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MENTION a car that is powered by an electric motor and it conjures up all sorts of concerns, most worryingly of all being range anxiety.

Motorists are terrified they will get halfway through their planned journey and the car''s battery power dies on them, leaving them stranded ... not even a walk to a filling station with petrol can in hand will help.

But the award-winning Vauxhall Ampera is not like any other car because its extended-range technology of combining an electric motor with a petrol engine means the four-door family car can be driven for 50 miles in emission-free mode before the 1.4-litre petrol engine cuts in to power it on to a further 310 miles still running on electricity.

This means buyers really have the very best of both worlds and if the daily commute to work is less than 50 miles it can be achieved without using any fuel.

But the car is always ready for a family trip at the weekends where distance is no problem at all.

A full charge takes about six hours and costs just over PS1. I tried out the top-of-the-range model which, after the Government''s grant of PS5,000 for electric vehicles, still rolls in at PS33,995.

Although it''s not cheap, the car was packed to bursting with quality features and premiumstyle technology such as a six-speaker BOSE sound system, mobile phone set-up with Bluetooth and voice recognition, front and rear parking sensors including rear view camera, leather seats with three heat settings, a multifunction leather steering wheel, electronic climate control, sat nav and a touch control display console that offers all sorts of information about power flow and energy usage.

The interior is very comfortable and certainly eye-catching in design with shiny white door panels and white inserts on the leather seats. It''s a real indication that the Ampera is a little bit special.

There are four driving modes - normal for everyday driving, sport for a more dynamic performance, mountain which delivers extra oomph for steeper inclines and a very clever hold setting whereby the car''s battery power can be conserved and then used at any time.

This means zero emission driving at the press of a button which can be invaluable in congestion charge areas. From the outside, the Ampera has a bold stance, LED daytime running lights and 17-inch alloys.

But this car is all about performance and the fact it was voted Car of the Year in 2012 suggests it''s already got a huge fan-base.

Unlike some electrically-powered vehicles, the Ampera delivers a smooth, responsive and most comfortable ride - at no time did it feel like a milk float!

Instead, the car handled beautifully and in sport mode the driving dynamics were far more edgy.

The hold feature is simple and very quick to initiate and the car is guaranteed to stop onlookers in their tracks as it passes by in total silence both inside and out.

All in all, the Ampera is quite a car. It''s fun, economical - Vauxhall claims a theoretical combined fuel efficiency of 235.4mpg - it''s packed to the rafters with techno treats and with CO2 emissions of just 27g/km it even helps to save the planet.

FACTS AND FIGURES PRICE: PS33,995 MECHANICAL: 150ps, 1,398cc, 4cyl petrol engine powering electric drive unit via an automatic gearbox MAX SPEED: 100mph 0-60MPH: 8.7 seconds COMBINED MPG: 235.4 INSURANCE GROUP: 21 CO2 EMISSIONS: 27g/km WARRANTY: Lifetime/100,000 miles.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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