In a motoring world where the buzzword is SUV, the folk at Opel went their own way by throwing a new MPV into the mix. Luckily years of experience means the automaker knows what buyers want in a people carrier and the result, the Opel Combo Life, is really, really good. I've seen a few online chats where the Combo Life was mentioned and there were actually a few people complaining about the exterior styling of the MPV. While I agree that styling is subjective and everyone has their own taste, I'll happily point out how wrong they are. I mean come on, just look at this thing. I love how it looks with the front-end being immediately recognisable as an Opel thanks to the design that follows the rest of the company's architecture, the side profile is just right and the rear's square dimensions sort of tells you that this people carrier got it's start as a cargo hauler, and that's not a bad thing. This translates to a massive boot that also has a nice and low floor making loading of luggage, shopping or a host of kitchen appliances as easy as possible. The Opel Combo Life Enjoy won't only work as a brilliant family runaround, but could easily double as an Uber Van for a bunch of mates wanting to responsibly head out on the jol. Having the rear doors on both sides being sliding doors means loading and unloading of passengers can easily, and more importantly safely done in tight spaces or up again the pavement on any side of the road.
As said, the Opel Combo Life looks great and is instantly recognisable as the larney version thanks to the bumpers and trimmings being given body-matching paint and having all the rougher workhorse version bits being made pretty to tempt modern families. It runs on some good-looking 16-inch wheels, although if I had one of these as a daily, i'd have 17s on as a bare minimum, and 18s just to bump up the aesthetics a little to my personal taste, I'd happliy sacrifice a little drive comfort for some head-turning looks, and look good it will. The OEM makeover has worked very well though, on my drives with the car I had five people asking me what I was driving and where they could have a closer look at one. Of course I let them have a good look inside and outside of the press car (because that's pretty much the point of one) and then directed them to Williams Hunt Fourways to chat to the sales team there. I'm almost 100% sure that three of the five were quite serious about making an offer on one. On one of the days I was heading along Ontdekkers Road which has about fifty-12 traffic lights, and I noticed a woman in a Fiat Doblo taking pics of the Opel Comb Life at just about every red light, even weaving through traffic to be able to pull along side for a side shot and ahead for a front shot. Usually I'd be worried that I was driving like a chop and the pics would be for social media shaming, but I was driving like and angel, and the hoot and wave when she finally turned off the road told me she was heading back to the office to research more about the awesomeness she captured on her phone that 's in the same segment as her car, but better in every way. Either that or I have a new stalker.
The Opel Combo Life Enjoy is a 5-seater, but if you wanted to squeeze people in and safety belts weren't an issue you'd easily pack a soccer team in. There just so much space. Overseas there's a model that uses the rear boot space as two extra seats, and even in that case there's more than enough space for full-sized people in those extra seats instead of the usual amount (lack of) of space you'll find in most pop-up 7-seaters. The boot is HUGE, like you can take a family of five on holiday and easily fit all their luggage in huge. If by some chance there's not enough space for the planned load, you can individually fold the rear seats down, and when all three are folded flat you can fit in a payload of up to 690kg. That's close to the payload in a Corsa/Chev bakkie. Over and above the massive boot there's also storage space and pockets all over the cabin. I quite like the space above the front windscreen, very handy.
The driving position is great, the seats are height and reach adjustable with lumbar support, and there's so many large windows that there are no real blind spots, visibility is well above average. With the rather sporty looking steering wheel having height and reach adjustments everyone from a 6-foot plus body builder to someone who's endured lifelong teasing for being short can fit just right. Controls are all within easy reach, well those that aren't accessible via the steering controls, but mostly everything is at the tip of your thumbs. The 7-inch touchscreen heads up the infotainment system that makes use of Opel's Intellilink software, easily one of the better systems out there, easy and intuitive to use with pleasing visuals. The radio plays through a 6-speaker system that's more than capable of letting others in traffic in on your playlists. I kept my Samsung connected via the screen-mirroring functionality of Android Auto, enabling use of my YouTube Music app for tunes and Waze for navigation.
Over and above the driving position and good level of specification, there's also decent safety in play. We find no less than six airbags fitted; a pair for the front action, a pair for the front sides and a set of full-length curtains. In fact over at Euro NCAP the people carrier received four out of five stars - a 91% for adult occupant safety, 81% for child safety, 58% for vulnerable road users and 68% for the safety assist on board. That's great going. We find all the usual acronyms too like ABS with EBD, ESP, and TC along with hill-start assist. There's also child locks for the sliding rear doors so you can stop the tykes from trying to play in traffic. Check the viod below for the crash test - you'll see that the test was done on the Peugeot Rifter, which shares pretty much everything with the Opel Combo and the Citroën Berlingo - a happy side effect of the sharing of technology between the brands.
As said, the Opel Combo Life Enjoy offers up a great drive, which is in large part thanks to that really good 1.6-litre powerplant. Usually such a small capacity for an MPV like this would be an issue, but the turbodiesel 4-cylinder has more than enough power on tap. There's just 68kW in play, but thanks to that turbo the toque is way up at 230Nm and so even with a full compliment of passengers there's no struggle to get up to illegal speeds. There is only a manual option, a 5-speed with a nice and short throw, and being a low-revving diesel can mean plenty cog-swapping in traffic but that's not a complaint from this driver. I do reckon an auto option would have made the soccer mom crowd happier though. Consumption claims are an average of just 5.0-litres/100km, but the best I saw during my week was 6.8-litres/100km on the onboard telemetry. I have no doubt that it would drop had I taken more longer roads. While it's "just" and MPV, it's really a blast to drive.
I really enjoyed my week with the Opel Combo Life Enjoy, it has the looks, the spec and the features all wrapped up with a great motor. It's one of those cars that you really don't mind driving, even looking for excuses to take it out sometimes. In the burgeoning world of the SUV, this is one MPV that must not be overlooked. Especially with a starting price of R369 900 that includes a 3-year / 120 000km Warranty with Roadside Assist, a 12-year / unlimited km Anti-Corrosion Warranty and a 3-year / 60 000km Service Plan. Check out more details and spec over on the main Opel site.