Vauxhall Combo Life (2018-present)

The Vauxhall Combo Life is a spacious and affordable people carrier, but there's no getting away from its van roots

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Spacious interior with up to 7 seats
Practical sliding doors
Good value

Weaknesses 

Basic and boxy design
Leans like a van in corners
Loud wind noise on motorways

You can imagine the train of thought behind the Vauxhall Combo Life: "Families need a lot of space. Vans have lots of space. Let's turn a van into a family car."

Vauxhall haven't even gone to great lengths to disguise the process either. The van that this people carrier is based on is called the Vauxhall Combo. And the design is virtually the same except, of course, this passenger version has windows.

It's a cheaper way of developing a people carrier than the bespoke Vauxhall Zafira that it replaces, as well as alternatives like the Citroen C4 SpaceTourer, Renault Scenic and Seat Alhambra.

Unsurprisingly, the result is an affordable, no-nonsense affair, with a new price that starts at under £20,000. It may lack character and style but doesn't skimp on the overall build quality, practical touches and innovations that are designed to make family life simpler.

A good example of this is the interior flexibility on offer. All Combo Life models are available with five or seven seats. You can choose a a standard-length version, or a longer XL one, which has extra space betwen the front and rear wheels (known as the wheelbase), to increase interior room. This boosts legroom in the back row of seven-seat cars, and makes the boot bigger. Sliding doors are standard.

When seven seats are in place, boot space is limited but you can transform the longest XL versions to open up a staggering 2,700 litres of load space. The middle row folds flat, but you need to remove the back row in seven-seat cars, which is awkward. The resulting space is twice as large as the 1,585 litres in a Nissan Qashqai with seats folded.

A separate Family Pack option adds the ability to fold the front passenger seat fold down, allowing drivers to cart objects up to 2.7m in length- perfect for owners that simply want to make the most of an Ikea shop. New car buyers can also pay for an aircraft-style overhead locker.

There are three sets of Isofix mounting points in the middle row, allowing you to attach three car seats - as long as they are narrow enough. The car has not yet been independently crash-tested by Euro NCAP.

So it's practical, but also a bit plusher than you might expect, particularly higher-specification Energy models, which cost around £1,500 more and include front and rear parking sensors; 16in alloy wheels; and a dashboard touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for easy control of phone apps through the screen or voice commands. The clear directions from phone map apps mean that few people will choose to pay extra for sat-nav.

Wireless phone charging, a panoramic sunroof (below) and advanced camera-based parking assistance technology are among other optional cost extras.

On the road it's nimbler than you'd expect a van to be, and comfortable too, with a smooth ride at high speeds, thanks to mechanical parts from the Vauxhall Grandland X, which is a crossover that's taller and looks more car-like than the Combo Life.

It's an improvement over other van-based people carriers such as the Fiat Qubo and Ford Tourneo Connect but does lean noticeably in corners and can bounce over large potholes like a van, unlike the smoother Citroen C4 Picasso, Renault Scenic and Ford C-Max, all of which are also available with seven seats and aren't a great deal more expensive.

One reason why you're not constantly reminded of its commercial roots is because the Combo Life has benefitted from pooled develpment resources with Vauxhall's sister companies: the cheaper but more basic Citroen Berlingo and pricier but better-equipped Peugeot Rifter are virtually identical cars.

When compared to both the Berlingo and the Rifter, Vauxhall seems to have tuned its steering to be slightly sharper and more direct, which makes driving more precise on twisty roads. There is some wind noise from the large door mirrors and blunt front end at high speeds but most of the engines are quiet for the majority of the time.

You can choose a petrol- or diesel-powered Combo Life. All options are perfectly strong enough for everyday driving, but the most powerful of the two diesel engines, with 130 horsepower, is best if you're regularly going to carry a full load, as you'll need to change gear less frequently. An eight-speed automatic is available with this engine too.

On paper it makes perfect sense, but demand for people carriers is declining, and many buyers prefer the more car-like esign of crossovers and sport utility vehicles, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Peugeot 3008 and Vauxhall's Grandland X - even if they can't match the sheer practicality of a car like the Combo Life.

Last Updated 

Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 23:00

Key facts 

Warranty: 
3 years/60,000 miles
Boot size: 
850 litres (5-seat XL)
Width: 
2017mm
Length: 
4403mm or 4753mm (XL)
Height: 
1841mm
Tax: 
£155 to £165 in first year, £140 thereafter

Best Vauxhall Combo Life for... 

Vauxhall Combo Life Design 1.5 (110PS) Turbo D
The diesel engine costs around £550 more than the petrol engine when new, but long-distance drivers will quickly see the savings mount up, as its fuel economy is around 13mpg better.
Vauxhall Combo Life Energy 1.5 (130PS) Turbo D Auto
The more expensive trim option comes with an eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, 16-inch alloy wheels and front and rear parking sensors. The most powerful 130hp diesel engine is best for hauling full loads.

Vauxhall Combo Life History 

  • September 2018 The Vauxhall Combo Life arives in Britain

Understanding Vauxhall Combo Life car names 

  • Combo Life
  • Trim level
    Energy
  • Body style
    XL (7-seater)
  • Engine
    1.5 (100PS )Turbo D
  • Trim level
    There are two trim levels available: entry-level Design and Energy, which adds more equipment for a higher price.
  • Body style
    The Combo Life is available in a standard size, or longer XL, which increases interior and boot space. There's a choice of five or seven seats, whichever length you want.
  • Engine
    The engine's size is shown in litres (here it's 1.5) and that's often followed by its power. In this case, it's 100 horsepower. It's often written as 100PS. Petrol cars are badged "Turbo"; diesel versions are "Turbo D"

Vauxhall Combo Life Engines 

Petrol: 1.2 (110PS) Turbo, 
Diesel: 1.5 (100PS) Turbo D, 1.5 (130PS) Turbo D

If you want a petrol engine in your Vauxhall Combo Life, then there's one choice: a 1.2-litre motor that only comes with a manual gearbox. For steady, smooth progress, it's powerful enough but it does need revving with heavier loads. Official fuel economy figures look impressive, but real-world tests carried out for the Equa Index suggest that you can expect 38mpg in day-to-day driving.

The entry-level, 100 horsepower (hp) diesel engine costs around £550 than a petrol one when new, and you'll see much better fuel economy figures. The Equa Index predicts around 51mpg in real-world driving, which - as usual - is down on the 67.3mpg official figure. It's fairly smooth and quiet at a steady speed but the limited amount of power means that you need to shift gears regularly to maintain respectable acceleration.

Better, but more than £2,000 more expensive from new is the 130hp version of the diesel engine. Fuel economy is barely different to the cheaper diesel but this more powerful version is noticeably faster when accelerating. It's also able to increase speed in a higher gear without the need to change down. You won't need to worry about any changes if you opt for the automatic gearbox that's only available with this engine. 

Fuel

Official fuel economy

Power

Acceleration (0-62mph)

Top speed

1.2 (110PS) Turbo S/S

Petrol

51.4mpg

110hp

11.9sec

109mph

1.5 (100PS) Turbo D S/S BlueInjection

Diesel

67.3mpg

100hp

12.7sec

107mph

1.5 (130PS) Turbo D S/S BlueInjection

Diesel

65.7mpg

130hp

10.6sec

115mph

1.5 (130PS) Turbo D S/S BlueInjection auto

Diesel

65.7mpg

130hp

11.4sec

114mph

Vauxhall Combo Life Trims 

Design, Energy

Deciding on how to specify your Combo Life is fairly simple, as Vauxhall only offers two distinct trim levels, although there is a reasonable options list that can be plundered if you really want to make it your own.

Entry-level Design cars include air conditioning, electric windows and an extensive safety pack that includes lane keep assist - which nudges the car into line if it's drifting out of its lane, speed sign recognition, cruise control and headlights that switch on automatically at night.

It does feel like a basic package, as there's a basic digital/AM/FM radio in place of a touchscreen, which does include Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting your phone, as well as a USB port. Outside, 16in steel wheels with covers and bulky side protection mouldings look as if they could be shared with the van version.

Energy is likely to be the most popular trim level, as it costs less than £1,500 to upgrade. These are the only cars available with seven seats, and they come with an 8in touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; 16-inch alloy wheels; chrome effect surrounds behind the steering wheel and parking sensors at the front and back. Fog lamps, body coloured mirrors and side protection mouldings further add to the exterior styling.

An All Weather Pack that adds all-weather tyres and IntelliGrip technology, which can increase grip when accelerating on a slippery road, and allows the user to choose between five selectable Electronic Stability Control (ESC) programmes to suit the driving conditions: ESP on, ESP off, snow, mud and sand. It's not quite four-wheel-drive but should give further peace of mind to those living in areas regularly affected by bad weather.

Another highlight is the Parking Pack, which bundles in a panoramic rear-view camera that also boasts multiple viewing angles and a special zoom view to make hitching and manoeuvring a trailer easier.

Vauxhall Combo Life Reliability and warranty 

It is too early to comment on the sturdiness of the Combo Life but Vauxhall has a mixed reliability record. It was ranked 22 out of 26 manufacturers in this year's Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with almost one in five new Vauxhall buyers reporting an issue.

The three year / 60,000 mile warranty is the minimum that you'd expect from a mainstream manufacturer but another extensive survey from JD Power, looking at used car dependability, placed the manufacturer above average.

If anything does go wrong, then there's an extensive Vauxhall dealer network.