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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

The Combo Life recorded the slowest two-way average 0-60mph time of any car we’ve road tested this year. In isolation, its 14.7sec result needn’t count for much as a sideline criticism of such a simple, utilitarian car.

That time was fully two seconds slower than the 0-62mph claim made for it by Vauxhall, however, and a second and a half down on the heavier, and only marginally more powerful, seven-seat Ford Grand Tourneo Connect we figured in 2014. So even by the sedate standards of the class, this car is quite slow.

Soft suspension is welcome in town, but on A-roads the chassis can be upset by mid-corner bumps. Body roll is only an issue when pushing beyond the car’s remit

The Combo Life’s measured acceleration from 30mph to 70mph also lagged behind that of the larger Ford, with the Vauxhall taking 16.2sec next to 13.9sec for its rival.

The Combo Life’s 184lb ft doesn’t feel like much, then. For the strength of thrust you’d be comfortable depending upon for any proper towing, or when touring with a heavy load, you’d definitely want Vauxhall’s more powerful diesel engine.

The as-tested 99bhp engine does at least make this an easy vehicle in which to tool about town running errands. There’s never any need to wring the engine’s neck to keep the car moving along with the traffic, and setting off from the lights and dealing with stop-start queues are painless enough thanks, in part, to sensible pedal weights.

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Once you’re up and running, forward progress is surprisingly smooth. The 1.5-litre diesel pulls with good manners even under load and will continue to spin to around 4000rpm with useful flexibility, although it tails off above that point quite starkly. That the Combo Life’s five-speed manual gearbox is baggy and not particularly tactile to use is obviously less of an issue here than it would be in a two-seat sports car. It’s got that familiar stretchy, imprecise, cable-operated feel of a lot of manual gearboxes fitted to PSA Group cars, although you can easily get used to it and changes are rarely fumbled.

Typically, van-like MPVs aren’t the most refined or hushed vehicles – for all of the practicality they bring, their square shapes often turn the cabin into something of an echo chamber – but the Vauxhall’s relatively hushed interior was praised by more than one tester. A recording of 68dB at a 70mph cruise isn’t what you’d call outstanding, but it’s considerably better than the 71dB figure taken in the Ford, which also had the advantage of a sixth ratio to use on those extended motorway stints.