The days of the clear-cut small, medium and large van sectors are long gone as manufacturers launch models into new niches to cater for every vehicle requirement.
The Vauxhall Combo L2H2, on test here, is a good example of this.
It started off as a small van, but with a long wheelbase and a high roof it actually carries the same amount of cargo as the manufacturer’s Vivaro model, which is described as a medium van.
It is also cheaper to buy than the Vivaro (£17,648 ex-VAT against £18,945 ex-VAT) and it returns almost 10mpg more.
The Combo’s main drawback is that it has only two seats to the bigger van’s three. From a fleet perspective, if you need to seat only one or two people and you don’t intend to subject your vans to any really vigorous work, the Combo in this guise will save a company quite a lot of money over its lifecycle compared to opting for the Vivaro.
Under the skin the Combo is essentially a Fiat Doblo Cargo, which was named as Fleet Van’s Van of the Year when it first appeared in 2010.
Vauxhall has previously launched a long wheelbase low roof Combo, and now it has cranked this vehicle up to the max. It looks rather like a small van that has been working out at the gym for some time.
It provides a load volume of five cubic metres and a payload of a full tonne.
The Combo’s Doblo Cargo roots mean it has both superb build quality and excellent road manners.
It is powered by a 1.6-litre turbodiesel powerplant offering 105hp and a 214lb-ft of torque at a very low 1,500rpm, which equates to quite a turn of speed at low revs.
Stop-start technology comes as standard, which is estimated to reduce fuel use by up to 15% in urban areas.
Despite being a legal requirement for manufacturers to fit electronic stability control as standard on all new vans from October, it is currently a £375 option on this van.
Air conditioning costs an additional £590, rear parking sensors are £195 (a must in my book) and metallic paint is available for £380.
The only problem with vehicles like this is that they look rather curious – a bit like a van with a large coffin welded on the top.
Assuming that looks don’t come into your buying equation (as indeed they probably won’t),
then this vehicle is a pretty nifty performer.
We’ve already mentioned how much cheaper it is to buy and run than the equivalent Vivaro, but there is much more to it than just costs.
The Combo offers rock solid build quality that puts it right among the premium marques, while the driver’s seat is supremely supportive, with an adjustable lumbar bar.
The rear doors unhook and open out to 270° to allow for easier loading of the cargo area.
The Combo also has a wipe-clean non-slip load floor and twin side-loading doors.
On the road, the 105hp unit is lively despite its diminutive 1.6-litre size and ride and handling are a delight.