Vauxhall Combo van (2011 - 2018)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

compact van (1.3, 1.6, 2.0 CDTi diesel)


With their third generation Combo, Vauxhall finally delivered us a really space-efficient compact van, with both short and long wheelbase bodystyles that together aimed to satisfy almost every buyer in this segment. With frugal running costs, smart design and unbeaten practicality from this Fiat Doblo-based design, it’s everything a small LCV from this era should be.

The History

It was Vauxhall who originally came up with the idea of taking a small car platform, then building a properly shaped loadspace cube upon it. Thanks the company’s Combo van for that, which originated in its first two generations of life based on a Corsa supermini. That chassis was somewhat restrictive in terms of total space, so for the third generation Combo van, launched in 2011, Vauxhall/Opel borrowed the platform from a Fiat Doblo cargo. The resulting design was offered in both short and long wheelbase form to please both cityvan and compact van customers. It sold until 2018, when a fourth generation PSA Group design was launched.

What To Look For

These vans are pretty tough, but there are a few things you'll need to look out for. It's the usual advice with small vans to buy on condition rather than year and look for a van that has tended to have performed lightweight delivery duties rather than consistently butting up against its payload limits. In our ownership survey, we came across a Royal Mail mechanic who’d worked on countless fleets running Combo vans alongside Fiat Doblo vans and Ford Transit Connect LCVs. He felt the Vauxhall was easily the most reliable of the trio, though one buyer in our ownership survey had starting problems.

On The Road

These days, van drivers are well used to a car-like response from LCVs, especially small ones. That doesn’t necessarily mean an enjoyable driving experience though, but this third generation Combo did quite well here thanks to an independent Bi-link suspension system clever enough to provide supple ride comfort, yet firm enough to resist bodyroll and support heavy loads.

The all-diesel engine line-up certainly seems effective on paper. At entry-level, there’s the 90PS 1.3-litre CDTi unit, with 200Nm of pulling power, torquey enough to work well for van buyers shopping at the small end of the spectrum. Those looking for something Berlingo or Kangoo-sized though, will be more likely to want the 105PS 1.6-litre CDTi variant. This gives you nearly 50% more torque to play with, enabling the braked trailer load capacity to rise from 1,000 to 1,300kgs. And you can access that pulling power via a six, rather than a five-speed gearbox.

Urban operators might not like the idea of having to use any kind of gearbox, so for them Vauxhall offered a ‘Tecshift’ semi-automatic version of the 1.6-litre diesel Combo. The penalty for being able to rest your left foot is that the transmission has only five speeds and power drops to 90PS. But is power really an important issue in a van of this kind? If you think it is, then you’ll be target market for the most powerful engine ever offered in a Combo back in 2011, a 2.0-litre 135PS CDTi unit putting out a hefty 320Nm of torque from way low in the rev range, just 1,500rpm.

Whichever variant you choose, you’ll find that the driving position pretty good, with the steeply raked windscreen and low bonnet combining to give great visibility. Couple that with big panoramic door mirrors and the result is a van you can be confident about driving even the most congested city streets where the light steering facilitates a tight turning circle, 11.2m in the short wheelbase version and 12.5m for the long wheelbase model. Go for the smaller variant and it’s naturally a bit easier to park than the longer one but either way, we’d want a Combo whose original owner specified the optional parking sensors. Bear in mind the downside of opting for the high roof body though: the 2,100mm roof height will give you an issue in some multi-storey carparks.

So it’s good around town. But then the Combo always was. It’s on longer trips that this third generation version is such a huge step forward from what went before. It isn’t only the decent ride and the better body control. No, refinement is really the first thing you notice. Copious amounts of sound proofing, a well insulated full-height bulkhead and a wind-cheating shape all combine to make this a vehicle you could cheerfully cover very long distances in. Were engine refinement to be just a little better, the result would be even more impressive. As it is, the slightly clattery note at start-up settles down quite acceptably once you get up to speed. Ultimately, probably the biggest compliment you can really pay this Vauxhall is that at times, it's easy to forget you're driving a van.


You won’t see this model making too many headlines, but the reality is that it’s one of the impressive vehicles that the brand made in the 21st century’s second decade. Quietly concentrating on the things that really matter to operators, to many it'll be invisible, just one of those fixtures of the urban environment that blend into the background. But then, sometimes the very best designs have the very lowest impact. What’s important is that this Combo does more than enough to be spotted by the people who count. People who’ll find this Vauxhall difficult to ignore in their search for a compact van. Job done.