What Car? Green Awards 2011 - Overall winner

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This is the year alternative-fuel cars finally became viable

Overall winner
Vauxhall Ampera

This year’s overall winner represents a massive step for alternative-fuel cars. Until now we’ve only ever given this award to diesel-powered models, for the simple reason that electric cars demanded too much compromise from you.

The Ampera changes that. It offers all the benefits of owning an EV with virtually none of the drawbacks – and on top of that it’s a very good car.

If you stick within the electric range of around 40 miles, those benefits include no tailpipe emissions whatsoever and electricity costs of just 2p a mile. The Ampera is also exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, and if you run one as a company car your monthly tax bill will be less than if you’d gone for a diesel Ford Fiesta.

If you do need to travel farther than 40 miles, a 1.4-litre petrol engine will kick in and continue generating electricity as long as there’s petrol in the tank, or until you can get to a charging point.

Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is just how seamlessly all that technology works. You might expect it to hamper performance and driveability, but if anything it makes the Ampera easier to drive than a conventional car. Maximum torque is available at any revs, so you’re never left short of pulling power, and engine refinement is better than any purely petrol or diesel model because the electric motor is virtually silent.

The new Ampera gives you the option of dramatically reducing your emissions without changing your lifestyle. That can only be a good thing.

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