The launch drive was in Holland, judiciously chosen to showcase the Ampera because the flat terrain optimises the performance of an electric car. The big battery pack sited under the rear seat balances engine weight at the front, and gives the car a feeling of very even weight distribution. The car rides cleanly and it handles competently with tidy cornering responses. It is pleasant and efficient to drive, smooth-riding and relaxing. It is no pulse-quickener, though.Ease of Use
Practicality is a strong point with the Ampera. It is a roomy five-door four-seater, with good luggage space: 300 litres with all the seats in place, increasing to 1,005 litres with the back seats folded. This gives a range potential of around 310 miles, three times that of a typical electric car. Recharging the lithium-ion battery pack, plugged into a household mains, takes four hours and gives a pure electric range of 40 miles. But when the battery is down to a 20 per cent charge level, the 1.4 litre petrol engine comes on to run the system instead.
On start-up there is a sense of theatre about the car. A soft whirring accompanies the dashboard coming to life, and the throttle pedal dips slightly to let you know the car is active. This is deliberate, to give the car a sense of character that electric vehicles mostly don’t have. When you pull away, the Ampera has uncanny electric vehicle quietness, with just a faint whine and the thrum of tyres rolling on the road surface.
Driving as economically as possible, the car proves amazingly economical: on a 63 mile route, the car did 46 miles battery-only, and 17 miles engine-assisted, using 10.3 kWh of electricity and 1.88 litres of petrol. That’s an equivalent 156.94 mpg. Not quite the EU calculation combined figure of 175 mpg, but pretty impressive all the same.Comfort and Refinement
Inside, the Ampera is like no other Vauxhall you have seen before. The interior decor is bolder than usual, including an iPad-inspired centre dash panel and prominent dash-top pads housing the front airbags. Cabin decor is quite busy in a techy sort of way. There are two information centres, one ahead of the driver and another on a central screen, which can be initially distracting but quickly become helpful aids. The car feels spacious and airy, although you notice that the designers have employed a few tricks to achieve this: the rear screen extends a long way up into the roof area, to achieve better rear headroom than the thick roof panel further forward would otherwise allow.
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