It isn’t that long ago that you were lucky to get 40mpg from a commercial vehicle.
Technology has marched on to such an extent that our long-term test Vauxhall Combo has a figure on the combined cycle of 64.2mpg – and from our fag-packet calculations so far, this van isn’t far off that figure, a fact that pleases me immensely as I have to pay for my own fuel.
Usually with test vehicles, I manage around 10% less than the official figure if I’m lucky.
The engine is question is a brand new 1.5-litre unit pumping out 132PS, which does seem rather a lot for fleet purposes. There’s still the older 1.6-litre unit available for fleet managers who want less power – 73PS or 101PS versions are on offer – and later this year there will be a 1.2-litre petrol engine for those who believe diesel is the devil’s own method of propulsion.
However, those who pick petrol believing they are helping save the planet must bear in mind that, while petrol pumps out fewer harmful sooty emissions than diesel, it has increased levels of CO2. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Our engine is certainly a slick performer. On the motorway, it thrums along at 2,000rpm at 70mph and with a full bulkhead behind, my wife and I can converse in our usual voices while still hearing each other – something not always possible in a van.
An eight-speed auto box is available which I would have liked to have tried, but our van has the six-speed manual, which offers gearchanges that snick into place smoothly and surely so I can’t complain too much.
Every time a new van is launched I marvel at how car-like commercial vehicles are becoming but this is the first van that I can truly say competes equally with the best of cars available on the road. The new Combo really is that slick and smooth – if I blindfolded a passenger and drove them a few miles, they would simply assume they were travelling in a rather upmarket car.
Vauxhall can be justly proud of this cracking little van.
The Vauxhall Combo has had several incarnations over the years. Starting out as a van version of the old Astra in the 1980s, it metamorphosed into a commercial vehicle in its own right in 1993, based on the Corsa chassis.
Come 2011 and Vauxhall teamed up with Fiat to produce a model that was a rebadged Doblo Cargo.
Now with PSA at the helm in Luton, the doughty small van has emerged as a clone of the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner.
As the aforementioned French contenders have been among the best selling small vans in Europe since their original launch in 1996, it seems that the pedigree of the Combo is pretty much assured among Britain’s van fleet buyers.
Eager to show off its new product, Vauxhall chose Fleet News as one of the first to test out a Combo for a lengthy period – and as such we’ll be putting the van through its paces in no uncertain terms over the next six months or so.
Our test model is the short wheelbase version which turned up with just 170 miles on the clock, in a dazzling pillar box red coat of metallic paint and a snazzy set of alloys, both of which surprisingly turned out to be a standard fitment. How times have changed in the world of commercial vehicles!
Under the bonnet, our van has a brand new 1.5-litre turbodiesel powerplant pumping out a hefty 132PS. And despite all this power, the van is slated to return a tad under 65mpg on the combined cycle. Will it achieve this feat in the real world? Watch this space.