5 July 2018

REVIEW: Vauxhall Vivaro Combi+

Family bus

When we were planning a family trip to the Lake District, we asked Vauxhall if they could recommend a comfortable but rugged family car. Hot on the heels of our review of the Grandland X, we were expecting something similar... but Vauxhall suggested something a tad different. Proving that you can indeed stick your family in the back of a van and have a great time, we check out the Vauxhall Vivaro Combi+.

Yep, it's a van. The Vauxhall Vivaro is usally seen cruising the roads of the UK in the standard van configuration; windowless and with only a three-seater cab. However, the Combi+ takes that vehicle and adds some windows, a few modern conveniences, and a crap load of extra seats. This monster has nine of them, to be exact.

As there was to be six of us on the trip, we first thought that a nine-seater might be overkill. After all, we were heading to the lakes to cruise along narrow, hill-top roads, and skirt around large, remote lakes. Would the Vauxhall Vivaro Combi+ be far too large?

Nope. First of all, despite having an usually high passenger capacity, it is still a mini van, designed to drive the same roads as a compact car. Although the driving position is far higher than your average car, and the whole thing is less sleek, it still handled incredibly well, and once we were used to it, it was just like driving a large family car like a Range Rover.

The interior is quite un-van like, also. The cab accommodates three (although the middle seat is somewhat reduced) and you'll find the usual cup holders, glove box, and cubby holes. We were surprised to find it had a very good infotainment system, containing a media player with Bluetooth with a very decent Sat-Nav - all controlled by a responsive touchscreen.

After that, you get two rows of three spacious seats; one of whcih in the middle row folds forward to allow better access to the back three. All the seats are full sized, with proper adult seat belts, and also (importantly for families with babies) two Isofix points. There are air vents catering for both rows in the ceiling, and a few cup holders dotted around. We had two kiddos in the back, two more (one of which was a baby) in the middle, and the two "grown ups" in the front. Everyone thought that the Vauxhall Vivaro Combi+ offered a comfortable environment and a smooth ride.

Another key thing is the boot space right in the back. We can see why this particular model is popular with taxi companies for airport runs, as it is huge. We packed up luggage for six for a week or so, and still had an incredible amount of space left over. Ours came with a parcel shelf, possibly to be used to keep your bags out of sight from potential thieves, but it was easily removed as to not get in the way. All in all, it was the best amount of storage space we've ever seen in a family vehicle.

The trip away to the lakes was a lot of fun, especially for the kids who enjoyed travelling in the "family bus" and having a tonne of space inside. Mum and dad enjoyed it for the easy handling, the excellent fuel efficiency, and the confident, commanding driving position. Even winding along narrow mountain roads was a breeze in this. Oh, and if you don't believe that we actually did take it up and over a mountains, we grabbed a drone shot. Click to enlarge.

See. So thumbs up all round here, and we honestly didn't expect to feel that way. People used to driving smaller, traditionally-shaped cars might be put off from trying something like the Vauxhall Vivaro Combi+, but as this family found out, not all vans are made the same, and the versatility of the Vivaro range is impressive. Check it out.

We tested the L1 H1 2900 Combi+ which retails from £29,46

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