What's the used Vauxhall Ampera hatchback like?
Opinions on future methods of propulsion for the private car are much divided, but undoubtedly one of the better and so far more overlooked ideas is that of the range-extender electric vehicle. Here, an on-board engine is used to charge up the electric motor that primarily drives the car’s wheels. The problems of range anxiety that beset a normal pure electric car are thereby nullified by always having an engine available to top up the battery charge if needed.
From this premise was born the Vauxhall Ampera, and its near-identical sibling the Chevrolet Volt, in 2012. Both cars were four-seat hatchbacks powered by lithium-ion batteries that could be recharged by plugging into the mains, or on the go by the aforementioned on-board 1.4-litre petrol engine. It won the European Car of the Year Award in 2012.
Vauxhall claimed the Ampera could travel up to 40 miles on electric power alone, before the engine’s power was needed, although in our experience this tends to be more realistically around 20-30 miles. It makes for swift and hushed progress, and the smooth power of the electric motor does a good job of disguising some of the car’s predictable weight. On motorways the engine kicks in to join the electric motor, but it’s still a very refined place to be. It’s a reasonably enjoyable car to drive, too, with quick responses, pleasant steering and secure handling. The driving position is spot-on and the interior, especially the dashboard, is eye-catching and futuristic.
Alas its high purchase price might have put many potential purchasers off, and the Ampera was eventually dropped in 2015. Now, though, it appears to be rather an attractive used car proposition. After all you’re getting a lot of really quite good car and a lot of modern tech, without any of the usual electric car constraints over how far you can drive the thing.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Vauxhall Ampera hatchback?
That futuristic body will have been thumped up and down the nation’s motorways so check it carefully for stone chips and the windscreen for chips and cracks. Check the wheels for any signs of kerb contact too. Make sure it has the full and proper Ampera annual service history.
What are the most common problems with a used Vauxhall Ampera hatchback?
Reported problems are very few, but there were some issues early in the build run with transmission solenoids, and there have also been reports of the central screen failing and rear shocks that suffer premature wear.
Is a used Vauxhall Ampera hatchback reliable?
It seems it is. Despite the complexity of its drivetrain, so far there have been few problems. From new, a 100,000-mile warranty is offered. Vauxhall as a brand finished 18th out of 32 manufacturers in our most recent reliability survey, a better than normal result for the firm.
What used Vauxhall Ampera hatchback will I get for my budget?
High mileage 2013 Amperas start at around £10,000, at the time of writing. It’ll be better to up that to between £11,000 and £13,000 for one with an average mileage and a full service history. Top price currently for a later 2014 Ampera is around £14,000.
How much does it cost to run a Vauxhall Ampera hatchback?
Although its on-paper average claimed fuel consumption figure looks terrific – 235.4mpg – you are unlikely to achieve anywhere near this figure in the real world, especially if your journeys are anything other than short hops and you don’t have access to electric charging points. Its maximum electric-only range from a full charge is usually around 20-30 miles, in our experience, after which you’ll be using the petrol motor. We have seen figures in the region of 40-60mpg in our hands, in mixed use, which is still pretty good for a large and heavy-ish car in this class. You can charge the Ampera fully in six hours using a 13A socket.
Which used Vauxhall Ampera hatchback should I buy?
There is only the one powertrain option but there are several different levels of trim. The two major ones are Electron and Positiv, and both variants are well equipped. Positiv Amperas come with a DAB radio, USB connectivity, climate control, automatic lights, heated leather seats and cruise control. The Electron models add to the Positiv's comprehensive kit list with sat-nav, a DVD player, a 30Gb media system and a Bose sound system. Towards the end of the Ampera’s life an Earth top-spec edition was added.
Our favourite Vauxhall Ampera: Electron 5dr auto
What alternatives should I consider to a used Vauxhall Ampera hatchback?
The only car of reasonable price and availability that offers similar technology is the BMW i3, which comes with the option to be either a fully electric car or a range extender. It can offer a realistic range of around 124 miles in electric-only mode, while the range-extender version has a two-cylinder petrol engine that stops the batteries from running flat. In theory, the range extender will keep going as long as you keep refilling the (tiny) fuel tank – but since it adds only around another 80 miles of range, you'll be making frequent stops at petrol stations. But it handles well, looks great inside and out, and your bills should still be low.
A roughly equivalent, much more conventional car might be something such as the BMW 330e, which is a plug-in hybrid version of the popular compact executive saloon. This comes with some outstanding on-paper fuel consumption claimed figures, but, like a lot of plug-ins, in reality its results are much more ordinary. It can run on electric-only power for a limited range of roughly 25 miles before the conventional 2.0-litre petrol engine joins in.