VAUXHALL is reaping the benefits of its tie up with French car group PSA with a new Combo compact van that is not only cheaper but more practical than before.
Based on the same platform as the new Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo - alongside which it is built in France - the new Combo will be arriving in December and is priced from Â£15,630 excluding VAT.
The trio have already been crowned International Van of the Year for 2019 and like its French sisters, the Combo has plenty of innovations.
Not least are the driver assistance features with the likes of an overload indicator, a surround-view camera set up and an electronic side protection system available as firsts in this class of van.
There's also the option of an electronic drive selector with specific settings to help cope with rough conditions such as snow, sand and mud.
The Combo comes in three trim levels - Edition, Sportive and Limited Edition Nav - but initially it will be powered only by a 1.6-litre diesel engine with either 75 or 100ps on tap.
A 1.2-litre petrol engine delivering 110 or 130ps and a new 1.5-litre diesel which meet the latest emission standards will be coming on stream next year.
All the engines are sourced from PSA and the Combo line up will also include the option of an eight-speed automatic transmission on the 130ps 1.5 diesel.
With two body lengths - 14ft 5ins or 15ft 7ins - on offer the Combo has a load capacity ranging from 3.3 to 3.9 cubic meters and can carry two Euro pallets.
Vauxhall is also offering what it calls its FlexCargo system on the Combo which expands load volumes to between 3.9 and 4.4 cubic meters and increases load length from 3.8 metres to 4.1 through a space in the bulkhead.
All models come with a double opening tailgate and a nearside sliding side door. The larger versions have an additional off-side sliding door for full access to the interior.
A crew van option with five seats and reduced load capacity of 1.8 cubic meters is also available and those are priced from £18,605.
The regular panel van range initially top out at £19,255 for a 100ps 1.6 diesel in standard length or £20,155 for the longer version.
We have just tried two versions of the standard Combo fitted with the 1.6 diesel engine - one empty and the other carrying a 300kg load - and both performed well.
What impresses most is the car-like quality of the ride and handling and even laden the engine provided plenty of pull and acceleration.
The 1.6-litre diesel is a five-speed manual and while officially Vauxhall rates it at 65.6mpg with emissions of 111g/km we averaged 46.2 to the gallon laden and 52.2 without a load.
Both models were in mid-range Sportive trim and came with a seven-inch touchscreen complete with sat nav which was a £700 option.
Onboard storage space in the cabin is good with an array of compartments in the dash including a covered bin above the instrument panel, a roof level shelf, glovebox, oddments shelf and a cubby in front of the passenger.
There's also cup holders in the centre between the two seats and large door pockets.
Three seat configuration sees the middle seat foldable and it comes with its own work tray which opens out automatically.
The FlexCargo pack costs an additional £520 and also includes a cargo bag which deploys through the opening in the bulkhead to cover long loads.
Another feature of the pack is an electronic parking brake which replaces the manually operated lever in the centre of the cab.
Without it - and the Â£240 IntelliGrip all-weather traction control system - there are two odd shaped blanks either side of the gear lever.
Payload capacities range from 658kg to 1,020kg while the diesel models have a 10.9 gallon fuel tank and come with a 3.7 gallon AdBlue reservoir that should be good for more than 10,000 miles.
Service intervals are yearly or 16,000 miles whichever is first and the vans are covered by Vauxhall's three year 60,000 mile warranty, soon to be backed up by 70-odd van centres the company is planning on opening across the country.
Compared to the outgoing Combo the new diesel model is some £500 cheaper in entry level Edition trim and in the Sportive grade we tried are almost £1,000 less than before.
Like for like with the Peugeot and Citroen alternatives the Combo starts Â£200 below and the real difference between the three is the layout of the interior which sees the Vauxhall coming with its own instrument panel and stalks - the central controls are common.
The three give PSA a strong hand in the compact van market and for Vauxhall the Combo will be marketed as very British alternative of a van that's designed to meet the full gamut of business needs.