With its switch to PSA Group running gear, the Vauxhall Combo van is now a front-runner in the small van class. There are generous cargo weights in the back, easy access and plenty of useful load carrying options. On top of that, the cab is a comfortable place to spend time, and there’s a raft of great safety kit available to make working life easier. On the road, the diesel engines deliver enough pulling power to keep pace with traffic, while the car-derived running gear means it feels good to drive, too. The Combo should definitely be on any small van buyer’s shortlist.
Vauxhall has a long history when it comes to small vans. Cars like the Vauxhall Viva and Astra had their Bedford van counterparts, and when the commercial vehicles came under the Vauxhall brand, it continued to have a presence in the field. The Vauxhall Combo is now into its fifth generation, and it’s definitely the best version yet.
It’s one of the first models from Vauxhall to be launched as part under the company’s ownership by the PSA Group. It uses the same basic bodyshell and running gear as sister models from Peugeot and Citroen, and this means it’s leaps and bounds better than the Mk4 Combo it replaced.
The squarer body shape means there’s good space inside, while a low floor makes access easy. Payloads have increased, too, and it’s now possible to get up to one tonne of cargo in the back. Even more useful is a handy load indicator in the cargo area, which warns you if you are overloading the rear of the van.
At launch, the Vauxhall Combo comes in two lengths and one roof height (L1 H1 and L2 H1), and there’s also a Crew Van based on the L2 H1 version. There are three trims available: Edition, Sportive and LE Nav. The basic Edition is designed to cater for fleet buyers, but is still pretty well equipped, while the Sportive and LE Nav vans bump up the kit count for smaller business users.
All vans come with heated electric door mirrors, electric windows and a single sliding side door as standard (it used to be cost option). L2 version also add a second sliding side door, while all variants feature offset double doors at the back. Safety kit includes a driver’s airbag, auto lights, hill start assist and a full steel bulkhead.
Move up to Sportive trim and you get body coloured bumpers and wheel trims to smarten up the looks, while metallic paint is thrown in as a no-cost option. Inside, cruise control and air conditioning are added, as are a lidded glovebox and steering wheel controls for the audio system are also added.
At the top of the range, LE Nav cars feature an 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, alloy wheels and more body coloured trim to give the van a more stylish look. In addition, the Crew Van version adds a second row of seats that can be folded and a steel mesh bulkhead that can slide back and forth to make more cargo room when the back seats aren’t in use.
There are plenty of options offered, allowing you to upgrade the Combo to suit your needs. All option packs are available on all three models, too. The Parking Pack adds front and rear sensors, a rear camera and a nearside camera to give you a view in the van’s blind spot. Add the Safety Pack and you add lane assist, traffic sign recognition, a tiredness alert and automatic emergency braking with forward collision alert.
Also available is the FlexCargo Pack, which turns the Combo into a three-seater. It also bumps up the versatility, with a load-through bulkhead and seats that flip and fold for different configurations. The Parking Pack adds front and rear parking sensors, plus a panoramic rear-view camera that can be switched permanently on to double as a rear-view mirror. Also included are side sensors and a nearside rear-facing camera that can help drivers detect objects in their blind spot.
At launch, the engine range is all-diesel, while a 1.2 PureTech turbo three-cylinder in 110PS and 130PS guises will be offered in 2019.
The diesels comprise a 1.6 Turbo D badged either 75PS or 100PS, while the newer 1.5 Turbo D 130PS is also offered. The 1.6 diesels both come with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.5 has a six-speed manual and an eight-speed auto option. Vauxhall also offers the IntelliGrip Pack, which adds a switchable traction control system that can adjust setting to suit different surfaces. It’s a cheap substitute for four-wheel drive, and doesn’t give any real off-road ability, but can help with low-grip surfaces.
On the road, the Vauxhall Combo feels good to drive. The car-derived platform delivers secure handling and good grip, while the view out gives a good view of the road and your surroundings. The manual gearbox could do with a bit more of a positive shift, but overall the Combo is a comfortable van to drive.
The small van class is packed with rivals, chief among them being the Combo’s sister models, the Citroen Berlingo Van and Peugeot Partner. Beyond these two, there’s the Ford Transit Connect, Renault Kangoo, Mercedes Citan, Volkswagen Caddy and Fiat Doblo. Thankfully, the Vauxhall Combo has a level of talent that means it can easily compete with all of them.