Vauxhall Combo-e Life

Vauxhall Combo-e Life review

What a difference a letter makes. Forget diesel and petrol power, the Vauxhall Combo-e Life is only available as a fully electric MPV, the old school internal combustion engines having been ditched early in 2022.
 
If you’re still interested in something powered by dead dinosaur juice, have a look at our main Vauxhall Combo Life review where you’ll find a bit more detail about the space and practicality, too. Spoiler alert: unlike many electric versions of cars also available with an engine, the Combo-e Life’s interior is no less useful.
 
While most would rather have an SUV than an MPV these days, there are still a few rivals out there. For a start there’s the Combo-e Life’s siblings, the Citroen e-Berlingo and Peugeot e-Rifter and other van-based models such as the Ford Tourneo Connect and Volkswagen Caddy Life. If you’d prefer something more car-like, try the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, Mercedes B-Class and Volkswagen Touran.
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What’s it like inside?

 
Compared to the funky interiors of the e-Berlingo and Rifter, the Combo-e’s is rather more sensible. The basic layout is the same, but Vauxhall fits its own steering wheel, stalks and heater controls while you won’t find any colourful trim pieces or fabrics. It’s all very easy to use and thankfully free of touch sensitive icons for major controls such as heating, but it is all rather drab.
 
Even so, the high roofline, surprising width, big windows and high driving position all scream van. The upshot is that it’s very spacious inside. You’ll have no trouble fitting four adults inside, and it’s wide enough for a fifth to be relatively comfy, too. Front seat passengers have loads of space, although the central cupholders could do with being mounted higher.
 
Rear seat passengers have plenty of headroom and good legroom, making the Berlingo more spacious than similarly priced SUVs or estates. Seven seat models are longer to give a third row of chairs big enough for another couple of adults to sit comfortably while all versions get sliding rear doors.
 
Boot space is a real strong point, with more load carrying capacity than most bigger SUVs and estates. That’s especially true of the seven-seater once you’ve folded the third row and tumbled them forwards. If you need even more space, you can haul the heavy rear chairs out and fold the centre row flat with the boot floor to make a van. To accommodate really long items, the front passenger seat even folds flat.
 
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All Combo-e Lifes get an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with sat nav a reasonably priced option. The system is a little sluggish to respond and doesn’t have the clearest menus but works OK once you’ve got used to it. For even more detail on the interior, infotainment and practicality, have a look at our main Combo Life review.
 

Comfort

 
The Combo-e has a good driving position with all the major controls lining up well with the driver’s seat. The front seats are comfy although bigger side bolsters to hold you in place better when cornering would be welcome. Some also found the seat base was a little too short, failing to support their thighs adequately.
 
Those in the middle row will appreciate the opening windows in the sliding doors and the three equally sized chairs. Combined with a flat floor, it’s a great choice for those that regularly travel five-up.
 

Safety

 
The Combo-e Life’s four-star Euro NCAP crash test score isn’t the highest, but this is still a car that protects well in a crash. It is however worth pointing out that this testing was carried out in 2018, so can’t be directly compared to rivals tested under newer and tougher guidelines.
 
Standard safety tech should help prevent a crash in the first place. Automatic emergency braking, lane assist and electronic stability control are all standard, although blind spot monitoring isn’t available unlike the e-Berlingo.
 

What’s it like to drive?

 
All Combo-e Lifes are powered by a 136hp electric motor that draws its reserves from a 50kWh battery pack. The 0-62mph sprint takes around 12 seconds, with the larger seven-seater proving unsurprisingly slower than the five-seat model. Both feel quite urgent off the line and around town, with acceleration dropping off noticeably beyond 60mph even with only a driver on board.
 
We’ve yet to drive a Combo-e Life with the optional Intelligrip traction control, but the system has proved effective in the Berlingo and Rifter where it’s badged as Grip Control. It’s no replacement for four-wheel drive, but in conjunction with the right tyres makes a front-wheel drive car surprisingly capable off road.
 
If you’re hoping for a sporty drive on road, forget it. Rather than try to make a van with seats handle in a ‘dynamic’ fashion, Vauxhall has gone down the comfort route. Soft suspension delivers a relaxing ride although severe potholes and lumps do cause the suspension to trip up slightly. It’s a rare enough occurrence to not cause bother, though.
 
That’s not to say that the Combo-e handles badly – it just prefers a leisurely approach. For a high-sided, van-based car, it’s tidy and predictable, with a lot less body lean than you might expect. Even so, the it doesn’t feel particularly agile or willing, with the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Ford S-Max better bets for the keen driver.
 
The Combo-e’s light steering is precise enough but doesn’t give a great sense of connection to the road’s surface. In other words, it’s perfectly capable if not something you’ll be looking for excuses to drive.
 

Range and charging

 
Although official range is around 170 miles, expect to see far less in mixed driving. If you spend a fair amount of time on the motorway and fast flowing A roads, we’d suggest around 120 miles, less in winter. Stick to an urban environment and you’ll get nearer the official figure.
 
The e-Combo can charge at up to 100kW, meaning a 10-80% top up takes just half an hour on a CCS rapid charger that’s able to supply the power. Those with a home wallbox will need around seven and a half hours to get from 0-100%.
 

What models and trims are available?

 
There’s just the one well-equipped trim level called SE. You get air con, a digital driver’s display, a leather steering wheel, an opening window on the tailgate, auto lights and wipers, cruise control and 16in alloy wheels as standard.
 
Options include handy front and rear parking sensors, two-zone climate control and a child pack that includes blinds for the rear windows and a smaller rear-view mirror for keeping an eye on the kids. A panoramic roof is also available.
 

Should you buy one?

 
Look at the Combo-e Life in a totally rational way and it makes a huge amount of sense for families. It’s spacious transport for up to seven with a big boot and low running costs. The trouble is few car purchases are totally rational.
 
Even looking past the limited range and factoring in a price that’s reasonable for an electric car, it’s the Combo-e Life’s image that’ll be a major hurdle for many. If you’re not quite ready for electric power but need the practicality something like the Combo brings, have a look at the Volkswagen Caddy Life or Ford Tourneo Connect. Those that would prefer a sharper driving experience from their MPV are best served by the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.
 

What we like

 
Space is beyond generous whether you’re a person or luggage, and it’s comfortable. Performance is acceptable below motorway speeds and it’s not that pricey for such a spacious electric car.
 
It’s the plentiful space for passengers and luggage we appreciate the most, although its comfortable ride helps it feel relaxing to drive, too. The price isn’t bad for an electric car and it feels nippy enough around town as well.
 

What we don’t like

 
Range will be the big issue for most, a real-world figure of around 130 miles means long journeys will require charging stops. That’s especially true if you venture onto the motorway. The third row of seats in seven-seat models is also rather heavy to remove.
 
Those getting out of a regular MPV, estate or SUV might find the interior less plush than they’ve become accustomed to, although at least it should be hardwearing.
 

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