Vauxhall Combo-e Life
The reason for choosing a Combo Life is the combination of a modest price and overwhelming space. So the first question is whether that space will be preserved with the introduction of the electric"Combo-e". The answer is: yes, as the batteries are built into the floor.
Like the regular versions, the Combo-e is therefore also available with standard and extended wheelbase. Seven seats can be provided in both cases, but only the long version also offers space for the luggage of seven people. Because an electric motor is much smaller than an internal combustion engine, a lot of space has been freed up under the bonnet, but Vauxhall has not chosen to turn this into extra storage space. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for the accessories trade?
In the cabin, too, little or nothing is noticeable of the new drive technology. Still, the interior offers plenty of storage space in the doors, centre console and even the roof. The gear lever has been dropped, as electric cars do not need gears. Therefore, only buttons for forward, reverse and neutral suffice.
Because the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel had previously been replaced by a display, it was easy to adapt their content to electric driving. For example, instead of showing a tachometer, it shows a gauge that indicates how much electricity is being consumed or, conversely, recovered. Vauxhall otherwise hardly exploits the possibilities offered by a display screen; other manufacturers do this better, with freely configurable layouts or customised displays for specific situations (city / highway).
The test car is equipped with a free-standing display in the middle of the dashboard, which controls the audio, communication and sat nav, among other things. This is similar to Vauxhall's other models and is more than adequate. Operation is simple and the options are sufficient, but in no way does the Combo's infotainment system stand out above the average. Unfortunately, sound quality is particularly poor for a standard audio system. It sounds as if the speakers have been placed behind multiple curtains, resulting in a woolly, impure sound. Music is unlistenable, but for spoken word (news, podcasts) it suffices.
Vauxhall aims, with its various electric cars, to make the threshold to electric driving as low as possible. It does this by giving electric cars as much as possible the familiar character of a petrol engine. This is why the Combo-e Life responds much more cautiously to the accelerator than many other electric cars. Although acceleration is calm, it is much smoother and quieter than with an internal combustion engine. That silence is not broken by noises from the tyres or wind (which in the ordinary Combo would cancel out against the engine noise).
Electric cars can recover energy by having the electric motor act as a dynamo when the power pedal is released. The stronger the car then reduces speed, the more energy is recovered. In this too, the Combo-e Life is much more restrained than other cars. When the accelerator is released, the Vauxhall decellerates like a petrol engine in fourth gear. Selecting B mode is like downshifting to engine brake, but still the Combo-e does not then reduce speed as much as other electric cars. Whether this is good or bad is personal. Those used to an electric car may long for more (driving with 1 pedal), but for those switching to the electric car, this may provide a lower threshold.
The performance of the 130 hp / 260 Nm strong engine is more than adequate and roughly equal to that of the Combo's strongest diesel engine. Energy consumption is obviously much lower, as an electric motor actually converts most of the energy into motion. This is because an internal combustion engine also uses the fuel to produce (unwanted) heat and noise. Depending on power costs, running costs are therefore up to about 75% lower than those of the petrol-engined Combo. However, due to its moderate streamline, power consumption is much higher than in other electric cars (such as Vauxhall's own Corsa-e and Mokka-e).
During the test, around 250 km could be covered on a full battery. Charging can be done at a fast charger, at a public charging point or at the socket at home. With an app from Vauxhall, this process can be monitored remotely, to clear the charging point for the next user, for example. It is also possible to switch on the heating remotely, so it does not drain the battery on the road.
The electric drive was not perceived during the test as a compromise for the sake of cost or the environment. On the contrary, it gives progress on all points! And the same goes for handling. The Combo-e Life is and remains a passenger car based on a commercial vehicle. Thus, the chassis is much less refined than that of a passenger car and, moreover, tuned for freight transport. However, the fine-tuning of the Combo Life differs from that of the Combo Cargo. Therefore, the Combo Life is more forgiving, both in unladen and maximum load conditions.
Of the extra weight of the batteries, little to nothing is noticeable in practice. However, it is noticeable that the Combo-e is better balanced than the conventional Combo. Because of its tall build, the Combo tends to "roll" more when cornering, which is countered thanks to the Combo-e's low centre of gravity. This makes the car more stable and confidence-inspiring.
Is the Vauxhall Combo-e Life a compromise or not? Yes and no. With the advent of electric propulsion, the Combo Life has become a lot more comfortable, making its link to the company car even less obvious.
However, this new advantage also has a downside. Because the price of an electric car is largely determined by the battery, the Combo-e Life is roughly as expensive as other family cars with electric drive. Because those competitors are designed from the ground up as passenger cars, they offer even more refinement in equipment and handling.
The Combo-e Life retains a key advantage, however: the Vauxhall actually offers space for seven people and their luggage. Thus, if no compromise on space is to be made, the Combo Life remains a slimme choice.
- Spacious and practical
- Very economical per KM
- Smooth, quiet and comfortable
- Poor sounding audio system
- Power consumption much higher than that of a standard electric car