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 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. In 2021 an all-electric version, the Combo-e Life, was added to the range. There were three trim levels to choose from in the showroom, too, for the conventionally powered cars: Design, Energy and Elite, while the later electric version offered SE and SE XL.
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.
What used Vauxhall Combo Life MPV will I get for my budget?
You can pick up a good five or seven-seat 2018 Combo Life with a number of different engine or trim options from around £14,000, this for a car with a nominal mileage and a full service history, bought from a franchised dealer. Spending between £15,000 and £17,000 buys you higher-spec trims or slightly newer cars, while upwards of £18,000 gets you into 2020 or 2021 cars with very low mileages. Spend over £20,000 on later 2022 cars, and a little more for the all-electric version.
Check the value of a used Vauxhall Combo Life with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Vauxhall Combo Life MPV?
The lower-powered 1.5 diesel in regular size is the most economical unit, with an official WLTP fuel consumption figure of 50.8mpg. Other models, including the 130 diesel version, are not far off this, even if they’re seven-seaters or the longer XL version. The two petrol-engined versions can both return an official figure of 42.4mpg.
Annual road tax (VED) will be charged at a flat rate for all Combo Life models, as they’re registered after the tax changes of April 2017 came into force. This is currently £155 per year for all petrol and diesel cars. To find out more about road tax costs, click here.
Insurance and servicing
Insurance costs are lower than many rival MPVs, and servicing costs should be low, too, with a number of options available to pay by direct debit or in instalments for future services.
Which used Vauxhall Combo Life MPV should I buy?
We like the relative smoothness of the 1.5 diesel in higher-powered 130 form, combined with an automatic gearbox. Energy is well equipped, too, and features an 8.0in touchscreen, which is well worth having.
Look out for any example equipped with the panoramic glass roof. It was an option on mid-range Energy and standard on Elite, and floods the interior with more natural light that would be nice for rear-seat passengers.
Our favourite Vauxhall Combo Life: 1.5 Turbo D 130 Energy
What alternatives should I consider to a used Vauxhall Combo Life MPV?
If you need even more space than the Combo Life and its siblings can offer, you might want to look for a Ford Galaxy. It’s great to drive, and its third-row seats are spacious enough to take actual people. It doesn't have any clever storage solutions inside, though, and misses out on sliding rear doors, too. There are plenty of them around, though, so finding a tidy one should be easy.
Alternatively, try a Volkswagen Sharan or its virtually identical sibling, the Seat Alhambra. Both of them are huge inside, have well-appointed interiors and the benefit of sliding rear doors that should prevent your passengers from opening them on a car parked next to you.
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