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

  • Car review
    30 June 2015
    Expectations are high and the competition fierce. Can it deliver?
  • First Drive
    30 June 2015
    Anniversary edition of Alpina's hot 5 Series gets 591bhp and can hit 204mph. Is it now a match for a Panamera Turbo?
  • First Drive
    30 June 2015
    Significant upgrades to the M6's Competition Package only serve to lift its appeal even more
  • First Drive
    29 June 2015
    Third-gen MPV exudes characteristic Volkswagen refinements, so it's solid, upmarket, smart and practical – albeit a bit bland
  • First Drive
    29 June 2015
    This Tucson is proof Hyundai hasn’t run out of momentum. It could be a genuine Qashqai rival