Review | Opel Combo Life vs VW Caddy: I'd choose these two MPVs if a bakkie wasn't an option

Image: Motorpress
Image: Motorpress
South Africa is probably one of the most enthusiastic bakkie-loving countries in the world. Perhaps it's a culture thing, or because of our fantastic terrains, I'm not entirely sure. 

We have vast landscapes, large families and, we love driving the distance in fantastic vehicles. 

Take my family and I, for instance. My husband and I both have large families spread all over the Western Cape, and there's always a function or event to attend up the West Coast, or in the Swartland municipality. Then, he's also a rugby player, and what's a better vehicle than a bakkie on the field next to a braai while you watch the game? My daughter always has loads of luggage of books and toys, or bicycles to haul along - so we always need boot space. And that's where the Caddy and Opel Combo Life come in. 

But besides bakkies, I love large SUVs, but also multi-purpose vehicles, better known as MPVs - anything with enough space to move enough people, and have more than your average load space. Once upon a time, these people-movers were all the rave.

Do you own a VW Caddy or Opel Combo/Life model? Tell us your stories and share your pictures with us, just please email us here.

opel combo life xl
Image: Opel

They're slowly finding popularity among South Africans again. And, especially since so many people are starting a small business and need vehicles for deliveries, these vehicles are becoming more popular again.

According to Autotrader, online searches for small and larger vans have increased significantly during lockdown since it seems locals are venturing into small businesses such as making face masks and the likes to try and make a living. 

I have driven two such vehicles lately, and they make the perfect alternative for a bakkie when it comes to moving space and loading large items in your boot. Off-roading? No, of course not, that's not what they're made for, but they're both equipped to do a bit of gravel driving if needed.

2020 vw caddy
Image: Volkswagen

Opel said it best when the automaker launched its new Combo and Combo Life offerings here in SA: 'why bakkie when you can Opel'. The logo was boldly printed across dealer vehicles when the models first launched here. 

And when you're looking for a versatile people mover and something that still has loads of boot space, the house of Volkswagen and Opel both have offerings that tick all the right boxes: massive cargo space, sliding rear doors, space for three child seats, and incredibly frugal.

VW has added a 1.0-litre TSI model to join its Caddy line-up, while Opel launched its Combo models in 2019. 

I first experienced the Combo as a panel van, and even then, I was impressed by the fuel-efficient little offering. Besides not having any rear seats in the back, it could pull off any job a bakkie could when it comes to hauling furniture or larger items. If I didn't have a child, this would make a great run-about - even if you don't have any small business.

Then came the Combo Life which has a rear bench to seat three adults, or even better, three child seats! And, the massive cargo area in the back. Win-win! The Caddy is precisely the same when it comes to the check-boxes.

My five-year-old decided she wanted a birthday party earlier this year, one we had not planned on having. The Caddy came around with perfect timing. I needed to load kiddie tables and chairs for the party. And, even though it was like playing a grand round of Tetris, we managed to fit four tables and ten chairs in the boot. That should explain just how vast that cargo size is in both vehicles.

But those sliding doors are best, especially when you have kids or older relatives who find it difficult getting in and out of cars. Both vehicles have grab handles, or access to hold on to the front seat to ease ingress, making it easier for them to slide in or out. 

Parents who battle to fit two child seats in the rear of their vehicles will know just how challenging this can be, especially when you need to fit an adult at the back too. Both models have Isofix fittings for not just two, but three child seats without a struggle. 

Under the bonnet

Both vehicles are so nippy off the line, mated to manual gearboxes, and the other highlight is the generous fuel consumption. They also have ABS, EBD, several airbags, traction control, electronic stability programme, and a towing capacity of 1100kg braked, and 720kg unbraked.

The VW Caddy 1.0-litre TSI model is mated to a five-speed transmission, good for 75kW and 175Nm, and has a claimed top speed of 172km/h. It has a combined fuel consumption rated at 5.6-litres/100km with a 55-litre fuel tank. Service intervals are at 15 000km, and it comes with a three year or 120 000km warranty and three-year/60 000km service plan.

Pricing for this Caddy is from R348 900.

The Combo Life however has a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine delivering 68kW and 230Nm, also mated to a five-speed manual 'box. Fuel consumption here in a combined cycle is claimed at 5.0-litres/100km. Service intervals are also 15 000km or 12 months, warranty and roadside assistance for three-years or 120 000km, while the service plan is three-years or 60 000km.

The Combo Life also has roof rails as an optional good, or you can opt for additional rear seating in the third row. Both vehicles also have large boot doors which opens up tall and wide, which also makes more space possible, with a nifty handle to close it easily.

Pricing for the Opel Combo Life is from R369 900.
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