Vauxhall Ampera

The Essentials

  • Price from £37,250
  • What Car? says: 4 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 2,354.0mpg
  • What is it? The Vauxhall Ampera gives all the benefits of an electric car, but with none of the drawbacks, thanks to a small petrol engine that generates power for the batteries

Great

  • Low running costs
  • A relaxing way to travel thanks to the quiet electric motor and effective suspension
  • None of the range anxiety you might experience with a normal electric car

Gripes

  • It's expensive to buy and there are doubts over its residual values
  • The rear visibility is rubbish
  • Touch screen controls are more style than substance
  • Drive

    Up to 50 electric emission-free miles, with petrol-powered back-up. Blissfully quiet and a comfortable way to travel

  • Inside

    Centre console touch-screen is stylish but not easy enough to use, while a screen on the dash monitors how economically you're driving

  • Safety

    Eight airbags, ISOFIX child-seat mounting points, stability control and an audible warning to warn pedestrians with a chirp that you're around

  • Reliability

    As well as Vauxhall's 100,000-mile warranty for the car, there's an eight-year/100,000 mile warranty for the drivetrain and battery

  • Space

    Battery storage leaves room for four on board - only the tallest rear passengers will grumble about the headroom. Boot space is fair

  • Standard and extras

    High-tech infotainment system, leather seats, cruise control and climate control as standard.

  • What's it like to drive?

    The Vauxhall Ampera, like the almost identical Chevrolet Volt, can be charged up via a regular power socket in around four hours, and will then travel on electric power for up to 50 miles. There's no need to panic as you near the 50-mile mark, however. Once the battery gives up, the petrol engine kicks in to charge the motor. Electric driving does feel and sound different. This would be an ideal getaway car as it pounces off the mark instantly and silently. Even when the petrol engine gets to work it does so discreetly. The ride is comfortable over most road surfaces - only the smaller bumps will jiggle your passengers.

  • What's it like inside?

    Getting comfortable in the Ampera is a doddle; sadly getting a view out of the rear window is more tricky thanks to the small screen and obtrusive pillars. Luckily a rear-view camera comes as standard. That trendy centre console has a touch of the iPod about it, with touch-sensitive buttons that aren't quite as easy or efficient to use as we'd like. Behind the wheel sits the on-board computer which will keep you fully abreast of the remaining charge, your speed and so on. It makes rather addictive viewing, as does the spirit-level style gauge that tells you whether you're driving is eco-friendly or a serious threat to the polar bears. Battery pack storage leaves space for two in the back, while the boot is a respectable size.

  • How reliable is it?

    Reliability shouldn't be an issue - Vauxhall is offering peace of mind in the guise of its 100,000-mile/unlimited time warranty, while the battery is also covered by a warranty of 100,000-miles or eight years.
    Eight airbags and stability control come as standard, so you and your passengers should be safe inside, while a chirp can be activated to warn unwary pedestrians of your approach when running on silent battery power.

  • Should I buy one?

    The Vauxhall Ampera is more expensive than the Chevrolet Volt, and while you might prefer its looks, it's seriously expensive for a small family car. There's a £5000 government grant on offer for electric car buyers, however, and no road tax or London Congestion Charge to pay, either. Company owners can feel smug about paying tax on just 5% of its value, while running costs should be minimal. Resale values are an unknown at this stage.