Used Vauxhall Ampera
The Vauxhall Ampera was released in Europe in 2011 and was voted European Car of the Year in 2012. Technically it is a hybrid vehicle but Vauxhall have been keen to market it as more of a 'range extender.' Its front wheels are powered by an electric motor all of the time which is powered itself either by a petrol 1.4 litre engine or batteries. The idea is that the car runs on electric power until the batteries become low at which point the petrol engine kicks in. The engine is also used on the motorway where a petrol engine is more efficient to use. The Ampera also features regenerative braking which contributes to electricity generation.
Bang for your buck
The Ampera's looks won't get the heart racing but neither is it an ugly beast. Its appearance could be described as neutral or even nondescript. Inside, it is both comfortable and roomy and the build quality is great. The Ampera is a typically solid Vauxhall offering. There is only room for two in the back and the boot is a fairly mediocre 300 litres in capacity. Apart from that, there is plenty of head, leg and elbow room.
To increase its efficiency, the used Vauxhall Ampera will heat its seats sometimes rather than blow heated air into the cabin. Its power-saving stereo uses amplifiers which will rapidly switch off and on in order to save further power, reducing energy consumption by half. The stereo speakers have been made lighter through the use of high quality neodymium magnets. The Ampera has received a five star NCAP safety rating.
What you'll pay
New Ampera cars for sale cost around £32,250 - £38,995 which is not at all cheap. There are some good buys on used Amperas though, for example, a 62-plated example with the automatic transmission and around 2000 miles will set you back around £26,000. The same car with around 20,000 on the clock will be about £24,000 and that's about as low as they go at the moment. There is no road tax requirement and it is in insurance group 20.
What to check
There are no reported recurrent faults with the Ampera so it is just a matter of checking the usual suspects such as the electrical components, uneven tyre wear and any interior damage, spills and dinks.
A replacement clutch assembly will cost around £170 and a new exhaust about £500. Front brake pads will be £45 for a pair and £33 for a pair of rears. A radiator is approximately £100. Should a fault develop with the fairly complicated electric motor/petrol engine coupling it could cost several hundred pounds to put right. However, so far, the Ampera has proved to be extremely reliable.
How it drives
The Ampera's electric motor generates a maximum of 149bhp and 370Nm of torque. It can be charged from a normal domestic socket using the supplied lead so no special charging station is required.
Because some drivers will use the car's electric mode almost exclusively and to avoid problems caused by keeping the same petrol in a tank for many weeks or months, the Ampera has a pressurised and sealed fuel tank which combats evaporation. Because of this, the fuel filler must be depressurised before the tank can be opened.
The approved used Vauxhall Ampera has a maximum speed of 100mph and will reach 60mph in around 9 seconds. Its all-electric range is around 52 miles and its total range in the region of 310 miles. Equivalent fuel consumption is reported as around 176 miles per gallon and it emits only around 27g of CO2 per km.
The drive is exceptionally refined and comfortable and the steering, although not brimming with feedback, is accurate and consistent. If you didn't look at the onboard display you wouldn't be able to tell when the switch from electric to petrol generation takes place.
Overall, the used Vauxhall Ampera is probably the best hybrid (or range-extender) car on the European market. Its range of over 300 miles is much more practical than the tiny range of some other hybrids and it is solidly and reliably built. It hasn't been around long and hasn't sold in huge numbers due to its high new price. Because of this, real bargains on the used market are still relatively rare but as time goes on, higher mileage examples will appear and numbers will increase which should drive the price down.