First the good news: the upcoming Vauxhall Ampera has been shortlisted for the 2012 European Car of the Year award (sharing the nomination with its Chevrolet Volt sibling). If it wins, it will be the second victor in succession to sport a socket for plugging into the mains, after Nissan’s electric Leaf carried off the laurels last year.
However, the new range-extended duo must line up against some strong opposition, in the shape of the plump new Fiat Panda, the lithe little VW Up, the voguish Range Rover Evoque, Ford’s fresh Focus and the intricate Citroen DS5.
I liked the Ampera a lot when I drove it last year, and it definitely deserves to be ranked among the best.
And now the bad news: Vauxhall today set out UK prices for the Ampera and they are just a smidge higher than expected. Assuming you measure smidges in bundles of £50 notes.
When deliveries start in May, the entry level Ampera will cost £29,995, a £1,000 increase over the pre-order price announced in December 2010, which seemed steep enough. That’s after the £5,000 contribution from the government’s plug-in grant – the actual list price will be £34,995.
At least it will come reasonably equipped – standard features include a DAB radio, seven-inch touchscreen, cruise control and alloy wheels.
Another piece of clarity is that the car’s expensive lithium-ion battery won’t be covered by Vauxhall’s unique “lifetime” warranty, but it will at least get an extended eight-year 100,000-mile warranty of its own.
Stepping up from the basement to the Positiv trim level will increase the price by £3,000 to £32,250 after grant, but will bring leather upholstery, heated front seats, parking sensors and a reversing camera.
And if you can stretch to £33,995 after grants you’ll open the doors to the Electron version, with voice-controlled phone, navigation and music system, plus a Bose upgrade to the audio output.
The Ampera’s order books are now open, and you can browse and configure your car on the Vauxhall website. The entry-level option is absent, because you won’t be able to order that until May, to try to encourage early adopters to go large.
Interestingly, for about the same price as the Ampera Electron you can order a five-door Range Rover Evoque with a leather interior and all the essential options. The Ampera might be much cleverer, and arguably a lot greener, but given the price it surely won’t sell anything like as well as the aspirational Evoque. Whether it wins Car of the Year or not.