Our Cars: Vauxhall Ampera - August
Week ending August 31
Driven this week 200 miles
Vauxhall Ampera review
I'm still enjoying the Ampera's near-silent charms - it's got the ability to make anything with a conventional engine seem gruff by comparison. Especially when you start it up in the morning.
In the past few days I have discovered one good point and one bad about it, though.
Firstly, charging it up is easy. Assuming you can find a charge point of course. You just push a button inside the cabin (or on the key), a fuel filler-sized flap pops open at the front of the car and you plug in it. It's as easy as filling it up with fuel – as you do in the normal way through an identical flap on the other side.
What's slightly disappointing about the Ampera is its practicality. The huge battery runs down the middle of the car, so it has only two seats in the rear. I don't really mind this because I rarely need to accommodate three in the back.
More frustrating, though, is the lack of boot space. I virtually filled it up the other day with two bags for a four-day business trip, let alone a family holiday. It also has only a flimsy cloth luggage cover. A 'proper' one would be a lot better.
By Chas Hallett
Week ending August 24
Driven this week 300 miles
Vauxhall Ampera review
I'm quite a fan of electric cars when they stay within city limits so I've spent a fair bit of time in our Ampera recently.
Long enough to know that the range extending technology works superbly. When the battery is fully charged we're getting about 40 miles from it - easily enough to swallow my 4 mile commute or a 20 mile round trip to the central London from What Car? HQ.
The real genius though is when the petrol engine kicks in to start replenishing the electric power: you barely know about it.
So because there's a tank of petrol on standby all the issues with pure EVs go out of the window for me.
I also like driving the Ampera regardless of its powerplant. It's a relaxing car, with an easy going nature and surprisingly plush ride considering there's an enormous battery in it.
The car does have several issues, however. It bottoms out over speed bumps even at walking pace and that is an annoyingly frequent occurence round my way. It also doesn't have fixtures and fittings that are commensurate with its price.This expensive tech is sure to get cheaper by the time the next-gen Ampera appears.
By Chas Hallett
Week ending August 17
Driven this week 378 miles
I'm a big fan of the Ampera and reckon it works much better in the real world than fully electric and plug-in hybrid cars I've tried.
During the recent good weather, for example, I was able to drive it for over 45 miles before the engine cut in, whereas the farthest I could manage in Toyota's Prius Plug-in was 13 miles.
It's just a shame visibility is awful in the Ampera. Its forward-set windscreen pillars obscure your view in bends, while the rear blind spots are so big that changing lane is genuinely scary.
Week ending August 3
Driven this week: 60 miles
It's funny that it takes a few thousand miles behind the wheel to appreciate the benefits of an electric car with an engine and petrol tank, like our Vauxhall Ampera.
You can see from reading about the car that the range extender concept might well work. An hour behind the wheel makes you realise how quietly the engine kicks in when the battery runs out. It's only when suddenly you can't remember the last time you drove on to a petrol station forecourt to fill up that the message really sinks in.
I still struggle with the lack of a fifth seat. This is a major failing in a family hatchback. Most weekends it's been an inconvenience, and on two occasions I've had to drive another car instead. It's a reminder that the cleverest drivetrain in the world (yes, it probably is) can't compensate for a shortfall in practicality.