Vauxhall Combo Cargo review (2020)

High-tech small van with high payloads and lots of options

Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3

PROS

  • Good value, with high payload ratings
  • Available with Overload Sensor and active safety kit
  • Varied engine range with plenty of cabin options
  • Crew van offers additional seating
  • More conventional cab than Peugeot Partner

CONS

  • Shares fiddly touchscreen with Peugeot/Citroen
  • Touchscreen is also rather laggy
  • Citroen and Peugeot versions more stylish
  • Petrol engine versions may be difficult to sell on
  • No hybrid or electric version yet

Summary

This Vauxhall Combo Cargo is the joint winner of Small Van of the Year in the 2020 Parkers Awards - read our full review to find out why.

Introduced in late 2018, this latest Vauxhall Combo Cargo small van takes full advantage of Vauxhall’s new relationship with PSA Peugeot-Citroen - the PSA Group having bought the British brand in 2017.

In fact, you may develop a sense of deja vu if you’ve already read about the 2019 Citroen Berlingo van and Peugeot Partner van. Nonetheless, this review specifically covers the Vauxhall Combo, detailing all its best bits, the less good areas, and what makes it stand out.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo review - 2019 model, side view, blue, L1

Capable of carrying nearly 1,000kg (1.0 tonne) in its most up-to-date specification, and available with high-tech features, including a system that warns you if the van is overloaded, Vauxhall has high hopes for the new Combo and so far it seems to be selling very well.

With load volume and fuel economy that also aims to impress, could this be the Combo to finally take the small van fight to the bestselling Ford Transit Connect? Other rivals include the Renault Kangoo and the Volkswagen Caddy.

What is this Vauxhall Combo Cargo based on?

The previous Vauxhall Combo was based on the Fiat Doblo Cargo, but the 2018 model shares its platform, technology and much of its design with the latest Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner vans. A Toyota Proace City joins the same family in 2020, too.

Built from aluminium and steel, and using a mixture of Peugeot-Citroen car and van parts, this gives the new Combo compact dimensions for its carrying capacity and modern fuel-saving features such as electric power steering, not to mention access to a whole host of active driver aids and other clever features.

There is also a passenger car version of the Combo, called the Vauxhall Combo Life.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo body variants and trim levels

The new Vauxhall Combo van comes in two body lengths - short-wheelbase (SWB) L1 and long-wheelbase (LWB) L2 - but only a single roof height (labelled H1).

Vauxhall Combo 2019 review - grey, rear view, driving

The long-wheelbase version also comes as a Crew van, capable of carrying up to five people, with a partition wall behind them to separate passengers and cargo. The rear bench can also fold down, while the partition can be moved and stored behind the front seats to maximise load space.

There are three trim levels: Edition, Sportive, LE Nav.

The Combo's French cousins offer four specifications.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo engine choice

At launch in December 2018, the Combo Cargo was offered with a choice of three turbodiesel engines:

  • 1.6-litre Turbo D BlueInjection 75 – previous-generation diesel with 75hp and 210Nm of torque
  • 1.6-litre Turbo D BlueInjection 100 – previous-generation diesel with 100hp and 250Nm of torque
  • 1.5-litre Turbo D BlueInjection 130 – new diesel engine from Peugeot’s car range with 130hp and 300Nm of torque

A turbo petrol engine joined the range in early 2019:

  • 1.2-litre PureTech 110 – three-cylinder petrol engine with 110hp and 205Nm of torque

By September 2019, the old 1.6-litre diesel engines were dropped in favour of newer 1.5-litre units, resulting in a line-up fully compatible with Euro 6.2 emissions regulations:

  • 1.5-litre Turbo D BlueInjection 75 – new diesel engine with 76hp and 210Nm of torque
  • 1.5-litre Turbo D BlueInjection 100 –  new diesel with 102hp and 250Nm of torque
  • 1.5-litre Turbo D BlueInjection 130 – as before
  • 1.2-litre PureTech 110 – as before

You'll be unsurprised to know, this selection matches exactly what's available in the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner as well.

All engines come with a manual gearbox as standard; in the two least-powerful diesel this gives you five speeds, the rest have six-speed transmissions. An eight-speed automatic is available as an option on the range-topping 130 model.


Vauxhall Combo Cargo verdict

Whether the Vauxhall Combo Cargo beats the Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo for you will likely come down to the slimmest of margins. They all offer a similar driving experience and practicality, but the Vauxhall has the most traditional van experience, and works well without any frills.

The Peugeot has its quirky i-Cockpit driving position, while the Citroen offers a more rugged appearance. In their latest versions, the French due have higher ultimate payload ratings, too - albeit by just a few kilograms.

How close your dealer is and what you can get for your money will probably help make the final decision. Whichever you pick you'll be getting a comfortable, highly functional small van, and collectively they go straight to the top of the class as our recommended starting point if you're shopping in this area of the van market.


Vauxhall Combo driving experience

4 out of 5 4.0
  • Three diesel engines, plus petrol power
  • Comfortable and easy to drive for long periods
  • Diesels remain better suited for heavy cargo

The Vauxhall Combo provides a comfortable, easy-going driving experience, and comes with a choice of three diesel engines and one petrol engine.

The petrol is not expected to be a big seller, due to its poorer long-distance fuel economy, but may prove suitable for inner-city use.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo engine power output and torque

The entry-level diesel engines are labelled 75 and 100, which roughly equates to their horsepower levels. Both come with a five-speed manual gearbox.

The 100 variant offers an adequate amount of power for most, while the 75 versions is best limited to low-speed, town environments with light cargo on board.

Vauxhall Combo 2019 review - grey, side view, driving

The 130 engine meanwhile provides 130hp and 300Nm of torque, and comes with a choice of six-speed manual or optional eight-speed automatic.

As you'd expect from those figures, this is by far the most vigorous version of this van, capable and comfortable right up to its maximum payload levels.

For all that it's fuel economy isn't so hot, the PureTech 110 turbopetrol is at least as torquey as the most basic diesel, and will feel quite rapid if you don't mind revving it. Sounds a bit gruff when doing so, though.

By contrast, the diesels are surprisingly refined - especially the 1.5-litre versions, which use a more modern engine design than the early 1.6-litre Combos.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo handling and ride comfort

The Vauxhall Combo Cargo has been set up with comfort in mind and manages to isolate the cabin from road imperfections quite well.

Softly padded seats and plenty of suspension travel work together to soak up larger bumps, and the result is a small van that serves up long-distance comfort pretty well - even if some may find the seats a little flat.

We’ve yet to sample the petrol-powered Combo, but experience of the Berlingo and Partner versions suggests the reduced weight of the engine results in a slightly more bouncy ride.

Vauxhall Combo 2019 review - grey, front view, driving

The Vauxhall Combo’s handling will never be classed as sporty but it remains composed and car-like for a van, meaning it’s not too top-heavy until you really push on.

For those who spend the majority of their time in town and city environments, the turning circle on the L1 short wheelbase is 11.0 metres, creeping up to 11.8 metres on the L2 long wheelbase.

Vauxhall Combo cabin & interior

4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Spacious cabin with plenty of storage areas
  • Few Vauxhall touches to make it stand out though
  • Five-seat crew cab available on long-wheelbase version

Climb into the driver’s seat in the Vauxhall Combo Cargo and you’ll find a spacious cabin, with a driver-focused dash angling the centre controls towards you.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo review - 2019 model, cab interior, steering wheel, instrument dial cluster

It's a very conventional design inside, so if you can’t get along with Peugeot’s more unusual i-Cockpit layout in the Partner, this Combo Cargo will see you right.

However, other than the steering wheel, headlight controls and dials found in other Vauxhalls, there’s little distinction between this and the Citroen Berlingo.

Plenty of space inside

The dash-mounted gearlever and optional electronic handbrake switch help free up floor space, while the Vauxhall is the only one out of the three to offer a heated steering wheel as an option.

A two-seater bench can also be optioned to replace the front passenger seat, allowing the Combo van to accomodate three passengers. This comes with a load-through bulkhead, increases load-space when there's just a drive on-board, too.

For even more seating, a five-seater Crew van option is available on the long-wheelbase version.

Lots of in-cab storage

There’s a good selection of storage areas dotted around the cabin, with space under the seats, on an over-head shelf and behind the instrument cluster.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo review - 2019 model, cab interior with gloveboxes open

A mid-level tray large enough for smartphones sandwiched between two gloveboxes in front of the passenger.

The dashtop-mounted glovebox also houses a USB connection and aux-in socket.

Vauxhall Combo infotainment system

The Vauxhall Combo uses the same touchscreen infotainment system as the Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo. This means you get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with six shortcut keys on either side - but only on top-spec LE Nav models.

Sadly, the shortcut keys are quite small and can be quite hard to press on the move, while the sat-nav system can be a little slow to load and respond to commands.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo review - 2019 model, cab interior, infotainment screen

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also limited to top-spec models, but it's good that they are at least available.

Standard models come with a small monochrome display instead of the touchscreen, surrounded by small buttons for the DAB radio, USB socket and Bluetooth.

Surround Rear Vision camera system

Although it wasn't available at launch, in August 2019 Vauxhall added a Surround Rear Vision camera system to the Combo Cargo range as an option, identical to the system also available on the Partner and Berlingo.

This adds a permanent rear view camera and a permanent blindspot camera that shows a view down the passenger side; you switch between the two by pressing a button on the 5.0-inch viewing screen, located where a traditional rear-view mirror would go.

We haven't tried this system in a Combo yet, but we have sampled it in both other PSA vans.

We'd file the rear view under 'better than nothing', but the camera resolution is quite poor, which reduces its effectiveness, especially in low light. The side view is more confusing than useful, so we'd go for basic blindspot monitors instead. They're cheaper, too.

Vauxhall Combo running costs & value

4 out of 5 4.0
  • Turbo D diesel engines should prove frugal
  • Average warranty and servicing intervals
  • Good value, with plenty of standard kit

The Vauxhall Combo Cargo is a good value small van, offering low running costs thanks to its frugal engines, competitive retail pricing and a decent range of trim levels.

Standard equipment doesn't exactly correspond to the Berlingo and Partner, so make sure you're getting exactly what you want, whichever you go for.

Vauxhall Combo running costs and mpg

Since the Vauxhall shares parts with its Citroen and Peugeot platform-mates, they should be easy to replace and source, which should help keep maintenance costs down.

Vauxhall Combo 2019 review - grey, rear view, driving

Vauxhall says that compared with the old Combo, the new model is at least 16% more fuel efficient, which in turn means it's 8% more economical than ‘the closest relevant competitor’ (which is a cute way of saying the functionally identical Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo are likely to achieve similar mpg).

At launch, all diesel engines claimed to achieve over 60mpg. However, September 2019 saw a change in emissions regulations and the way fuel economy was measured, which means the on-paper figures have fallen somewhat  to 40-50mpg.

This doesn't mean the Combo is suddenly less efficient than it was, though. Especially as the original 75 and 100 1.6-litre engines have been replaced by newer 1.5-litre equivalents that should prove more efficient still.

The petrol version claims 36-44mpg, depending on spec, and is likely to be the least efficient choice by some margin, particularly if you mostly do longer journeys.

Diesel models come with a 50-litre fuel tank, making room for a 17-litre AdBlue tank as well. Petrol models come with a larger 61-litre fuel tank.

Vauxhall Combo service intervals

Service intervals extend to 25,000 miles on 1.5-litre Turbo D engines which means lower mileage drivers will only have to visit the dealership once every two years, in theory.

The early 1.6-litre Turbo D engines require a service every 15,000 miles or one year.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo review - 2019 model, seats

However, there are on-board diagnostic systems, so the van may decide you need to see the dealer sooner than those intervals suggest. Don't ignore it.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo warranty information

The Combo comes with a comprehensive three-year, 60,000-mile warranty as standard.

That isn't a huge amount of miles - the Peugeot and Citroen alternatives have 100,000-mile limits - but it is unlimited mileage in the first year.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo trim levels

The Vauxhall Combo van comes in a choice of three trim levels:

  • Edition
  • Sportive
  • LE Nav

Here are the standard equipment highlights for each one.

Vauxhall Combo Edition standard equipment

At the time of writing, the entry-level Combo costs less than the previous version of the outgoing Combo. For that you get the following standard kit:

  • Four-way adjustable driver’s seat
  • Under-seat storage on the passenger side
  • Full-width overhead storage shelf
  • 15-inch steel wheels
  • Fixed steel bulkhead
  • Sliding side door on the passenger side
  • Overhead storage
  • DAB radio with Bluetooth and 3.5-inch display screen
  • One-touch electric windows
  • Electrically adjusted heated door mirrors

Vauxhall Combo Sportive standard equipment

The mid-range Combo Sportive also costs less than the old one. All of the following is included over the Edition – with air-conditioning and an improved driver’s seat the key items for us:

  • Six-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, armrest and storage
  • Four-way adjustable passenger seat
  • Reach and rake adjustment for the s
  • 16-inch steel wheels
  • Air-conditioning
  • Metallic paint
  • Body-coloured bumpers front and rear
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Cruise control with speed limiter
  • Alarm

Vauxhall Combo LE Nav standard equipment

The LE Nav trim echoes similar models previously available on the Vivaro and Corsavan, and as the name suggests it includes satellite-navigation as standard.

Proven to be a popular trim level on the Vivaro, it also features a more premium exterior appearance, with all of the following items included in addition to the Sportive:

  • Body-coloured door mirrors
  • Body-coloured side mouldings
  • Front bumper with skid plate
  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Navi sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Vauxhall Combo Crew van standard equipment

The LWB-only Combo Crew van is available in Edition and Sportive trim.

Its major feature is a second row of seats, but it also comes with a movable cage-style bulkhead that has two positions depending on whether the second row of seats is upright or stowed.

Vauxhall Combo Cargo optional equipment

There are a range of option packs available for the Vauxhall Combo van, including:

  • Construction Pack: 30mm raised suspension, Mud/Snow tyres and engine sump guard
  • Winter pack: heated front seats and steering wheel
  • FlexCargo Pack: load-through bulkhead, electronic parking brake, third front passenger seat
  • Safety pack: front camera, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, autonomous emergency braking
  • Sight and Light pack: automatic windscreen wipers, automatic rear-view mirror (when fitted with rear glazed windows), high-beam assist for headlights
  • Parking pack: front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, Flank guard system, electric folding door mirrors, front fog lights with cornering function.

Individual options include wireless mobile phone charging, head-up display, LED lighting for the load area, fixed windows for the side and rear doors and electronic climate control.

Then there's the Intelligrip traction control system. Rotate the dial beside the gearlever to choose between Normal, Snow, Mud, Sand or ESC Off, depending on the road conditions to maximise traction.

A spare wheel is a no cost option, but this will eat into your payload.

How does the Vauxhall Combo’s Overload Sensor work?

This is an absolutely brand new feature in the van sector, first coming to market on the Combo, Berlingo and Partner in 2019.

Available as a cost option on all Combo models, the sensor is there to prevent you accidentally breaking the law by unknowingly overloading your van.

Vauxhall Combo 2019 review - being loaded

As such, the system boots up automatically whenever you start the Combo’s ignition. If you’ve gone over 80% of the allowed payload, a white LED comes on to warn you that you’re approaching the limit.

If you exceed the payload limit altogether an orange warning light with an exclamation light comes on.

You can also press a button in the load area to activate the sensor, so you can check how close you are to the limit while loading, hopefully saving you from having to take things back out.

Note: we are yet to see a test van with the feature fitted, so are unable to confirm whether it works effectively.

Vauxhall Combo reliability, common problems & faults

4 out of 5 4.0

The Vauxhall Combo is currently too new for any common faults to have become apparent, but it uses tried-and-tested components found in other PSA products, so we're not expecting any major reliability headaches.

>> The top 10 most reliable vans and pickups

Vauxhall Combo safety & security

4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Full set of airbags available as an option
  • Lots of driver assistance tech available

How safe and secure is the the Vauxhall Combo? Keep reading to find out.

Vauxhall Combo safety equipment

Starting with the all important airbags, only a driver's item is standard, with passenger, side and curtain airbags optional extras.

However, what really makes the Combo (alongside its Peugeot and Citroen cousins) stand out are the high-tech safety extras that are available.

Vauxhall Combo 2019 review - grey, overhead driving shot

Highlight features include the Rear Surround Vision system (which we've covered in the Interior section of this review) and head-up display.

In addition to this, a new Flank Guard system uses the front and rear parking sensors to detect and remember objects that might be lurking out of sight to the side of the van, helping you to avoid accidental damage. This is only available on models with the touchscreen infotainment system.

Other driver assistance features include:

  • Forward Collision Alert with pedestrian detection and Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Driver Drowsiness Alert
  • Traffic Sign Recognition

Something else to consider is the Intelligrip system; the Vauxhall version of PSA’s Grip Control feature, this is an enhanced traction control system designed to deliver improved grip on slippery surfaces.

This is only available in conjunction with the Construction Pack.

Vauxhall Combo security equipment

All models come with remote central locking, locking wheel nuts and an engine immobiliser.

A remote control alarm system is fitted on Sportive models and above, as well as an indicator that displays in the cabin whether any attempt to enter or steal the vehicle has occurred in the driver’s absence.

The rear door hinges are now integrated within the to reduce access to thieves.

Which Vauxhall Combo is best for me?

Still trying to work out which Vauxhall Combo Cargo is best for you? Here's a little more insight.

Best Vauxhall Combo for running costs

Those looking for the most economical Vauxhall Combo will be best to seek the short wheelbase L1 fitted with the mid-spec 100 diesel engine.

Best Vauxhall Combo for payload

At launch the some versions of the Combo were rated to carry over 1,000kg; this has been adjusted slightly, and now even the best model falls slightly under the magic one-tonne mark - leaving it slightly behind the Berlingo and Partner.

For full load area and carrying capacity details, see our dedicated Vauxhall Combo Cargo Dimensions page.

Best Vauxhall Combo for value / standard equipment

The entry-level Edition will be a bit sparse for most people despite the standard-fit Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and USB socket.

Move up to mid-range Sportive and you gain air-conditioning, rear-parking sensors, cruise control and alarm system.

The top-spec LE Nav chiefly adds cosmetic changes and while the added sat-nav and 8.0-inch touchscreen may appeal, this can be optioned on all other models.

Most popular Vauxhall Combo engine

The mid-level 100-grade diesel will be the one to cover the majority of bases for most users. It combines adequate performance with a high payload capacity and a 1,200kg braked towing weight.

The extra cost for the higher-performing 130hp version may be justified if you require an automatic or require the higher braked towing capacity of 1,500kg.