From £34,995
Production ready Ampera proves 100mpg+ motoring comes with few limitations

What’s new?

Having previously driven various prototypes, here we’re trying Vauxhall’s revolutionary electric range extender in final production spec. However for UK buyers the wait continues, with RHD cars not due before Q2 2012. A frustration because, based on this drive the Ampera makes a remarkable amount of sense.

What’s it like?

Apart from the obvious lack of engine noise when running on battery charge, the Ampera behaves very much like a conventional car. The steering although lacking feel is decently accurate and consistently weighted, and the ride is particularly good.

At 1732kg the Ampera is quite a bit heavier than a regular family hatchback, however the 148bhp electric motor provides enough propulsion for most circumstances. Vauxhall hasn’t issued final performance figures but claim 0-62mph in around nine seconds, which feels about right.

Compared to the prototypes we’ve driven before, the final car is noticeably quieter – both in terms of wind noise and whine from the electric motor. The big test today though is how well the Ampera’s range extending drivetrain works over a medium distance journey.

Starting with the 16 kWh lithium-ion battery fully charged – which takes around 4hrs from a domestic plug – we managed 47 miles before the 1.4-litre petrol engine/generator kicked in. That’s mixed driving (urban and motorway) in 34deg ambient temperatures with the air-conditioning in ECO mode (pleasant enough).

With the petrol motor generating electricity to power the car the Ampera is less refined, but no louder than a conventional car. Although arguably the engine’s revolutions are more noticeable because they are not directly linked to the movement of your right foot – in some circumstances the engine races as you slow the car. That said, I’m sure its something you’d become accustomed to.

In total we travelled 62 miles, using 2.4-litres of fuel in the process. Which means the Ampera returned 28.4mpg under petrol power (albeit in heavy traffic) but a headline grabbing 118mpg over the total journey.

Should I buy one?

That level of real-world economy, coupled with a manageable recharge time and none of the range anxiety you get with a full electric car is a compelling proposition. The only issue is the Ampera’s price - £28,995 – and how much of the premium over a mainstream hatch will be preserved on resale. That GM is bringing just 10,000 Ampera’s to Europe in the first 12mths should help though.

If you’re tempted – get in early when the order books open in November.

Jamie Corstorphine

Vauxhall Ampera

Price: £28,995; Top Speed: 100mph; 0-62mph: 9sec (est); Economy: >176mpg (combined); Co2: <40g/km; Kerbweight: 1732kg; Engine: Voltec electric drive unit with 1.4-litre petrol range extender; Power: 148bhp; Torque: 273 lb ft; Gearbox: single speed

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Horatio Q Birdbath 23 March 2012

Re: Vauxhall Ampera it's March 2012 and I've had a pop-up advert on my computer this morning regarding the Ampera and it looks light years better than the dull Civic Hybrid and the truly awful Pious so maybe with a quoted mpg of 217+ in town, this should be where I could be heading, down to the nearest Dealer and fast..WOW!...but then I saw the price...tick the metallic paint box and... £39,990..HOW MUCH???? A truly crazy figure and it is a Vauxhall so in 12 months time will it still be "cool and desirable" or already dated like an i-pad2...and appearing on a Trade Cars for U corner site with "Car of the Week!!" stickers and just £18795. Cheap to drive but cheap to own?...Well a diesel Citroen C3 Airdream gives you 70+mpg all day, every day and I can pick up a brand new one for £10995 which will still get £7000 in 12 months so that means rather cheaper then! Hmmmmm.......we're not there yet are we?

thebaldgit 5 July 2011

Re: Vauxhall Ampera

Much comment has been made of how the Ampera is a much better electric car than the Leaf, but the point is that the Nissan is a electric only car whereas the Ampera has an internal combustion engine capable of taking over when the electric engine needs recharging and then as is with any two engine vehicle there is a serious weight issue that needs to be addressed. The biggest problem with this car however is the very excessive cost, nearly £30k for a smallish Vauxhall far too expensive.

Lifer 1 July 2011

Re: Vauxhall Ampera

cimardinius wrote:

I understand the argument "It is really for electric-only use, but it is good to have the range extender there as a backup," but I am certain that, overall, a 250 kg lighter diesel-powered car will still be more effecient.

The point is that most people do 40 miles or less per day most days. If this was all they ever did then yes a Nissan Leaf would do the job very well. However most people do longer journeys from time to time which a Nissan Leaf is not capable of.

In this kind of driving the Ampera would have very low running costs with most of the running being done on battery power. The Ampera and vehicles like it have one foot in today's world and one foot in tomorrow's world. You could argue that the Nissan Leaf has both feet firmly in tomorrow's world but with a range of 80 miles or so and no way of refuelling in a matter of minutes it's simply too limited for most people.

Anyone who could afford to buy or lease one could run an Ampera regardless of the kind of driving they do. Most people would see dramatic reductions in their running costs but this isn't really about economics as the high purchase price of all electric vehicles makes this a pointless argument. People who buy these cars a making a statement to the rest of us (not entirely sure what that statement is - probably look what I can afford)