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

  • Volkswagen Golf

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon

    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

  • MX-5 RF 2.0 160
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    The distinctive 'retractable fastback' roadster promises typical MX-5 dynamics coupled with better refinement. It achieves the former, but the latter isn't quite there yet
  • Hyundai i30 1.4 T-GDi Premium
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    Facing increasingly formidable opposition, the Hyundai i30 has been overhauled for 2017. The result is a recognisably mixed bag
  • 2016 Infiniti Q50 Country Road
    First Drive
    12 January 2017
    Infiniti’s premium mid-sized saloon packs a serious punch, but lacks the dynamic prowess of European rivals
  • Nissan Micra Tekna IG-T
    First Drive
    10 January 2017
    Not quite a class-leading return to form, but a more stylish and tech-savvy kind of Micra than we’ve ever known – and an encouraging one to drive
  • Infiniti Q60 2.0t Premium Tech
    First Drive
    9 January 2017
    Infiniti’s entry-level mid-sized coupé has the looks to do well, but little of the substance to go with them