They say that some of the best ideas in life are simple ones – and as ideas go, they don’t get much simpler than this.
Take one light van, add a row of foldaway seats in the back et voila – the Vauxhall Combo crew van is born.
It’s not exactly rocket science but none of the rivals offer such an option and this simple addition has helped Vauxhall to an astonishing rise in van sales of late.
Last year, for instance, the manufacturer sold nearly 50,000 vans up to 3.5-tonnes gross vehicle weight, as opposed to just over 32,000 in 2002.
Combo alone sold around 20,000 units in 2003.
The crew van version came about after a request from British Telecom, which buys Vauxhall vans by the shedload.
BT wanted a Combo-sized van which would also carry five people and Vauxhall, wisely, knocked up a special.
Now the crew van version has joined the price lists and can be ordered with either a 1.6-litre petrol engine (or dual-fuel petrol/LPG) or 1.7 diesel (turbocharged or non-turbo) for between £10,879 and £11,459 ex-VAT.
It carries a premium of around £770 over the normal Combo but carries extra standard specification too.
The model on test here is the 1.7DTi.
The Combo looks very much like its rivals, the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Renault Kangoo.
In fact, if you squinted a bit, you’d be hard-pressed to pick out one from another. When this new shape was first introduced back in 1995, everyone likened it to Postman Pat’s van.
Nowadays, it looks solid, functional and ordinary – and in metallic trim, our test van even looked quite smart.
Metallic paint is a £275 option and most fleets would baulk at the thought of choosing it.
But scoff ye not, for at selling time, a van clad in metal flake could well be worth over £275 more than one in ordinary paint, according to the disposals experts. Now there’s a thought – actually making money rather than losing it.
Combo also has a mighty protection package around its lower region.
The whole van is swathed in plastic, which means lower repair bills when the inevitable scuffs and scrapes happen.
Even the wheel arches are protected.
Meanwhile, the rear bumper also doubles as a handy step – which may help out for loading purposes.
In the ‘cooking’ Combo, side sliding doors come as a paid-for extra at £235 for one or £400 for the pair, but in the crew van they are standard.
They are both tall and wide, allowing for easy access into the back seats for big burly workmen.
The side mirrors are huge, giving a good view of what’s behind.
In the front
Entry is by remote central locking. Once aboard, the Combo’s cab lacks the stylishness of the Kangoo but is nonetheless pleasant and functional.
There is plenty of legroom for the driver and passenger and our test model had a height-adjustable seat and steering column, which comes as part of one of the ‘function’ packs that can add all sorts of extras such as alarms and storage nets.
There is even a winter pack with heated seats and foglights at £110.
Standard spec includes driver and passenger airbag and ABS?brakes, while air conditioning adds £555 and electric windows are £75. Our test van also had sat-nav and a CD autochanger at £850.