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Ampera: Wind of change as new Vauxhall extended range car hits the roads

 

Vauxhall Ampera 1.4 16v VVT V6 Positiv ECOTEC E-REV Auto

Car review by Paul Myles

What is it?

THIS is a new twist on the electric powered vehicle and one which provides a decent range of around 350 miles. While not quite the ‘great leap forward’ suggested by some commentators, the Vauxhall Ampera cleverly side-steps the limited range of modern lithium-ion batteries by augmenting its 40-50 mile capable battery pack with a ‘range extender’ in the shape of a simple 1.4-litre petrol engine.

However, the Ampera’s motor will not, beyond extreme loads, put any power to the wheels, restricting itself to the role as a simple generator to supply power to the electric motor. It only comes in high specification with a starting price of a cool £37,250 on the road price – although it does qualify for the government’s £5,000 EV grant!

 

What’s hot?

  • Smart performance time: 0-62mph time of 9 seconds and top speed limited to 100mph to preserve the electric motors
  • The battery pack is smaller than other EVs and so full charges in six-hours and costs only about £3,500 to replace after 8-year 100,000 mile warranty
  • A real-world electric only range of 40-50 miles will mean most owners with charge points at home and work will almost never use petrol
  • Superb build quality and interior fit is up to the best in class and befits the price tag
  • Handling is good and predictable and not overly affected by weight from the slimmed down battery pack
  • Although based on the Astra chassis the body is larger and provides nearly mid-market executive cruiser dimensions with plenty of legroom and storage space with a boot of 300-litres swelling to just over 1,000-litres with rear seats folded
  • Enough electronic gadgetry to please the keenest geek plus an uber-useful pre-flight mode where you can time the car to warm itself to full operating temp
  • Huge benefit in kind (BIK) tax discounts which, with estimated cheaper running costs, saves company car drivers around £6,000 over three years compared to a similarly specified Insignia
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What’s not?

  • About £10,000 more expensive than equivalent Insignia…
  • Fairly unexciting drive once the novelty of all the electronica wears off
  • Central tunnel placed battery pack reduces interior space and thus only two seats are offer in the back
  • Drive or garage charging a must as high-rise living city dwellers with just on-street parking will unlikely see much of an advantage with limited battery use
  • The steep price tag also means a steep monthly lease of around £450 to £500 – right there in Mercedes C-Class country
  • Big question marks hang over whether the government’s EV grant will last beyond 2015 and the price without it will hit sales

 

Vauxhall Ampera 1.4 Positiv Auto – the low-down

 

P11D Value:£ 37,195
Monthly Rental:From £491 (3yrs/30,000 miles)
Tax Bands 2011/12 to 2013/14:5%, 5%, 5%
Benefit in kind 2011/12 to 2013/14:£1,860, £1,860, £1,860
Engine:1.4 16v petrol
CO2 Emissions:27g/km
Power/torque:150PS/370Nm
0-62mph/top speed:8.7 secs/100mph
Economy (official):235.4mpg
Economy (flat battery):56.5 mpg
Vauxhall Ampera: First of new generation extended range models heading for the UK

 

Verdict

Even cynics of the whole EV movement will appreciate the Vauxhall Ampera, the current European Car of the Year, is the best, most practical, EV solution to date. It must be attractive to company car drivers able to choose any vehicle on lease budget alone and who will value the company car tax savings and the car’s life-style statement image above a more premium car badge – especially when you do the maths using our company car tax calculator.

But SME small fleet managers are unlikely to be attracted to a vehicle which will not recoup the additional price outlay over a traditionally fuelled equivalent within the usual three-year ownership window – and which costs nearly £500 on a business car lease.

READ  The Business Motoring Week, October 19, 2018

 


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