Vauxhall Combo Life Tested 12/06/2021

Full Road Test

Vauxhall's Combo Life won't be the family car you dreamed about but it could be the one you actually need. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

Today, Vauxhall's People Carriers share much of their design with the company's vans, which if you're a family buyer prioritising practicality is no bad thing. In the case of this mid-sized Combo Life model, you also get clever, efficient space-centred engineering borrowed from the brand's PSA parent Group. And buyers are also offered the option of five or seven-seat interior formats and standard or long wheelbase body shapes, plus some clever MPV touches too. There's even an EV version.


Is this more than just a van with windows? Vauxhall wants to convince you that the Combo Life is just that. Yes of course it's based on the Combo Cargo panel van, but this little MPV gets the kind of safety and media technology that most LCV drivers can only dream of. It comes in two lengths, gives you a choice of either five or seven seats and can swallow up to 2,693-litres if you load it up to the gunwhales. Is there room in your life for a vehicle as versatile as that, one that can average around 55mpg in diesel form and is priced from no more than around £23,000? If so, then read on...

Driving Experience

Combo Life buyers choose between three engines. There's a 1.2-litre petrol unit offering 110PS in manual form or 130PS as an auto. Or a 1.5-litre Turbo D diesel, developing 100 and only offered with a manual. The altermative is the Combo e-Life EV, which has a 50kWh battery offering a 174 mile driving range. Under the skin of all Combos, 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 bodyshape variant you choose - standard 'M' or long 'XL' - 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 from the Turbo D 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.

Design and Build

The Combo Life is available in a 4.4-metre standard length 'M' version with five-seats; or a longer 4.75-metre long 'XL' seven-seat model, all versions with two sliding rear doors as standard. Both variants have a height of 1.8 metres and the EV variant offers a third seating row option with the 'M' body shape too. 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 and there are no interior spacial compromises with the EV variant. 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.

Market and Model

Priced from just under £23,000, the entry-level 'Edition' 1.2-litre 110PS petrol 6-speed manual model features air conditioning, a DAB Radio with USB and Bluetooth audio streaming and 16-inch steel wheels with styled wheel covers. Moving up the range, the 'SE' trim starts from around £27,000 for the five-seater 1.2-litre 110PS petrol 6-speed manual model. Standard specification includes an eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, 16-inch alloy wheels and front and rear parking sensors. If you need space for more passengers, the 'Edition'-spec seven-seater XL lwb model starts from just under £25,000 for the 1.2-litre 110PS 6-manual model. Standard specification includes 35/30/35 split-folding second-row seats with a fold-flat facility, two removable third-row seats and two foldable tables with cup-holders. Pricing for the EV Combo e-Life starts at just under £32,000 after deduction of the £2,500 government Plug-in car Grant; that gets you the base five-seat Medium length version, which can also be had with a third seating row for £500 more. If you want to seat seven though, you're better off specifying the longer wheelbase 'XL' body shape; well, if you can afford it anyway. Because the asking price for this top variant from launch was pitched at £35,710, it's pitched above the £35,000 threshold for that government grant, so you're on your own with the asking price.

Cost of Ownership

WLTP running cost returns from the various turbo-charged, direct injection petrol and diesel engines are competitive, CO2 emissions starting from 135g/km and combined fuel economy of up to 55.4mpg possible for the 1.5-litre 100PS diesel. The 1.2-litre 110PS petrol variant delivers 44.1mpg and 145g/km. All powertrains meet the stringent Euro 6d-TEMP emissions standard. If you'd rather the BEV battery-powered Combo e-Life with its 50kWh battery, you can expect a 174 mile driving range. As you'd want, the Combo e-Life supports up to 100kW rapid (DC) charging, with an 80% re-charge taking less than 30 minutes, while a full charge from a 7.4 kW single-phase wallbox takes 7.5 hours thanks to the 7.4kW on-board charger. You'll also need to know that Vauxhall includes a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty as standard, a package that can be extended up to five years and 100,000 miles at extra cost. A year's free breakdown cover is also provided, along with a six-year anti-corrosion guarantee. Service intervals are at 20,000 miles or every 12 months, depending on which comes round sooner and you can opt for a service plan that lets you pay monthly to spread the cost of regular work to your car. As part of this, Vauxhall offers discounts on wear and tear items, such as brake pads and windscreen wipers.


We always wondered whether there was really a need for both car-like mid-sized MPVs and van-based ones. Vauxhall has clearly decided that there isn't and this Combo Life lends a bit of credence to the point of view that a van-based model is really all that modern families actually require. Whether it makes more sense than its very similar Citroen and Peugeot design stablemates is a key question of course - but in this case a somewhat subjective one. You might quite like the quirky exterior styling of a Berlingo or the curious driving position and dashboard of a Rifter but if you don't, then this Combo Life model may well seem a more palatable all-round proposition. Especially if you've a friendly local Vauxhall dealer and the price is right. Should, as a result, you feel the need to get a Life, we could easily understand why.

Dealer Contacts

County Motor Works Vauxhall
01245 932 703Directions
Doves Vauxhall Southampton
02381 630 543Directions
Warrington Motors Fiat, Peugeot and Vauxhall
01925 934 123Directions

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