The first Vauxhall vehicle to be built on the Peugeot-Citroen-Vauxhall shared platform is the Combo van, which Vauxhall launched in late 2018. It’s off to a good start, as it’s already been awarded the International Van of the Year for 2019.
The Combo is based on an all-new architecture & shares much of this with stablemates the Citroen Berlingo & Peugeot Partner. It is offered in a selection of variants, including short wheelbase, long wheelbase & crew van. It can carry a load volume of up to 4.4m3 & a payload of up to a tonne. Longer items up to 3440mm can be stored safely & securely, thanks to the rear swing doors & FlexCargo load-through hatch. It can also transport payloads up to 1,000kg & will take up to two Euro pallets thanks to the increased distance between the wheel arches. With a low loading edge of just 548mm, rear access is excellent too.
Long items, such as wooden planks can be stowed at an angle via the optional roof hatch. While the optional Construction Pack which includes an improved underride protection thanks to a sump guard and Michelin Latitude Tour Mud & Snow tyres for added grip. The chassis height is also increased by 30mm.
In crew van body style, up to five occupants can be accommodated, while the load is safely stowed behind a partition wall. In addition, the rear bench can be folded down & the partition moved behind the front seats if required.
Vauxhall have obviously thought long & hard about the Combo & have managed to produce a van with some really clever touches. A sensor-based overload indicator is available, which allows the driver to check the vehicle is not overloaded. There’s also a connectable protection bag that can be fixed to the hatch opening to protect longer loads from damaging the van’s interior. Other innovations available include a Rear View Camera that acts as a “digital” rear view mirror, while a second camera in the passenger side door mirror gives the driver has an additional blind spot detection aid.
Modern-day vans are very car-like & the newCombo is no different. The layout is ergonomically designed, with all controls falling easily to hand. The instrumentation will be familiar to Peugeot & Citroen customers & in the Combo, it all looks & feels good. The seating position has been made more upright, while the compact, flat-bottomed steering wheel allows for easier access to the cabin. There’s good storage space too, with two glove boxes & two large door pockets, plus an above the head body wide shelf.
There’s a versatile seating configuration, with either a four-way adjustable seat for both driver & front passenger or a six-way adjustable driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, integrated armrest & under seat storage compartment. Three occupants can also sit abreast in the front of the Combo on a two-seater bench. This can be ordered with a moveable table which can be upturned to produce a working in-van desk or it can be folded flat to the floor, which allows longer load lengths to be loaded.
There are three Combo models. Entry level Edition, then Sportive, plus a limited edition NAV model. Customers can choose from three diesel engines. A 1.6 litre with either 75PS or 100PS & a 1.5 130PS, which is available as a manual or auto. There are also two 1.2 petrol engines offering either 110PS or 130PS.
Fuel economy has been improved by at least 16% over the old Combo with CO2 emissions at least 17% better than the outgoing model. The entry level 1.6 75PS diesel has combined economy of 65.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 111g/km, the 1.6 100PS comes with a combined figure of 65.6mpg & 111g/km of CO2, while the range topping 1.5 diesel 130PS, offers combined fuel economy of 64.2mpg, with CO2 emissions of 116g/km. All are impressive.
Entry level Edition starts from £15,630 ex VAT, which is £800 less than the current Combo entry price & features under seat storage, a fixed steel bulkhead, a nearside sliding door, overhead storage, a 5″ display radio with Bluetooth & DAB, one-touch windows & electric & heatedexterior mirrors.
Sportive models cost from £17,705 ex VAT & these versions add a six-way driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, centre armrest & storage, 16″ wheels, air con, metallic paint, front & rear body-colour bumpers, rear parking sensors, cruise control with speed limiter & an alarm.
The launch special LE NAV costs from £18,905 & this version takes the spec up a bit further, with body colour exterior mirrors, exterior door handles, side protection mouldings & front bumper with skid plate, 16″ alloy wheels & an 8″ touchscreen with SatNav.
Smart driver assistance & safety features available in the Combo include Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Alert with Pedestrian Detection, Drowsiness Indicator, Traffic Sign Recognition & Automotive Emergency Braking. You can also specify Surround Rear Vision, providing a digital rear-view mirror & Flank Guard, helping to prevent side damage from low-level obstructions.
The first model I tested was a mid-range Combo Sportive L1H 1.6 100PS diesel start/stop model, with two front seats, which I drove laden with 300kg. Spending time in the cabin, allowed me to appreciate just how much good stuff is now incorporated into a modern day van. The build quality is excellent. Bash the top of the dash or the doors with your hand & they are solid. There’s plenty of soft touch plastics on the front & top of the dashboard & even the glove box lid & door pockets are solid & built to last. The seat fabric feels hard wearing with the floor covering also designed to take some punishment from booted feet.
The cabin feels bright & airy & there’s plenty of leg & headroom for the two front passengers. Equipment levels are generous & the touch screen tablet style infotainment system was pleasing to the eye & easy to navigate. It’s large enough to see & the graphics are clear & easy to understand.
I found the heating controls fiddly to adjust & I couldn’t get the system to the right temperature. This though, was the only negative I could find.
For load access, the twin rear doors open wide & the near-side sliding door opens & closes with a reassuring clunk. My co-driver played rugby in the front row, coming in at 100kg. Add his weight to my 65kg, plus the 300kg load fixed to a pallet in the back, meant that we were driving around with 465kg’s ion board. This meant that the 100ps engine felt a little underpowered when trying to overtake on the motorway & also when travelling cross country over undulating roads. For most van users, the 100PS will do just fine, but it did make me think that the 75PS version would feel decidedly slow.
After lunch, we returned in an identical van, but with the three-seat front bench. Unladen & with just two of us on board, the 100PS diesel was much more fun to drive, especially when our route back took us cross country on some winding B roads. I took the chance to sit in the middle seat & there is definitely more room for your legs on offer than in some competitors small vans centre seats. We also spent 30 minutes on the M1 & the full bulkhead kept noise from the cargo space at bay, as we drove along at 70mph. I was able to connect my phone via Bluetooth & made a couple of calls whilst in the passenger seat, without resorting to shouting. We also found 6Music easily on the DAB radio & connected an Android Auto phone via USB, which w used to navigate.
The five-speed gearbox worked well, although a sixth gear would definitely be useful on the motorway. Both the steering & the clutch were light & the Combo handles well. Only pot holes disturbed our peace as the 16″ wheels & suspension struggled to keep the bumpy road surface at bay. We were though, driving a brand new van with only 40 miles on the clock, so we can assume that the suspension will soften over time.
Company Car & Van has had several enquiries this past year, from existing Vauxhall customers, all asking about the brands products going forward. We loved the Citroen Dispatch & Peugeot Expert enough for both to be our Van of the Year in 2017, whilst 2019 sees the launch of the PSA backed Vivaro which will be based on these. What we can safely say about the new Combo, is that it’s well built, well designed, drives well on Euro6 engines & comes at a lower price with lower emissions & better fuel economy than most of the competition. Existing Vauxhall customers should be relaxed about the ‘French Connection.’
Vauxhall have a head start 4/5