What's the used Vauxhall Combo Life MPV like?
Although the MPV seems to have been overtaken by the more fashionable SUV as the vehicle of choice for family buyers and those in need of a little extra practicality, the good old compact, versatile leisure vehicle – at heart an MPV and once dismissed by many as merely a van with windows – seems to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance.
This 2018 Vauxhall Combo Life shares its underpinnings with the Citroën Berlingo and the Peugeot Rifter, and like those MPVs, the Combo Life can be had as a five-seater or a seven-seater, and in either regular length or a seven-seat XL version.
Under the bonnet, all Combo Lifes are front-wheel drive, and you could choose from new a 109bhp or 128bhp 1.2 petrol, or a 1.5 diesel in 99bhp or 128bhp guise. There were three trim levels to choose from in the showroom, too: Design, Energy and Elite.
On the road, both petrols deliver reasonable performance, although the 109bhp unit requires you to rev it to get the best from it. The 99bhp diesel feels a little underpowered, too, and even the more powerful engine is a little underwhelming on the performance front.
Meanwhile, that tall, square body doesn’t cut through the air particularly cleanly, so there’s quite a bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, but it doesn’t generate too much road roar.
The soft suspension actually deals with most lumps and bumps very well, be that in town, on rural roads or on the motorway. The only time the Combo Life gets a bit out of shape is over bigger intrusions, when the rather languid reactions of the suspension cause the car to need a second or two before it settles down again. As far as handling goes, while the Combo Life prefers not to be hurried along, it isn’t so wallowy that you’ll dread every B-road, and there’s actually a reasonable amount of grip.
The driving position is good, mind you – very upright in the MPV style – and there’s enough adjustment in the steering wheel and seat for people of varying heights to get comfortable. The dashboard controls are relatively easy to get your head around, even if the air-con dials are a bit small, and those huge windows make the Combo Life easy to see out of all directions.
Go for entry-level Design trim and you’re given a relatively basic infotainment system; there’s no touchscreen or sat-nav but you do get Bluetooth, a DAB radio and cruise control. Upgrade to Energy trim and you’ll receive an 8.0in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring functions, front and rear parking sensors and 16in alloy wheels. Go for the top-of-the-range Elite model for larger 17in alloys, an alarm, climate control, blind-spot monitoring and a rear-view camera.
Space-wise, even the regular car in five-seat form is a very commodious car. There’s bags of head room and plenty of leg room, and those sliding rear doors are also very convenient when you’re parked up next to a wall or another car. They’re operated manually by pulling the door left or right in the same way as you might the side door of a van; there’s no option to add an electric sliding function like there is in some rival MPVs. There are plenty of stowage spaces, too, and an almost unrivalled amount of boot space. It’s a square boot, too, with no lip to get in the way, although the top-hinged, manual-only tailgate can be a nuisance in tight car parks.
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