It’s a life of practicality over design in the Opel Combo Life. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
It’s a life of practicality over design in the Opel Combo Life. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

The Opel Combo Life on test here isn’t the hottest car to hit the market in 2019 and it's plain to see why. It’s a tall box of a thing with little pavement appeal thanks to it being a bull-nosed van-based MPV but now fitted with carpets, windows and rear passenger seats.

But take a closer look and all manner of good basics that most people seek in flashier, less attainable cars start to jump out in stark contrast to its drab shape.

That value story is immediately communicated through its enormously spacious cabin where substantial rear leg, head, knee and shoulder room is revealed by opening either of its dual rear sliding doors.

A wheelbase measuring 2,785mm makes it handy for commercial usage but in passenger-carrying Life guise it accommodates five people on comfortable chairs, with 850l of boot space accessed from a wide opening tailgate. That said, with the rear seats folded the load volume increases to a whopping 2,126l. That’ll be hard a match for any trendy crossover or indeed a full-sized SUV.

Exemplary space shown with a trio of baby seats fitted on the rear seats of the Opel Combo Life. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
Exemplary space shown with a trio of baby seats fitted on the rear seats of the Opel Combo Life. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

There is more to be had inside this Opel. It has aircon, power windows, central locking and many nooks in which to store loose items. A touch command screen perches atop its dashboard while switchgear and the big and bright main instrument binnacle are present in all Opel cars. 

For the driver there’s more than enough space on a comfy, manually adjustable seat. The drive is doddle thanks to light steering action and a smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission that is mounted on the dash — albeit positioned a smidgeon too far for taller drivers.

Steering the 4,403 mm long Combo Life around obstacles is a joy too thanks to a quick and small turning circle. Forward visibility is great but the same can’t be said of other viewing angles because of its large pillars that split the glasshouse. An optional rear park assist system was fitted to our car to ease reversing.

Opel’s 1.6l turbocharged four-cylinder turbo diesel engine has a simple job of pulling this Opel with its front wheels. It certainly isn’t a punchy engine but there's enough low-down torque to shift this 1,370kg family MPV and four to five people at a fairly brisk pace. When the roads open its performance is satisfactorily strong in its highest gearing, with little to no downchanges required to tackle steep inclines.

The Combo Life cabin seats four to five and will gobble up luggage aplenty. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
The Combo Life cabin seats four to five and will gobble up luggage aplenty. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

It’s also notable that the clutch action is light while fuel consumption is also fantastic. The car consumed an average of 5.3l/100km during the test period.

Being taller doesn’t mean ghastly body lean or a cross-wind defeated MPV. After a few days of acclimatisation I was able to challenge hatchbacks in the bends, and the vehicle was happy to play within the lanes.

It travels everywhere with reasonable levels of road, wind and engine noise, accompanied by random and noticeable creaks around the rear section that remind you of its commercial origins. But the overall refinement when going about its business reinforces that Opel strived, with good measure, to sprinkle some premium textures.

Keep an open and sensible mind in your search for a usable, affordable to buy and run family wagon and you just might find that this Opel Combo is, well …life.


Opel Combo Life 1.6TD Enjoy

WE LIKE: Space, fuel consumption, performance, and price

WE DISLIKE: Some creaking noises

VERDICT: Budget seeker’s MPV


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Four-cylinder turbo diesel

Capacity: 1,560cc

Power: 68kW

Torque: 230Nm

Transmission

Type: Five-speed manual

Drivetrain

Type: Front-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: N/A

0-100km/h: N/A

Fuel Consumption: 5.0l/100km (as claimed) 5.3l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 131g/km

Standard features

EBD, Brake Assist, ABS, Stability Control, six airbags, aircon, auto on/off lights, cruise control, remote central locking, multi function steering wheel, power steering, cloth upholstery

Cost of ownership

Warranty: Three years/120,000km

Service Plan: Three years/60,000km

Price: R369,900

Lease*: R7,953 per month

*at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Motor News star rating

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Competition

Volkswagen Caddy 2.0TDI Trendline, 81kW/250Nm — R435,900