SECTOR Lower Medium PRICE From £29,995 – £33,995* FUEL 235.4mpg CO2 29g/km
It may have been launched, launched, and launched again, but Ampera is finally in the UK, which means a chance to see how the revolutionary range-extended electric vehicle performs on our unique road network.
At just shy of £30,000 for the entry-level model, ranging to £34,000 for the top of the range model, that high-tech drivetrain doesn’t come cheap. But that’s likely to be the only real barrier to ownership for most, because it does everything so well.
For a start, it looks great. That coupe-like silhouette wraps around a well-finished, futuristic interior that seats four in comfort with room for luggage. Vauxhall decided losing a seat to slot the battery into the centre console was less of a sacrifice than shedding boot space, and it’s a sensible choice.
Mounting the battery that low also results in incredibly stable, sporty, handling. Ride quality – set slightly firmer than the Volt – is solid, but plenty soft enough to avoid pothole-induced backache, and even with all the weight it’s carrying it takes a lead foot to make it squirm through corners.
It’s a good platform for that drivetrain. Ampera’s torquey electric motor means this belies its lukewarm performance figures, accelerating violently from a standing start on the way to a 100mph top speed. The only downside is a noticeable dip in full throttle torque when the battery is low and the range-extending petrol engine is running. But the 1.4-litre unit itself, which boosts power and tops up the battery through a generator, is barely audible despite revving irrelatively to the car’s speed.
Vauxhall is targeting a realistic 2,500 to 3,000 sales in its first two years, with 80% going to fleets. Though it’s a step change from conventional power, until range goes up for pure EVs and infrastructure grows for hydrogen fuel cells, this could be the most desirable, practical solution going.
* with £5,000 UK government grant