The surprises the Combo Life delivers in this section are hardly earth-shattering, but some are quite pleasant. They mark this car out as the comfortable, pragmatic, servile utility vehicle most will want it to be, with a note of added extra refinement that you might not have expected of a utility MPV such as this.
Just as this car is unexpectedly mechanically refined and fairly well sealed from wind noise, so is it pleasantly quiet-riding and absorbent over most surfaces. Particularly soft suspension gives the Combo Life the kind of gentle, spongy ride that deals well with rough and broken surfaces taken at low speed. Around town the car’s suspension has both the supple comfort and the isolation to compare quite well with most modern passenger cars.
Meanwhile, light and reasonably direct steering with plenty of maximum steering angle compensates quite effectively for the relatively long wheelbase, making it wieldy enough and manoeuvrable.
A respectably tight turning circle – 11.0m for the short-wheelbase version, 12.0m for the ‘XL’ – means that in either case you shouldn’t get trapped in that tight unloading bay at the recycling centre.
Leave town and increase your speed, however, and the Combo Life begins to show some dynamic compromises relative to the standards of a more typical family car. At A-road speeds the suspension remains pretty quiet but doesn’t have the damping authority to deal with bigger inputs, allowing them instead to cause the body to bob and pitch gently.
Being so large and square and empty of bulkheads, the structure clearly isn’t quite as rigid as some, and you can detect the odd bit of shudder and longitudinal flex as some of those bigger intrusions impact upon it. Lateral body control isn’t too bad and handling response at speed is passably good, but the former is partly defined by grip levels which are pretty mild anyway and which you don’t feel inclined to explore with any enthusiasm.
The latter is no crime for a vehicle such as this, but it renders the Combo Life what you might refer to as a ‘one-speed’ car, which you’ll prefer to drive around well within its limits and in which you’ll rarely see the far side of 50mph except on the motorway.
We should note, however, that our testing was carried out in a lightly loaded vehicle, as it always is. Put enough people and cargo into this car to fill it up and you might find that a soft-riding, often relaxing driving experience becomes quite alarming for its lack of body control at speed.