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No, it's not just a van with windows. Vauxhall brings life to the passenger car segment.
8in touchscreen, 16in alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors
100hp 1.2, 110hp 1.2
100hp 1.5, 130hp 1.5
Five-speed manual, eight-speed automatic
Is it a car? Is it a van? Don't ask Vauxhall for a definitive answer; according to them, the Combo Life is both.
Arguably, the trend for utilitarian MPVs was started by the Citroen Berlingo Multispace, and the latest version of that car, along with the all-new Peugeot Rifter, shares many mechanical components with Vauxhall's brand-spanking-new Combo Life.
Plenty of room
Also, just like those cars, the Combo is available as a five or seven-seater version, and both Vauxhall's Design and Energy models come with two sliding rear doors as standard. Combine that with a height of 1.8m and you can probably transport the goals, as well as the five-a-side football team.
The middle row seats come as individual chairs, and every chair has ISOFIX and can be folded completely flat, if necessary. In five-seat mode, the cavernous 597 litres of boot space will easily cope with all the team's match day kit, but if you are planning on taking a couple of substitutes along, then you might want to consider upgrading to the longer wheelbase version, which boosts boot space to a whopping 897-litres.
With the rear seats folded down, the volume of the standard version more than triples to 2,126 litres, while the longer version offers a seriously capacious 2,693 litres.
The boot also has a pop-out rear screen that can be opened, if you haven't left enough room or realised there isn't enough height in the multistorey car park to open the enormous up-and-over tailgate.
Although the materials that make up the cabin interior are rather robust - and not the nicest to look at - you can't criticise the Combo for its practicality. With so many cubbyholes, it's easy to forget where you've put everything; the one in the centre console is so big, I managed to lose my house key down there for the entire weekend.
Feels like a van
Despite Vauxhall's 'car' claims, what's immediately apparent as you sit in the driver's seat is that it feels like driving a van, but that's not a bad thing. The visibility is great, thanks to a large windscreen and side windows, and it's easy to find a comfortable driving position.
The Combo tested by granitekitchen was in the Energy trim in five-seater guise, with power coming from the entry-level 100hp turbo diesel sent through a five-speed manual gearbox, but there's also a wider choice of turbocharged, direct-injection petrol and diesel engines, which are available with five or six-speed manual transmissions, or an eight-speed automatic.
So how does it drive? Well, although the 1.5-litre diesel engine feels a little sluggish - this is especially noticeable when climbing steep gradients - it is surprisingly refined and relatively quiet.
The Combo's light steering may not be the last word in accuracy, but it does facilitate a tight turning circle - 11.2m in the short wheelbase version - which should come in handy when navigating the most congested of streets.
MPV of the future
Not so very long ago, these kinds of cars/vans were underpinned by nothing more sophisticated than cart springs and they were pretty uncomfortable to drive.
Thankfully, the Combo comes with a rear independent suspension system, which provides reasonably supple ride comfort and helps resist body roll, so the kids shouldn't get too green-faced when driving around winding roads.
One of the big issues with van-based MPVs of the past was that they were rarely put through Euro NCAP's tough safety tests, so it was hard to gauge how well they would fare. Vauxhall says results for this MPV haven't been announced yet, but it's expecting a solid four-star (out of five) rating. The company is keen to push the safety aspects of the Combo Life, and it can be fitted with technology and driver-assistance systems that are more commonly seen in the compact or SUV segments, such as driver drowsiness alerts, a rear-view camera with 180° bird's-eye view, head-up display, and improved comfort features like heated seats and steering wheels.
The Energy trim comes with a high level of standard specification, including an 8in colour touchscreen infotainment system, 16in alloy wheels, and front and rear parking sensors.
The Combo's 1.5-litre diesel engine may not be a ball of fire, but officially, it's capable of 67.3mpg and emitting only 111g/km of CO2, according to KeeResouces data.
This Energy trim diesel variant starts at £22,201 for the five-seater and, if you need more passenger space, the same trim in the seven-seater costs an additional £700.
Vauxhall has concluded that a van-based MPV can work for the passenger car market, and with the Combo Life, we can't help but see its logic.
Vauxhall Combo Life MPV 1.5 Turbo 100hp Energy 5Seat