Vauxhall Combo-e electric van review (2022)

A practical, useable small van that happens to be electric

Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1

PROS

  • Impressive payload of up to 800kg
  • Useful 750kg towing capacity
  • Two lengths and crew van version
  • Full charge possible in five hours
  • Good level of standard equipment

CONS

  • Same as three other vans
  • Expensive to buy versus diesel
  • Only one battery option
  • Maximum range below 200 miles
  • No top-spec model
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Summary

Get ready for the influx of small electric vans, as the Vauxhall Combo-e and its siblings the Citroen e-Berlingo, Peugeot e-Partner and Toyota Proace City Electric might well signify the point at which they go mainstream and start appearing in serious numbers.

The 171-mile claimed driving range isn’t as good as the bigger Vivaro-e, but it will open up the tech to a much wider market than models of years gone by with their 80-90 miles of capability. With rapid charging available as well, the electric Combo could fit into many a working day.

>> Best electric vans

Full range of models

The days of the solitary electric model are long gone, and Vauxhall is aiming to appeal to as wide a range of buyers as possible. Although there is only the one battery option there are two trims, two lengths and a five-seater crew van. There’s also a passenger-car version, with a choice of five or seven seats.

Vauxhall Combo-e rear three quarter

Because of the solitary battery option, most versions are within striking distance of one another when it comes to payload, which makes the choice that bit simpler.

Close relatives

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Combo-e’s closest rivals are also its closest equivalents. The Citroen e-Berlingo and Peugeot e-Partner both offer alternatives that are largely the same van but with slight tweaks on pricing and spec.

They work out marginally cheaper in terms of list price due to a slightly different level of kit, but the differences are negligible in the grand scheme of things.

Toyota is set to bring out an electric version of its Proace City, too. This brand is likely to stick to its usual formula of offering just one trim level and a longer warranty.

Vauxhall Combo-e rivals

Apart from the obvious contemporaries at Citroen/Peugeot/Toyota, the Combo-e will soon be facing a large number of small electric van rivals. Electric versions of the new Renault Kangoo, Nissan Townstar and second-generation Mercedes-Benz Citan will all be on sale in 2022, for example (another family of closely related models).

There is no electric version of the Volkswagen Caddy planned any time soon, though, with Volkswagen putting its EV-shaped eggs into an ID.Buzz basket instead. Given Ford and VW’s relatively recently announced commercial vehicle partnership, it would make sense for the former to go electric around the time that the ID.Buzz arrives. Nothing is confirmed on this front though.

There is also a selection of Chinese electric vans out there or on the way, starting with the Maxus e Deliver 3. BYD and DFSK small electric are coming soon, too.

What’s the driving range of a Vauxhall Combo-e?

The battery in the Combo-e stores 50kWh of electricity – the same as the smaller of the two you can get in the Vivaro-e medium electric van.

The official WLTP-tested range is 171 miles, and this is the same for every version. The unscientific testing we’ve put it to so far suggests that it should be good for this.

However, our initial drives were in mild temperatures without much in the way of payload in the back, and while playing around with the different driving modes. So results may vary in colder weather or with a more demanding payload.

Swift to charge

The Combo-e comes with a strong charging offering as standard, with fast charging included on every version. This means that you can plug into a public point with 100kW rapid get from 0-80% in just 30 minutes.

When connected to a domestic 32Amp wallbox via the standard-fit 7.4kWh on-board charger, it will replenish the battery in seven and half hours. If this isn’t quite enough then the optional 11kWh on-board charger will get you fully juiced in five hours.


Verdict: is the Vauxhall Combo-e any good?

The Combo Cargo-e is edging ever closer to the stage where it’s a van that happens to be electric rather than being an electric van. Unlike its larger equivalent, the Vivaro-e, it doesn’t suffer from any major cabin-based irritations either.

At 171 miles, the range won’t be enough for everyone. But the fast charging times, impressive payloads and user-friendly controls mean that it has set a benchmark that the forthcoming rivals will have to work very hard to surpass.

For more details, keep reading our full Vauxhall Combo-e review.


Vauxhall Combo Combo-e Cargo driving experience

4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Smooth, quiet and easy to drive
  • Swift from a standstill
  • Different modes dull or enhance the power

What is the motor in the Combo-e?

The Combo-e is powered by a 100kW motor, which sends its power to the front wheels only – there is no 4x4 option on the electric model. This equates to 136hp, which is marginally more powerful than the top spec diesel engine. This results in a 0-62mph time of 11.7 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 81mph.

It's smooth and quiet, even at higher speeds, where the quality of the road surface is more likely to be what dictates the levels of noise in the cabin.

What are the driving modes like?

There are three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Power. You start off in Normal when you turn the Combo-e on, regardless of which mode you were in when you last turned it off. Even Normal restricts the motor’s performance slightly, with only 80kW of power and 210Nm of torque available versus the 100kW and 260Nm that’s on offer when you go into Power mode. Power also gives you a bit more throttle response.

Vauxhall Combo-e front three quarter

Eco dials things right back and restricts you to 60kW and 190Nm, while it also limits the abilities of the heating and cooling systems, so many will hold that back for when they really want eke a few more miles out. Normal mode is the one that suits most everyday tasks the best, although Power’s extra burst of pace will come in handy for tackling steep hills or a stubborn overtake.

There’s also a separate B mode, which increases the engine braking so you don’t have to use the brake pedal as much. This doesn’t quite brake to the extent that you can drive it using the accelerator alone but it will do a lot of your slowing down for you and save on wear and tear as a result. It is best used around town though, as it will scrub speed off as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, which can get annoying on faster roads.

As is the case with a conventional engine, the efficiency you get is very much down to how you drive the Combo-e. Stick it in Power mode and accelerate hard and you’ll see the range disappear before your eyes, but there is much more satisfaction in staying smooth and maximising the range – it feels much more in taking with the character of the van.

It does its best work at low speeds where it is capable of nipping away from the line at the lights. The single-speed gearbox and gently progressive accelerator pedal means that it is easy to ease the Combo-e in and out of, say, parking spots without jerking forward.

What is the ride and handling of the Combo-e like?

The Combo-e drives exactly like every other Combo in many respects – a comfortable and well settled ride and well measured steering that tends slightly towards being on the light side. This is great around town but slightly less welcome at motorway speeds, which is unlikely to bother the largely urban-based buyers of this sort of van.

Vauxhall Combo Combo-e Cargo cabin & interior

4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Smart cabin with attractive tech available
  • Layout identical to diesel version
  • Little to distinguish between this and siblings

The majority of the features in the Combo-e are carried over from the rest of the range, which means that you get a smart cabin with some clever bits of tech, most of which you will have to pay for. This means that it is more conventional than the Peugeot e-Partner cabin, with its small steering wheel and unconventional dashboard layout, and closer to the Citroen e-Berlingo’s, with a few badge changes the main differences.

Vauxhall Combo-e interior

What is different on the electric model?

The biggest change is to the instrument cluster, which can be fully digital and contains more of the information you would expect for an EV. This means things like a gauge that shows whether the energy is being used or recuperated, range indicators and details on which mode you are in. With very little practice it becomes easy to read and to work out the small differences to the range that things like the heating and different driving modes make.

The digital display also means that, when it’s fitted, it can display the navigation directions too.

What are the downsides?

Despite the lack of gear lever – you get a small rocker switch to change between the different modes instead – the shape of the dash is the same. This means that you get a big chunk of dash sticking into the legroom for the middle passenger.

Vauxhall Combo Combo-e Cargo running costs & value

4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Excellent running costs
  • Small step up between different trims
  • Warranty only three years for main vehicle, eight for battery

Even factoring in the volatile cost of electricity and diesel at the time of writing, the latter should still work out cheaper on a per-mile basis, especially if you have a favourable tariff or can make use of solar panels. If you spend all your time hooked up to public chargers then things will get more expensive but it should still have the edge.

Vauxhall Combo-e charging port

The 171-mile range should be sufficient to allow most users to do what they need to do and then stick to re-juicing the battery at night. Vauxhall has included a feature that allows you to time when the vehicle recharges so you can make the most of cost-effective tariffs.

As it is electric, the Combo-e qualifies for lower tax bills too.

Vauxhall Combo-e servicing

The Combo-e has the same servicing intervals as the diesel versions. This means that you will only have to go and get it seen to every 25,000 miles or, more likely, every two years. The exception to this is the first service, which is due after 12,500 miles or at the end of the first year of driving.

In theory, services should cost a little less than the diesel equivalents as electric vehicles are kinder on their moving parts. By using the B mode you should be able to lighten the load on the braking systems pads and discs, which should hopefully prolong their life. There aren’t as many fluids to change either.

Vauxhall Combo-e warranty

The main body of the Combo-e comes with the standard Combo warranty, which is not the longest in the class at just three years/60,000 miles. The rival at Toyota has a 10-year package for example.

The battery has a separate warranty, which runs to eight years or 100,000 miles, promising the van will maintain at least 70% of the original battery capacity.

Vauxhall Combo-e standard equipment

The panel van version of the Combo-e comes with a choice of two trims – Dynamic and Sportive.

Dynamic trim comes with:

  • DAB digital radio
  • Bluetooth
  • A full-height steel bulkhead
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Alarm
  • 7.4kW on-board charger and cable

Sportive trim adds:

  • Body-colour bumpers and door mirrors
  • Metallic paint
  • Eight-inch colour touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • FlexCargo loading system with load-through bulkhead, fold-flat centre backrest, dual front passenger seat

Vauxhall Combo-e rear view camera

The Combo-e Crew Van comes exclusively in the Dynamic trim and adds:

  • A three-seat bench seat in the second row
  • A moveable ladder-frame bulkhead that can be fixed in two positions
  • Folding single front passenger seat.

The L1 model comes with a single nearside sliding side door while the L2 and the Crew Van get twin sliding side doors. Unlike the diesel models there is no Elite trim, which brings extra bells and whistles such as satellite-navigation, more safety kit and rear cameras as standard. Vauxhall has chosen to offer the two trims that account for the majority of registrations across the Combo range but hasn’t ruled out a higher-spec version in the future.

There are several clever systems available to add onto the Combo-e, most of which are available on the non-electric versions. The notable electric-only option is the ability to upgrade the on-board charger from a 7.4kWh version to an 11kWh version. This brings the time it takes to replenish the battery in full down from 7h 30m to 5h.

Vauxhall Combo Combo-e Cargo reliability, common problems & faults

4 out of 5 4.0

The Combo-e is a very new van, so there isn’t any history of reliability or otherwise to guide how it will fare in the coming years. However, it is based on a proven platform and shares plenty of its components with the other Stellantis brands – Peugeot, Citroen and the like – which bodes well.

Vauxhall Combo Combo-e Cargo safety & security

3.5 out of 5 3.5
  • Lots of safety kit but mostly optional
  • Passenger version has four-star rating
  • Alarm as standard

Even though the Combo-e sits at the top of the range in terms of price, it still doesn’t get much more than its diesel counterparts in terms of safety kit. As standard, you only get the one driver airbag and the Vauxhall Connect system, which alerts the emergency and breakdown services should either be needed.

Unlike the automatic versions of the petrol and diesel models, you don’t get the Safety Pack included as standard and have to pay an extra £805 to specify it. This brings a front camera system, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, speed sign recognition, driver drowsiness alert and forward collision warning, emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

This means that autonomous emergency braking doesn’t come as standard at all, which is a shame.

As further proof of Vauxhall’s desire to cover all customer needs, the Combo-e can still be specified with the Construction Pack with the Intelligrip system and raised ride height that helps it tackle trickier surfaces.

Which Vauxhall Combo Combo-e Cargo is best for me?

The single motor/battery combo in the Combo-e means it is just a case of choosing which trim and length you want. The price difference between the two trims isn’t huge so the step up to Sportive isn’t a prohibitive one.

The price difference is bigger when you step up from L1 to L2, but the twin sliding side doors and the extra space might well make that decision for you.

Best Vauxhall Combo-e for payload

The shorter L1 model is the best version if you need to carry the most weight in your Combo-e, with a payload of 803kg. This applies to both the Dynamic and Sportive versions.

There isn’t much of a payload penalty for stepping up to the L2 version, though, as that still offers a 751kg payload. Although this is a bit lower than the standard Combo’s 1,000kg-plus payloads, it is still on a par with most of the other diesel vans in this class and certainly up with the best that future rival electric vans are promising.