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.

Simon Davis

Simon Davis

Road tester
For what is essentially a van with manners, it’s surprisingly un-vanlike to drive. The ride was much more comfortable than expected and the cabin far more isolated. Nice work, Vauxhall

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.

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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.

The Combo Life remained creditably stable and controlled at the limit of grip on the Millbrook Hill Route, remaining well governed by its electronics and benign enough thanks to Vauxhall/ Opel’s realistic suspension tuning.

A degree of body roll that seldom seems bothersome on the road is more of a factor here, gathering as it does to allow the car to lean to quite pronounced angles and begin to undermine its grip levels, although only at the front. The ESP system is always on above about 20mph and helps keep a lid on the speed you can carry into and through corners – which seems wise.

The electronics are busier when a mid-corner bump puts a vertical input into an already laterally loaded chassis, which is when the car can be quite easily disturbed and diverted from a chosen path – although not by far. Put simply, it’s plainly not a car for fast driving – and nobody will expect any different.

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