Parkers overall rating: 3.6 out of 5 3.6
  • Comfortable, upright driving position
  • Surprisingly pleasant, responsive steering
  • Relaxed attitude suits long drives

Expectations for the Vauxhall Combo Life can be realistically managed, as this is a car that has origins in a small commercial vehicle. At least, that’s how it appears on paper; the lines are somewhat blurred when you get into the Combo and start driving it.

None of the engines produce less than 100hp, and all models can reach 62mph in under 13 seconds; the 130hp 1.5-litre diesel comes impressively close to the magical 10-second time. In-gear performance is good too, as that engine’s 300Nm torque is spread across a decent band. We’re still some distance from ‘sporty’ here, but it’s more than adequate.

Choose the XL version of the Combo Life, and you lose a little in terms of outright acceleration – but then it’s a 4.7-metre-long seven-seater. It’s still well ahead of the pace of most other van-derived MPVs, and decent enough on fuel too.

Motorway behaviour is particularly good for the class and cost, with relaxed progress and no worries about hills with the 130hp diesel; the three-cyinder petrol may need a shift down for inclines, particularly when full of passengers.

How does it handle?

  • Van origins aren’t really apparent
  • Ride and handling tailored for comfort
  • Better suited to the real world than many cars

So the Vauxhall Combo Life’s handling is not going to make you feel like a world rally champion. This is a car for people who are sufficiently secure in themselves that proving anything to others is long forgotten, and enjoying life and family is job one.

That’s not to say it handles badly, though. In fact, the Combo Life is well suited to modern roads, and has a healthy amount of feedback from the steering and consistency in damping that makes it incredibly easy to predict how it will progress along any given road or surface.

It’s a talented little thing, too – comfortably, if rather comically weaving from bend to bend on twisty roads without unreasonable understeer, then cheerfully absorbing urban degraded tarmac or covering endless miles of motorway in comfort. Braking is responsive, but not intrusively grabby in town.

Above all, it’s safe and pleasant for passengers too – a real win for a vehicle that has no purpose beyond being the ultimate family car. It’s fair to say that it owes a lot of this prowess to the shared platform; credit where it is due. For Vauxhall buyers though, it’s a big leap forward dynamically.