Review: Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014)

Rating:

First electric car with an indefinite self-powered range. Qualifies for Government £5,000 grant bringing price down to £29,000. VED and London Congestion Charge Exempt.

Unimpressive fuel consumption when running in petrol mode. Model dropped in 2014 due to poor sales.

Recently Added To This Review

29 September 2016 Ampera E announced at Paris Motor Show, not initially for UK market.

The 2017 Ampera-e electric car, premiered at the Paris Motor Show is being evaluated in the UK by Vauxhall with the possibility of right-hand-drive models being produced in a future generation. ... Read more

8 February 2016

Another case of an Ampera bought on October 2014 turning out to have been built in 2012. Various modifications were made to 2013 Amperas to overcome problems, so if buying one make absolutely sure of... Read more

27 October 2014

Too many unsold cars can mean that even in 2014, a Vauxhall Ampera sold as 'new' could be 2013 build or even 2012 build. Read more

Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014): At A Glance

The Ampera is a plug-in electric car that you can simply plug into the mains in your house or garage using a normal plug. That charges it in four hours, giving you a 40 mile electric range. As soon as the battery is down to 20% charge, the petrol engine cuts in, alone generating the electrical power to turn the car's electric motors, but keeping the battery at a 20% charge level, and theoretically giving it an indefinite range removing the worry owners of electric cars have of finding themselves stranded.

Far cheaper to charge the battery from the mains at off-peak rates than to charge from the power generated by the engine.

Vauxhall Ampera LHD 2011 Road Test and Video

Vauxhall Ampera RHD 2012 Road Test

What does a Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014) cost?

Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4498–4514 mm
Width 1787–2126 mm
Height 1439 mm
Wheelbase 2685 mm

Full specifications

Inside it’s suitably advanced. There’s a high definition screen where you’d expect to find the instrument binnacle, with a readout telling you how efficiently you’re driving as well as the speed and mileage. There’s also a second display at the top of the centre stack with sat nav, audio and a reversing camera.

The materials inside are solid and the leather trim is impressively sumptuous, plus there are colourful door cards and touch sensitive controls on the centre stack. The Ampera is futuristic enough to impress but familiar enough not to be daunting, which is a balance Vauxhall must have worked hard to achieve.

Practicality is more or less unaffected by the electric drivetrain components. Many EVs have reduced boot space due to a large battery, but the Ampera offers a not-too-shabby 301 litres of bootspace. It’s not class leading but it’s more than enough for a decent amount of luggage or shopping.

Furthermore there’s a comprehensive standard equipment list. Our test car, in Electron trim, had heated seats, tyre pressure monitors, a reversing camera, BOSE audio, cabin pre-heating, keyless entry and start, climate control and cruise control. It’s not stripped out to improve economy, that’s for sure.

Luggage space is a fairly meagre 300 litres, extending to 1,000 litres with the rear seatbacks down. Leg and headroom is fine for four passengers. There’s no centre rear seat because that’s where part of the battery sits.

Child seats that fit a Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014)

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What's the Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014) like to drive?

Electric cars are very gradually entering the minds of car buyers. Vehicles like the Nissan Leaf offer zero exhaust emissions and extremely low running costs, thanks to a combination of government incentives and no fuel bills, in the conventional sense.

They’re not without their issues though, with the biggest bugbear being range anxiety. Most people rarely travel much further than 30 miles a day, but for business trips, visits to family or holidays, electric vehicles (EVs) are impractical. This means most will be partners to second cars, with a traditional petrol or diesel model filling the gap.

Vauxhall has different ideas though, thanks to its new Ampera. For the most part it’s a traditional EV – you plug it in to charge the batteries and then enjoy quiet, electric drive for up to 50 miles. But after that the Ampera has a trick up its sleeve, because when the battery runs out a petrol engine takes over and generates power for the motor.

So like a normal EV you can commute to work, drop off the children at school and make it home again on electricity, then plug in and charge up again for the next day. Where the Ampera comes into its own is where other EVs fall flat. Because when the battery is depleted a 1.4-litre engine takes over the role of generator.

It doesn’t charge the battery, nor does it directly power the wheels, rather it keeps the motor turning by generating just enough electricity. That means you can drive as far as you need, as long as you can find petrol, then charge when you get the chance. It takes six hours to charge fully from a mains supply, but a fast charger cuts that time significantly and can be installed at home.

There’s no real change to the way in which the Ampera drives from one mode to the next. In EV mode it’s more or less silent, with a faint whir from the motor. If the engine needs to kick in it does so quietly, although its revs are related very little to the speed you’re travelling.

The drive itself is pretty good, too. Anyone who has driven a traditional automatic car will feel right at home – select D, lift off the brake and the Ampera even ‘creeps’ like a normal auto. It’s responsive with all 370Nm of torque available from zero revs. This means the Ampera can hit 62mph in 8.7 seconds, despite the heavy batteries.

It feels fairly heavy but it's composed at speed, even over fairly rough surfaces, and it remains quiet with just the intrusion of road noise breaking the silence. Over broken or rough surfaces this road noise can be quite intrusive though. Even so, with no engine noise it's quite a surreal experience.

The benefits for company car drivers are impressive. 100 per cent first year capital allowance, 5 per cent BIK tax and reduced fuel bills paired with generous equipment and ‘green’ credentials could make the Ampera a compelling case for fleet managers.

Unfortunately it’s not all good news. First of all there’s the price – it starts at a hefty £29,995, and that’s after the £5000 government discount offered for EVs. That’s more than the likes of the Nissan Leaf, although the Leaf has the problem of limited range.

There’s also the problem of fuel economy when the petrol ‘generator’ is running – ours returned an acceptable but hardly impressive 39mpg when it was producing energy for the motor. That means if you’re planning on using it as a ‘normal’ car without charging it you’d be better off with a traditional petrol or diesel car.

But if you tend to drive a fairly short distance day to day, have a place to charge it at home and need the option of an occasional long journey, the Ampera makes sense. You get all of the advantages of an electric car without having to use a second car for longer journeys. For that, the Ampera deserves commendation.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
Ampera 235 mpg 8.7–9.0 s 27 g/km

Real MPG average for a Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

69%

Real MPG

128–192 mpg

MPGs submitted

50

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Vauxhall Ampera (2012 – 2014)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Discovered my 'new' car is not actually all that new - what should I do?

My wife bought a new Vauxhall Ampera in 2014 from a main dealer. We knew the Ampera was at the end of the production line but nothing was said to indicate that it was not a new car. In the course of getting its several faults corrected I was told that my car was older than I thought. That prompted me to check the VIN which showed that ours was a 2013 car manufactured in August 2012. We believe it should have been a 2014 model year car, even if manufactured in 2013. The 2014 model year manual is readily available from the Vauxhall site and shows that one at least of the faulty mechanisms has been modified (the more major faults were with matters not treated in the manual, e.g. main motor bearing). We have raised the matter with the dealer who is 'looking in to it', but that has been going on since before Christmas. In your opinion, what sort of remedy would it be reasonable to expect?
This is something buyers of used Amperas need to look out for. Quite a lot of 2012 Amperas remained unsold and were sold off 'as new', presumably at considerable discounts in 2014. Obviously if you paid full list price for the car in October 2014, then you should be entitled to money back to compensate for the fact it was old stock.
Answered by Honest John
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