Vauxhall boldly, and perhaps a little misguidedly, says the Combo Life is relatively visually appealing among vehicles of its ilk.
That’s chiefly on account of a shorter front overhang and a higher bonnet line than these commercial-derived MPVs have tended to feature over the years. But if, even having had those distinctions explained to you, you continue to see a relatively unappealing box on wheels, don’t adjust your spectacles: our testers did too. Vauxhall’s efforts to make this car more appealing might have made it marginally less awkward to look at than it might have been, but you can’t say much more for the car’s exterior design than that.
The Combo Life is the sister car of the Peugeot Rifter and Citroën Berlingo, and it’s no van underneath. It’s built on the PSA Group’s ‘EMP2’ model platform, so it uses the same primary mechanical component set as the Peugeot 308 and 3008/5008, the DS7 Crossback and the Vauxhall Grandland X. Strut-type suspension sits at the front with a space-efficient torsion beam at the rear, as you’d expect of a utility car of this kind.
To the boxy profile you would expect of a car such as this, the Combo Life adds sliding back doors, three individual, flat-folding secondrow seats with ISOFIX child seat points on all, a sliding and fully removable pair of third-row seats as an option (although not present on our test car) and a choice of overall lengths and wheelbases, the bigger of the two stretching a 4.4-metre-long car to 4.75m overall.
Vauxhall offers a choice of two turbocharged petrol engines and two diesels for this car, the former pair being the PSA Group’s well-known 1.2-litre three-cylinder Puretech motors producing either 108 or 128bhp at their peak, and the latter driven by a 1.5-litre engine with either 99bhp (as tested here) or 128bhp. And, for those interested in the car’s more workmanlike capacities, the bigger diesel has the most torque of all the derivatives, with 221lb ft, as well as a six-speed manual gearbox, and it’s rated to tow the most on a braked trailer (1500kg).
The car is front-wheel drive only, although a version of the Grip Control brake-based electronic traction management that Peugeots use, but renamed ‘Intelligrip’ for Vauxhall’s marketing purposes and being combined with all-weather tyres, is available as an option.