Something for the weekend

Vauxhall Ampera Earth
Vauxhall Ampera Earth

The Vauxhall Ampera is a genuinely revolutionary concept. By refusing to get too hung up on dogma it neatly solves the problem of running an electric vehicle for urban commutes while offering something more versatile for weekends and holidays.

It’s not cheap but the entry-level Earth trim makes relatively affordable an overall package that’s something really rather special and can be an utterly delightful ownership proposition.

Swishing about on battery power makes even the most refined petrol engined car feel old-fashioned and makes a diesel feel positively archaic.

The Ampera is, in effect, two cars in one. It has the big, floor-mounted battery pack of a pure EV but backs that up with an 86bhp 1.4-litre ECOTEC petrol engine under the bonnet.

You can plug it into the mains for a three hour charge and you can put petrol in it in the time honoured tradition.

It’s how these two systems work hand in hand that’s so intriguing. The batteries are good for a range of 50 miles or so. When the battery is depleted, rather than the petrol engine chugging into life and driving the front wheels, something rather remarkable happens.

The engine drives one of the two electric motors, so the Ampera still feels exactly like an electric car. Step on the throttle and you won’t hear revs rising and falling.

While it might be a tricky car to conceptually understand, the Ampera is simplicity itself to operate.

It’s thoughtful too, not allowing you to drive away when its plugged in, turning the engine over periodically to keep it in fettle if it detects extended electric usage and offering tips on how to improve your driving efficiency. Those looking to get hung up on definitions won’t like the Ampera.

For those with a more open mid, it’s something very special indeed.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Vauxhall Ampera Earth

PRICE: £29,995 [inc. government £5,000 PiCG grant]

INSURANCE GROUP: tba

CO2 EMISSIONS: 0g/km in EV mode, c124g/km with petrol engine

PERFORMANCE: 0-60 8.5s / top speed 100mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 72mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Electronic stability control, ABS with brake assist, twin front and side, knee and curtain airbags

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height mm 4498/1788/1430.