this?

This people mover is the latest generation Vauxhall Combo Life. It's the passenger version of the company's light commercial van and comes in a choice of two lengths and five- or seven-seat configurations. If you think there's something familiar about it, then you'd be correct. The Combo Life shares most of its body and mechanical underpinnings with the recently launched Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Rifter. Vauxhall grafts on different front-end styling to the body and adds a few of its own touches inside, namely a new steering wheel and some minor switchgear changes.

Buyers can choose between a smooth 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with 100hp or a more powerful 130hp unit we're driving here. If you're going to be utilising all the space and seats onboard, then the added shove the latter provides is advisable. Only the less powerful diesel gets a five-speed manual gearbox, otherwise, it's six speeds throughout. Go for an automatic and you get a sophisticated eight-speed unit, which is the first time such a transmission has featured in this segment.

We'll get to how it drives in a moment, but what may be of greater interest is how it performs on a practical level. The proportions are very user-friendly, as it comfortably fits into a standard car parking space and isn't so tall as to cause headaches when entering multi-storeys. Sliding doors on either side are a boon to parents frequently letting little passengers out and, let's face it, what kid doesn't find sliding doors cool? You can opt for a third row of seats, but our advice is to choose the longer wheelbase if doing so. Not everyone will be a fan of the massive upward opening tailgate, but the boot can also be accessed via just the rear glass section. That's useful if you're just dropping some bags into it rather than a heavy or large item.

There are several storage bins and pockets throughout the cabin; so many in fact that you could soon forget where you left something. By mounting the front passenger airbag in the roof (something Citroen first did with the original C4 Cactus), it means you get a second glovebox on the top of the dashboard. Higher grade models get a snazzy eight-inch touchscreen display, while a wireless charging pad for compatible devices is neatly integrated into the centre console. A deep storage bin between the seats is equally useful for carrying bulkier items like bottles of water.

How does it drive?

You may not immediately see the Combo Life as an alternative to the ever-so-popular SUV, but thanks to its van origins, you sit high up with a very comfortable driving position and enjoy a good view of the road and your surroundings.

The 130hp engine is smooth and quiet for the most part, and the eight-speed automatic transmission leaves no cause for complaint. The Vauxhall steering wheel does have paddle shifters fitted to its back, but we doubt that many drivers will use them in what is a far from a sporty car. Not that it's a bad thing, as out of town and on the motorway the Combo Life serves up more refinement than you may expect. We also drove the manual version, but didn't get on with the gear shift. There is a vagueness to the engagement of each gear, though the raised position of the lever is useful.

With just two adults on board and no heavy luggage, the ride quality is decent, though we'd expect handling and performance to be impacted slightly when you fill the car up. At slower speeds, the Combo Life is easily manoeuvrable with a tight turning circle to help get out of tight spots. It's unlikely ever to win any handling contests, but that isn't what this car is about.


The Vauxhall Combo Life isn't the last word in high-end quality, but for the most part, the materials used throughout the cabin are better than those in its predecessor. With close competition from within its family ranks, the Vauxhall fares well on price. The petrol engine is worth considering, especially if you don't cover significant annual mileage. However, if you intend to frequently carry several passengers around then the more powerful diesel may serve you better. For sheer practicality, the Combo Life certainly is a genuine alternative to the usual SUV brigade.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

3 3 3 3 3 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain

Dave Humphreys - 31 Aug 2018    - Vauxhall road tests
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2018 Vauxhall Combo Life. Image by Vauxhall.2018 Vauxhall Combo Life. Image by Vauxhall.2018 Vauxhall Combo Life. Image by Vauxhall.    


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