First Drive: Vauxhall Ampera
At just shy of £30,000 for the forthcoming entry-level model, ranging to £34,000 for the top of the range 'Electron' version, 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, and offers a low-slung driving position. 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.
It’s nothing less than you’d hope for at this price, either. Priced similarly to a compact executive car from one of the luxury German manufacturers, Vauxhall had to make this drive and perform like something from a class above, and they’ve done a convincing job. With the exception of a few details, it won’t leave early adopters feeling short-changed.
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 and usable solution going.
Sector: Lower Medium
Type: Range-extended electric vehicle
Price: £29,995-£33,995 (after £5,000 grant)
Electric range: 50 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 27g/km
Charging port: J1772