heycar editorial team
- Maximum payload of one tonne
- Packed with lots of useful tech
- Easy to drive with great engines
Not so great
- Most of that excellent tech is optional
- Very basic entry-level version
- Little to make it stand out versus the co-developed models
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
"The Vauxhall Combo is easy to drive, cheap to run and extremely practical. It pretty much ticks all the major boxes that you’d hope for when buying a class leading small van."
The Vauxhall Combo is based on the same platform as the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Expert and the Toyota ProAce City, which means that it provides a fantastic payload with up to 4.4 cubic meters of carrying capacity. Although there is only the one height, there is the ability to slot longer items through into the cabin thanks to the optional FlexCargo hatch in the bulkhead.
There are two lengths on offer, which are dubbed Standard and XL. The shorter measures in at 4.4m long while the XL is 4.75m. You can get a single or dual passenger seat so you can get three in the front, which is not the case for all small vans – the Ford Transit Connect only comes as a two-seater for example. The middle seat is not huge - the gearbox limits legroom - but its existence will be a boost for many van drivers who need to carry the occasional extra passenger.
The Combo offers strong running costs, with official fuel economy figures of up to 54.3mpg, which puts it up with the most efficient vans in the class.
The diesel engines are all 1.5-litre while there is a 1.2-litre petrol. A fully electric model will join the range in 2021 too. The diesels come with 75, 100 or 130PS. The 100PS engine is the most efficient also the best all round mixture of performance and economy, while the 130PS comes with more power and torque for carrying heavy loads and towing. It’s also the only engine that comes with the eight-speed automatic gearbox and the option of four-wheel drive.
Technology is one area where the Combo really moves the small van class on. It offers a selection of kit that will surely only spread across the class in years to come. The camera system that acts as a rear-view mirror is excellent, but the overload sensor that warns when you are getting close to the payload and when you have exceeded it is an important feature that will help keep drivers legal and help boost efficiency.
All of the Combo models are incredibly easy and stress free to drive, too, with light steering and firm suspension that keeps it controlled over bumps and around corners. Vauxhall also offers an MPV version, the Vauxhall Combo Life.
Comfort and design
"The Vauxhall Combo raises the bar for comfort, while adding new car-like levels of comfort."
The Combo’s cabin is a well laid-out place, and lots of the features just makes sense in a wide variety of ways. The seats are comfortable and supportive, although it’s a shame you don’t get the full range of adjustment on the basic model. You have to step up to the Sportive trim to get height adjustment, an armrest and manual lumbar support. All three versions get the same amount of adjustment on the steering wheel, though, so it is easy to get into a decent position.
Any adult in the middle seat of any small van will find it a little compromised, but the Combo works well with what it has available. The gear lever is set up high enough that there is enough room for the passenger’s legs – they can slot to the side so the driver doesn’t bash their passenger’s knee every time they go to change gear. The electronic parking brake helps free up a little more space, too.
The cabin’s design is relatively conventional – there isn’t anything as outlandish as the iCockpit layout with its small steering wheel that features in the Peugeot Partner. It is much more like the sensible Citroen Berlingo in many ways. This means that some of the buttons are a little small, but they are clearly labelled at least. The dashboard is slightly angled towards the driver for ease of use while plenty of buttons on the steering wheel to control the stereo and cruise control help, too.
Handling and ride quality
"The Vauxhall Combo, like all the vans with which it shares a platform, is good to drive. It is biased towards comfort rather than precision, but you’ll appreciate the former more when it comes to the end of a long day behind the wheel."
The Combo's suspension is supple and capable of soaking up bumps on the motorway and the sharper potholes and speed humps you get around town in equal measure. It manages to do so even when you have an empty load bay, too, which is impressive given many bounce around in that situation.
Despite this level of comfort, it is still capable of holding an upright position when you head around corners. This lack of body roll means that it is likely to keep your load from shifting around in the back
Granted the Combo isn’t quite as sharp to drive as the Ford Transit Connect or Volkswagen Caddy, but the steering is still a real asset. It is light enough at lower speeds that it is happy around town while it weights up enough that you can keep a line on the motorway without having to constantly adjust the steering wheel position.
The optional IntelliGrip traction control is available for those that don’t want to go full four-wheel drive. It doesn’t come as standard on any model, so you have to add it as an extra, but it is a cheaper way to get a little more flexibility than going for full four-wheel drive.
MPG and fuel costs
"The Vauxhall Combo is one of the most efficient vans in its class and this will make it an appealing choice for small business owners who want to cut their day-to-day running costs to the bone."
Don’t feel you have to compromise on power to get the most efficient model of Vauxhall Combo – the 100PS diesel is the version that provides the best fuel economy figure. It claims up to 54.3mpg, while the 75PS offers up to 49.5mpg.
In fact, officially, the 110PS model offers a better fuel economy than many of the diesels, claiming up to 51.0mpg. Adding four-wheel drive to the Combo has the biggest impact on economy as that brings the 130PS model’s rating down from 50.4mpg to 41.3mpg.
How much should you be paying for a used Vauxhall Combo?
"There isn’t a vast amount of historical data to indicate what a used Vauxhall Combo should go for, as the vehicle was only launched in 2018. However, there are some excellent savings to be had on delivery-mile versions with around £6000 off the list price."
Some of these deals are for models that are the short-lived 1.6-litre diesel, though, so it is worth checking which version is being advertised.
Is the Vauxhall Combo right for you?
The Vauxhall Combo is the perfect all-round small van. For those who are more used to driving a car it will prove unintimidating and easy to use, while those who are after a load lugger that can take a huge payload will find a model that is up to their requirements too.
If you are into the latest technology then there is something for you too, with camera systems that operate in lieu of the rear-view mirror and the incredibly clever overload indicator that should become a regular feature on vans of the future.
Every one of its engines has something going for it, and the addition of an electric model in the future means that it will likely play a leading role in the spread of battery-powered vans. As there is also a crew van and a four-wheel drive version, there is an incredibly high chance that there is a Combo that meets your working needs.
What’s the best Vauxhall Combo model/engine to choose?
There are many Combos to choose from, and with them aiming at a wide variety of business needs, it’s likely that one model won’t suit all. A four-wheel drive model isn’t going to work for those doing lots of motorway miles due to its higher fuel costs, for example.
Given that what the Combo does best is cover plenty of miles with ease, there is a strong argument that the version that best shows off its ability is the higher trim LE Nav. This brings a load of excellent kit and a modern touchscreen.
The engines are all great in their own way, but the best all-rounder is the 100PS 1.5-litre diesel. It provides a good blend of economy and performance.
What other cars are similar to the Vauxhall Combo?
The Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Toyota Proace City are more than similar to the Combo, they are the same van with different badges and marginally different packaging. Each are as compelling as the Combo.
The other contenders in the class are the Ford Transit Connect and the Volkswagen Caddy. Neither are as modern or as practical as the Vauxhall, but both offer a good driving experience. The Fiat Doblo is another model with a good payload while the Renault Kangoo is another aging option.
Quality and finish
The Combo’s interior feels solid and like it will take a good battering, but it stops short of using the sort of plastics that you would normally expect to find in the loading bay rather than in the cabin. There is enough give to the materials that it doesn’t feel totally utilitarian.
One bonus feature that will help keep it looking like this is the bag that comes with the Flex Cargo through-loading bulkhead. This is attached all around the perimeter of the opening and opens out into the cabin. This allows you to thread dirty items – used fence posts for example – through into the front of the van without leaving mud or cement dust all over the seats and dash.
The Combo’s dash looks a little plain when it doesn’t come with the eight-inch touchscreen. This is the case for both the Edition and Sportive model – it only comes on the LE Nav, at which point the cabin looks a lot smarter. It also appears a little dark, with little in the way of contrast colours to break up the black.
None of the models get a leather steering wheel – you have to add that on as part of a package that also brings a heated steering wheel and heated front seats.
The Combo’s infotainment screen is the one that you also find in the likes of the Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo – it’s an eight-inch touchscreen with a volume dial and shortcut buttons down either side. Unlike the Partner it is only offered on the top-spec model, though, which means that the two lower trims only get a more simplistic radio system that looks a little dated despite its digital display.
The touchscreen is much more modern in its appearance, but isn’t the swiftest to load and respond. The shortcuts down the side are not physical buttons and they sit flush with the screen, which makes them slightly trickier to hit on the move.
The USB connection sits to the bottom right of the screen, which means that the cable dangles closer to the steering wheel than is preferable, but it can be run around the back of the screen to tuck it out of the way. This allows you to use Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which will be preferable to the in-house navigation for some.
Space and practicality
Passenger room in the panel van version of the Combo is generous if you only have the one seat for a single passenger. The seat on the basic model is fixed but the others all have seat adjustment, too.
Unlike the rest of the Combo’s co-developed vans, the Vauxhall only comes with the dual front passenger seat if you specify it as an option and pay for the privilege. It’s a worthwhile option to go for, though, as the middle seat is more than just a token gesture.
Sure it is not one that you’d want to sit in for hours on end on a long drive, and you’ll probably bump shoulders every now and again if you are three-up in the front, but the positioning of the gear lever means that there is just enough room for an adult to sit in the middle and still have their legs in a relatively comfortable position.
That double seat really helps boost practicality, too, as it brings a load-through hatch that increases the overall length from 3.0m to 3.4m. The integrated bag helps keep the cabin clean, too.
The space in the back is excellent in the Combo, and the payload is brilliant. It’s worth paying careful attention to the model you are buying, though, as some only boast a payload of around 650kg. However, there are several models that offer the ability to carry more than 1000kg.
The optional overload sensor is an excellent feature to purchase, as it'll tell you when you are getting close to the maximum permitted load and when you have passed it. It should also help prolong the life of the Combo's vital mechanical parts, due to the fact it'll avoid overloading that can cause serious damage to the vehicle's suspension.
Every L2 model gets a pair of sliding side doors while the shorter version only gets one, while you get a pair of twin rear doors on every version. The 1.2 metre internal width means you can fit a pair of Euro pallets in. There is only the one height, though, which means the loading height is limited to 548mm for the Standard van and 620mm for the XL model.
Engines and gearboxes
The Vauxhall Combo’s engine range is growing all the time, but the core of it is a selection of 1.5-litre diesels. The three come with power outputs of 75, 100 and 130PS, and are joined by a 1.2-litre, 110PS petrol. An electric model is on its way, too.
The 75PS diesel doesn’t offer the payload or performance to be considered by anyone other than those who will be doing lower mileage urban deliveries. If you are going to be spending any time on the motorway, or have any sort of load to carry, then the 100PS is the best one to go for as an all-round option. The 130PS boasts a whole load more power and torque and is really smooth with it.
This 130PS model is the only one that comes with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, too. This ‘box is proof that things have come a long way for van drivers in recent years – it is smooth and is a really relaxing companion if you spend lots of time in stop-start traffic.
The six-speed manual is decent, too, with an easy movement that doesn’t require much effort on the clutch or to change gears. The lower powered versions come with a five-speed ‘box, which is marginally less relaxing on the motorway where the revs sit at a higher level when you are cruising.
The other engine option is a 110PS petrol, which will suit those looking for a van that will cope with lots of short journeys around town, but is not likely to be a common option. This may make finding a buyer when you come to sell it on tricky, but it is a quiet and smooth engine at least.
The first few Combos that were sold after it launched in 2018 came with a 1.6-litre diesel with either 75 or 100PS. They performed largely the same as the newer 1.5-litre engines with the same power outputs, but they didn’t meet the latest Euro emissions requirements, hence they were dropped from the range in 2019. Because of the similar performance stats, they won’t feel much different in day-to-day use.
Refinement and noise levels
Generally speaking the Vauxhall Combo is excellent at keeping noise out of the cabin, both stood still with the engine running and on the move. The decent levels of insulation help with this, but the engines themselves are quiet, too.
The 1.5-litre diesels are smooth and refined and don’t kick up much in the way of noise at all. There is little to choose between the different power outputs in terms of noise produced. The only exception is when you take the 75 and 100PS models onto the motorway – because they only have five-speed gearboxes they sit at slightly higher revs which means that the engine is marginally louder than in the 130PS. The rest of the time, it is an impressively quiet cabin.
As you might expect, the 1.2-litre petrol is even quieter, particularly around town. The older 1.6-litre diesel engines are marginally louder, especially when sitting at standstill and when you accelerate hard. It stops short of impacting on your ability to have a conversation in the cabin on the move, but it is noticeable and the newer engine is that bit more relaxing.
The basic safety kit on the Combo is relatively simple, with most of the equipment only available as added extras, as is the case on many vans. The Edition model comes with a single airbag for the driver, hill start assist and a full-height bulkhead. Other than an alarm, which is added to the Sportive trim, none of the other models get any extra safety equipment and you have to head towards the options list to get the clever tech.
Lots of this is handily packaged up in the Safety Pack, which brings a front camera system that adds lane keep assist with lane departure warning, speed sign recognition, a driver monitoring system, forward collision alert and autonomous emergency braking.
The best added safety feature doesn’t come as part of the pack, though – the overload sensor is an innovative piece of kit that sounds a warning when you reach 80% of the payload capacity and another when you go over the permitted amount. The alarm can be heard in the cabin or at the back of the van, and should ensure that users can stay safe by not exceeding the permitted load and up their efficiency as they don’t have to guess at the amount that is allowed.
Insurance groups and costs
The Combo that sits in the lowest insurance group is one of the middle-of-the-road versions – the 100PS Sportive version is in group 28, aided no doubt by the addition of the alarm in that model’s specification.
There is no real linear progression to the range’s insurance groups, with the rest of the Sportive range sitting in group 30E, the Edition in groups 30-32 and the Limited Edition Nav in group 29 and 30. The one thing that bumps you up a group is the addition of the automatic gearbox.
VED car tax
The Cargo enjoys the low-rate commercial vehicle VED rate (£265) which is the same for all models regardless of price and CO2 emissions. The same is true for the vehicle’s benefit-in-kind classification. All vans’ BIK rating is calculated off the same figure, so it doesn’t matter about the emissions once again.
Trim levels and standard equipment
It’s a shame that the decent interior kit isn’t offered on the Combo until you get to the Limited Edition Nav model, and it is this version that is best suited to a van that is at its happiest doing long drives.
The 100PS model is the best all-rounder, although those who will spend the majority of their time on the motorway may find the lack of sixth gear wearing.
The overload sensor is the option that all Combos should come fitted with, especially if you are likely to be carrying heavy loads that are close to the van’s impressively high payload.
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
Reviews of similar cars
Quality checked, all cars less than 8 years old and warranty included