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Vauxhall Combo: Test Drive Review

Date: 28 February 2012   |   Author: James Dallas

Category: Small van
P11D Price: £15,260
Key rival: Volkswagen Caddy

The new Combo, which goes on sale in February, is the result of a collaboration with Fiat and is being assembled alongside the Italian manufacturer's Doblo van at Fiat's plant in Turkey.

The differences, therefore, between the products are cosmetic, confined to exterior style and interior trim, and as a consequence the new Combo has inevitably been dubbed a re-badged Doblo.

But sharing the same DNA as such a well-received van - the Doblo is What Van's Light Van of the year for 2011 and 2012 - has obvious advantages, and customers who prefer the Griffin can be sure they'll get a sound product.

An obvious bonus is the Combo's inheritance of the Doblo's much-praised bi-link independent rear suspension system, which enhances the ride quality and handling, and being lightweight and compact is also a boon for load capacity and fuel consumption.

The Combo is now available in two wheelbases, two heights, two gross vehicle weights (2000kg and 2300kg), two trim levels (Combo and Sportive) and with a choice of four common-rail diesel engines ranging from 1.3-litre CDTi 90hp to 2.0-litre CDTi 135hp. All engines come with a turbocharger and diesel particulate filter.

Vauxhall claims the new Combo boasts the highest payload in the sector (up to 1000kg including the driver), the highest rear-axle capacity (1450kg) and the longest wheelbase (up to 3105mm). It also lays claim to having the largest load volume of up to 4.2m3.

On-the-road prices excluding VAT start at £14,703 and go up to £18,203 - a substantial hike of about £2000 across the range compared with the old one and giving it a higher entry price than rivals such as the VW Caddy and Ford Transit Connect. But Steve Bryant, Vauxhall's commercial vehicle brand manager, says the addition of a second wheelbase length and higher-spec trim level to the line-up will enable the Combo to fight its rivals from a position of strength.

The 1.3-litre, 90hp engine is likely to dominate sales, and we tested this powertrain in a standard length and height Combo L1H1 2000 Sportive Ecoflex Start/Stop model. According to Bryant, L1H1 derivatives will take 70% of sales volumes and at least 30% of customers will opt for Sportive trim.

Our van had a payload capacity of 750kg and a reasonably cavernous loadspace of 3.4m3, and we started off with a half-load on board. This contributed towards a well grounded, relaxing drive with the cabin remaining pleasantly quiet at all but top motorway speeds. The full-height steel bulkhead with soundproofing no doubt helped to keep noise levels low.

The 1.3-litre van comes with a five-speed manual transmission, which works sweetly enough, but when cruising on the motorway one occasionally finds oneself checking to see whether there's a sixth gear. The 1.6- and 2.0-litre models do get a six-speed manual 'box and the 1.6-litre is also offered with Vauxhall's five-speed Tecshift automated transmission. Acceleration and pulling power is adequate with a load on board, but our van lacked a turn of pace when moving into faster lanes.

The stop/start system works smoothly in urban environments, while the claimed fuel economy figures and green credentials are impressive with 58.9mpg achieved on the combined cycle and CO2 of 126g/km.

It is disappointing to see the new Combo is not launched with ESP included as standard, but the van we tested had it fitted, together with hill-hold assist, for £375. We also got the £255 Winter Pack, which includes headlight washers and front fog lights, while the Driver Pack unquestionably improves cabin ambiance, although many operators may baulk at having to fork out £660 for it. It includes a leather-covered steering wheel and gear knob, and a pre-installation dock for a TomTom satnav system.

Entry to the load bay, which swallows a Euro pallet, is through asymmetrical back doors that open to 180° and a near-side sliding door.

Due to its similarities to the Fiat Doblo you shouldn't expect any surprises from the new Vauxhall Combo. Nevertheless, it is a competent all-round package with plenty of choice available, which should more than hold its own in the light van sector.

Vauxhall Combo Sportive Ecoflex L1H1
(inc. options, ex VAT)
Price range (ex VAT)£13,805-£17,355
Insurance group3E
Service intervals1yr/21,000mls
Load length1820mm
Load width (min/max)1230/1714mm
Load bay height1305mm
Gross payload750kg
Load volume3.4m³
Engine size/power1.3-litre/90hp
On saleFebruary 2012
Combined fuel economy58.9mpg
VerdictA vast improvement
compared with its
aged predecessor


A vast improvement compared with its aged predecessor