Vauxhall Combo Cargo long-term test: hello

  • What’s it like to live with a Combo Cargo
  • Range-topping LE Nav 1.5 Turbo D with 130hp
  • Santa's little helper?

Long-term test review of the Parkers Award-winning Vauxhall Combo Cargo.

Update 2: Dinosaur on board

Christmas has meant I’ve been a little lax on the updates for our long-term Vauxhall Combo test van – it tends to come second best when you’ve got the family to transport. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been pressed into service with some occasionally weird load combinations during the festive period.

For example, when I was informed that my 10-month-old niece would very enjoy receiving a roaring triceratops rocking, er, dinosaur from Santa Claus, the bearded wonder was so taken aback by the size of it that the Combo was tasked with collection duties.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo long-term test review - load area with rocking dinosaur and car ramps

However, it wasn’t so big that the by now traditional long-termer task of collecting stupid accessories for my MX-5 couldn’t be catered for in the same journey. In this instance a sturdy set of car ramps, bought locally via eBay.

So far the ad-hoc sheetery has done the trick protecting the unlined load floor from unwanted damage, too. Long may this continue.

This sort of thing aside, the Combo has also done a few airport runs since the first report, which has done nothing to diminish the initial impressions regarding its refinement and comfort potential. Even the stereo sounds pretty good – and though I’m disappointed to discover that Waze has stopped working with via Android Auto, I gather this is Waze problem rather than a Vauxhall one.

More soon.

Miles so far: 1,002
Real world fuel economuy: 48.4mpg


Update 1: Welcoming our award-winner to the fleet

As you might have noticed, the latest Vauxhall Combo Cargo – alongside its Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner cousins – has just won our inaugural Small Van of the Year Award. Proving that we stand by that decision 100%, this bright red example of the breed has now joined our long-term test fleet for the next few months.

Aside from the inevitable Postman Pat gags (the Ruby Red perhaps wasn’t the sharpest choice), so far, we’re getting along famously.

What’s the spec?

Since we had the opportunity, we’ve gone for the top trim level and the most powerful diesel engine: LE Nav with the 130hp 1.5-litre Turbo D, which comes with a six-speed manual gearbox.

The standard equipment list is, frankly, huge. The 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system features sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s cruise control, twin USB sockets, Bluetooth, air-conditioning, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, remote locking and an all-important alarm – and these are just the highlights.

Yet we’ve still managed to end up with a bunch of actually quite intriguing extras as well.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo long-term test review - rear view, driving round corner

While the build pre-dates Vauxhall’s introduction of the Surround Rear Vision camera system – which gives you a permanent rear-view camera and a passenger-side blindspot camera – we have got the Parking Pack with reversing camera and all-round sensors, the Sight and Light Pack that adds automatic wipers and high-beam adjustment and the Safety Pack with lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition and autonomous emergency braking.

Add in the also optional Head-up Display so there’s less need to look away from the road, and it feels like we’d have to actively try in order to crash this thing – which is probably famous last words, but we’ll do our best to avoid any accidents anyway.

Creature comforts haven’t been forgotten either, with a Winter Pack adding not only heated seats but a heated steering wheel, fancy dual-zone electronic climate control replacing the standard air-con, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.

Even the standard single passenger seat is upgrade to a two-seater bench with FlexCargo load-through facility.

All crammed in to the shorter L1 bodysize, this is a little van that’s ready for apparently anything.

Sounds… expensive

Er, yes. It probably is a bit. A standard LE Nav with 130hp already clocks in at £20,405 – with options ours is £23,622 (both figures exclude VAT).

To be fair, though, the basic price is exactly on par with a 120hp Ford Transit Connect Sport (by curious coincidence one of those is also about to join our long-term test fleet…), and though the same money will buy you a Volkswagen Caddy Trendline with a six-speed DSG automatic transmission the VW’s 2.0-litre diesel engine only makes 102hp.

Put it this way: we certainly don’t feel immediately short-changed, given the Combo’s standard equipment.

First impressions are good, then?

They are. Postman Pat jokes aside, this is a fine-looking little van outside and in. The driving position takes a bit of getting used to – all of these vans tend to feel rather wide, initially, and you have no definite sense of where the front is from the driving seat – but the ride is comfortable and it feels nimble on its feet.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo long-term test review - front view, driving round corner

Most impressive of all, however, is just how quiet it is. The Combo arrived with delivery mileage only, but even before it’s been properly run in the 1.5-litre diesel is just incredibly subdued – you practically have to make an effort to hear it. An outstanding achievement for a small van.

Anything already doing your nut in?

We’ve remarked in the main review that the ventilation controls are poorly positioned – set back in the dashboard below the touchscreen, it’s like reaching into a well to adjust them.

A dark well, in fact, as even the fancy electronic climate control fitted here doesn’t get illuminated switches. So if you’re driving in the dark you basically guessing at where to find the flipper to change the temperature or fan speed, while leaning forward against the seat belt and still trying to look down the road.

Not… cool.

Also, despite the astounding amount of kit included on this van, for some crazy reason it doesn’t have a lining on the load floor. While this save a bit of weight, I’m now fully expecting the that shining paintwork to end up scratched.

We’ll have to look for an aftermarket solution.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo long-term test review - load view with MX-5 Blink Stage One cylinder head for... reasons

Those minor blips aside, we’re very much looking forward to the next few months behind the wheel. More soon on our new Combo soon.

Miles so far: 481

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