At its launch in spring 2012, the Vauxhall Ampera was the first plug-in hybrid passenger car to be offered for sale in the UK.

It is powered by General Motors’ ‘Voltec’ series-hybrid propulsion technology (like its Chevrolet Volt sister model) and it marked a new and, arguably, more practical approach to the electric car. Indeed, the Ampera was made the 2012 European Car of the Year

Unlike conventional hybrids, which can be best described as combustion-engined cars backed up by electric assistance, the Vauxhall Ampera is primarily powered by electric motors but has a four-cylinder combustion engine and generator to keep the car running when the batteries are exhausted.

Vauxhall claims better than 300mpg for the Ampera in urban use, but that’s a quirk of the official NEDC fuel economy test, which counts the battery’s range as CO2-free.

It also claims a maximum cruising range, thanks to the petrol engine/generator and petrol tank, of more than 300 miles.

Just one powertrain is offered, but buyers can pick from one of two trim levels: Positiv or range-topping Electron.

So is this the world’s first truly usable electric car?

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Vauxhall range

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    29 May 2015
    New compact Vauxhall shows lots of promise, but sluggish performance and intrusive road noise leave it trailing its rivals
  • First Drive
    28 May 2015
    BMW's luxurious coupé has been given a style refresh and more equipment. This is our first chance to drive the popular 640d Coupe on UK roads
  • First Drive
    28 May 2015
    We drive Ssangyong's new small SUV, which isn't up with the best in class but is certainly worth consideration as a budget option
  • Car review
    26 May 2015
    Hardcore 493bhp GT3 RS represents a new level for the Porsche 911 - faint hearts need not apply
  • First Drive
    25 May 2015
    Track drive of Lamborghini's astonishing limited-run special, the Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce