From £32,995
Production ready Ampera proves 100mpg+ motoring comes with few limitations
27 June 2011

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.


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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

Join the debate


29 June 2011

So very efficient for the first 50 miles, then fairly inefficient beyond that. Do we know what the recharge time is for the batteries?

29 June 2011

If you read the article you'll see it says 4 hours from a domestic plug


29 June 2011

Another magazine (which I don't have to hand right now so can't check my facts) did a large number of miles in one and averaged something like 35mpg overall. Hardly impressive.

I think range-extenders are a much better idea than pure EV's right now, but I'm not sure this car is quite what it's been made out to be. Saddling it with an inefficient 1.4 simply as a generator doesn't seem the cleverest solution. Early days though...

29 June 2011

i'd be wary of test reviews of this car as car magazines are usually against GM products anyway.

29 June 2011

This looks to be an interesting proposition and much more viable than a pure electric car for most people. I wonder where the CO2 figure comes from though - I would have thought that this car would have sufficient range / performance to complete the statutory test on battery power alone, so why doesn't it have a zero CO2 rating? There are some obvious disadvantages, not least of which is the high weight, high cost and the hassle of separate petrol and electric refuelling requirements.

29 June 2011

The headline figures are fair enough (and impressive compared to 'normal' cars) but they completely ignore the co2 & financial cost of generating the electricity, which should be factored in to give a co2/£ per mile. Of course the figure would change depending on journey length & type; anything under 40 odd miles will favour the Ampera massively so maybe we need a new type of test for these cars. A round trip to Goodwood from Milton Keynes on a single charge would do it no favours....

29 June 2011

Surely this is a much more realistic proposition than the Leaf. If doing reasonably short journeys (that most people tend to make) then its incredibly economical but with none of the range anxiety which is surely the single biggest drawback to pure electric

29 June 2011

It's still early days for electric propulsion so for most people none of these cars make sense yet. However, the Ampera seems to me to offer the most practical solution for now. When battery technology improves to allow greater range and faster recharging then a pure EV might become more relevant but in the meantime the Ampera seems to point the way. If you can see past the high purchase price and don't need more than 4 seats then the Ampera will provide very low running costs for most people. I would expect to see a lighter more efficient generator motor introduced at some point but right now I say well done Vauxhall for leading the way.

29 June 2011

How much did that 4 hours of sucking from the house cost? Judging by the way my electricity bill is worded, I may well have asked how did life begin... Not impressed with the car anyway.

29 June 2011

[quote trackdemon]The headline figures are fair enough (and impressive compared to 'normal' cars) but they completely ignore the co2 & financial cost of generating the electricity, which should be factored in to give a co2/£ per mile[/quote]

Why? That seems grossly unfair. Nobody factors in the CO2 and financial cost of getting crude oil from the ground, turning it into petrol then delivering it to the local forecourt.


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