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Car review: Vauxhall Ampera

It might be greener than Shrek and save you pounds at the pump, but it's unfortunate the electric Vauxhall Ampera only seats four, warns car reviewer Tim Barnes-Clay.

Vauxhall Ampera

It might be greener than Shrek but what use is the Vauxhall Ampera if it can only carry four people?

That's what was going through my mind when I realised the car only had two seats in the back.

With a battery filling the transmission tunnel, passenger space is eaten up to the point that there is no room for a middle rear-seat.

This meant I couldn't take my wife and three children with me for a day out. Instead, we went on our excursion in convoy - not exactly the family road trip I'd planned.

However, every cloud has a silver lining. Driving solo meant I had a chance to really find out why the Vauxhall Ampera was crowned European Car of the Year 2012.

Vauxhall Ampera: Award-winning electric vehicle

So, let's rewind a minute as you might wonder why I've been going on about the Vauxhall being "green".

You might also be scratching your head regarding the car's giant battery.

Well, the Ampera is the first electric vehicle suitable for everyday use. Electrical energy drives the wheels of the griffin-badged car at all times.

This is done with its battery - the same one that swallows-up the interior space.

The battery feeds an electric drive unit capable of delivering between 25 and 50 miles of motion while emitting zero tailpipe fumes.

Vauxhall Ampera: The electric car that goes for 300+ miles

But the Ampera also has a small "range-extending" generator, powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine, which powers the car for an additional 300-plus miles.

So at all times, the Ampera's wheels are electrically driven, setting it apart from conventional hybrid vehicles.

And according to official figures, the Vauxhall Ampera can achieve an impressive 234.4 miles per gallon.

So the Ampera offers all the benefits of electric motoring, without any of the range angst associated with pure electric vehicles which, in reality, aren't designed for anything much further than town driving.

£1 to fully charge electric Vauxhall Ampera

It benefits from the government's Plug-in Car Grant, zero VED vehicle tax, Congestion Charge and a 50 per cent reduction in company car tax.

The Ampera costs around £1 to fully charge.

But since it doesn't rely on a public charging infrastructure for propulsion, it can continue to be driven normally on electric juice if a charging point isn't available.

On top of the cost and emissions advantages, the Vauxhall Ampera remains a decent everyday car, the only compromise being the aforesaid lack of a rear seat.

Vauxhall Ampera: Eye-opening performance

Vauxhall Ampera interior cabinThe hatchback design offers practicality, but its performance is the eye-opener.

The Vauxhall can accelerate from 0-60mph in just 8.7 seconds and it'll achieve a top speed of 100mph.

Handling is woolly and the steering is light, but high levels of standard cabin equipment help take your mind off this.

My test car, the Ampera Electron E-Rev, came with leather interior, a digital radio and a navigation audio pack including a seven-inch colour touch-screen.

It also featured a Bose sound system, cruise control, and multiple airbags.

You won't get a lot change out of £34,000, but just think of all those pounds you'll be saving at the pumps - not to mention how much you'll be reducing your carbon footprint.

Vauxhall Ampera: Pros & cons

  • Green √
  • Efficient √
  • Interior √
  • Acceleration √
  • Rear seats X

Vauxhall Ampera: Fast facts

  • Max speed: 100 mph
  • 0-60 mph: 8.7 secs
  • Combined mpg: 235.4
  • Electric motor: 16kWh lithium ion battery
  • Engine: 1398cc 4 cylinder petrol
  • Max. power (bhp): 148 at 5000 rpm
  • Max. torque (lb/ft): 273 at 250-2800 rpm
  • CO2: 27 g/km
  • Price: £33,995 (including Plug-in Car Grant)

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Tim Barnes-Clay

Leon Poultney

Tim is an experienced motoring writer with a background in radio and TV journalism. He puts his pedal to the metal each week with his must-read car reviews.

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