Far from looking obviously high-tech and electric, the Ampera comes across simply as the neat-looking compact MPV it is. Only the flap in the left-hand front wing, concealing the charging socket, reveals that things are not quite as they seem.
Inside, all the trim panels and the dashboard are hard to the touch but easy enough on the eye. The front seats are trimmed in part-perforated leather, the rears in similar-looking vinyl, and the floor is completely flat. The dashboard is dominated by an 8.0in display ahead of the driver and a 10.2in infotainment screen, the latter housing sat-nav, the usual settings menus and graphics revealing how and where the car's electric energy is flowing. The smaller display includes range, state of battery charge, an indicator showing the rate of current loss or gain of charge, and the speedometer.
It all looks quite Tesla-like, and there's a raft of connectivity including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto (one or other supplies the sat-nav) and GM's OnStar services system. An induction-charging system for the vital smartphone is standard, and the usual suite of safety and parking-assist systems is also present. This is a well-equipped car.
It's also a quick one, with a ballistic getaway if asked and – in an exact match with the BMW i3 – the ability to go from 0-62mph in 7.3sec. It is claimed also to surge from 50mph to 75mph in 4.5sec. but the pace runs out at 93mph to conserve battery charge. Overtaking and slotting into traffic streams are instantly effortless processes, made more so by an almost-silent drivetrain and, on Norwegian roads at least, little road roar. A new viscous coating system inside the Michelin tyres helps damp tyre resonances, but more useful is that it permanently seals penetrations of up to 6mm diameter without loss of pressure. The puncture-proof tyre has arrived, it seems.
The Ampera-e's suspension operates smoothly and quietly, and the car stays level in corners while steering naturally and accurately. It grips gamely, too, with great front-end bite and no excess understeer. It hides its weight well and proves remarkably good fun to drive.
Freshly charged, our test car showed a predicted range of 369km, or 229 miles. After a normally-driven test route of 137 miles (including bus lanes, which electric cars can use in Norway) there were indeed 92 miles left, showing the prediction to have been uncannily accurate. One way of maximising the range is to manually activate extra regenerative braking by pulling and holding a paddle on the left of the steering column, and with practice and anticipation you can dispense with the footbrake – which itself uses regenerative braking until extra 'real' braking is needed – entirely. The paddle activates the brake lights, of course.
It's all very impressive, and rather likeable. One snag, though, is that the heater, which uses rather low-tech electric elements, is very unresponsive.