Opel Ampera wins 2012 car of the year
There has been some debate over whether the car is a fully-electric model or an advanced hybrid, but the format is designed to overcome the problem of “range anxiety” that has stymied sales of electric cars so far.
The Ampera won out quite convincingly. With each of the 59 jury members from 23 countries awarding 25 points between the seven shortlisted cars – with a maximum of 10 points for any one entry – the Ampera secured 330 points, compared to the Volkswagen Up on 281. Third place went to the Ford Focus with 256 points, followed by the Range Rover Evoque on 186 points.
Prices for the new Ampera are expected to be relatively high in Ireland – €40,000 or more – and while it’s not expected to sell in large volumes, it will overcome the fears of some potential electric car buyers of being left stranded once the charge runs out.
As the Irish jury member my votes went to:
1. Opel/Chevrolet Volt
Whether it’s an evolution of the hybrid format or a full electric car is beside the point; the Volt priorities the electric motor, gives it an everyday useable electric-only range for most families and, overcomes the single greatest fear about electric cars – range anxiety. Many motorists like the idea of running on electric power for the daily commute but also having the reassurance of a regular engine if they need to complete a longer trip. Without the Volt that means two cars in the driveway. When running on its petrol engine the fuel consumption is nothing special, but for everyday commutes it delivers and it handles pretty smartly for a car of its size. The interior could be smarter, but that’s a small gripe. For many motorists it will be their first experience of driving on full electric at motorway speeds and they won’t be disappointed.
2. Volkswagen Up!
A small funky city car with a surprisingly peppy performance and a remarkably spacious cabin for its footprint on the road. It’s a great little car that’s fun to drive, nicely styled and well-priced. It delivers in terms of value for money, quality and design.
3. Ford Focus
Still the best of the hatchbacks when it comes to driving dynamics, even with its electric steering system. It also brought a plethora of safety features to the mainstream market. The upcoming low-emissions 1-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is also really impressive. There’s a quality feel to this latest version, but with the additional features on board, the controls are rather cluttered.
4. Range Rover Evoque
A stunning concept design that made it through to production. It’s handling is remarkable for an SUV format, it’s emissions levels are equally impressive and the cabin features fit with the Range Rover badge, while the whole package comes at a very competitive price. Of all the cars on the shortlist, it’s the one that scores highest in terms of desireability. We can see why they’re flying out of showrooms.
5. Citroen DS5
Alongside the Evoque, it’s the car tthat really turns heads in 2012. Its wide-stance and muscular external styling is surprisingly smart, while the driver-focussed cabin evokes a premium feel that’s far plusher than you’d expect for the money and there’s a real sense of opulence about a car that’s priced within reach of many family car buyers. The optional EGS gearbox is still a bugbear, the ride can be rather choppy, and the diesel hybrid system suffers from the premium you have to pay over the regular diesel versions, but it’s still a brave and impressive statement of intent from the french brand. Finally a quasi-premium French car we’d be happy to buy.
6. Toyota Yaris
Looks are arguably more traditional than its predecessor, the cabin is rather drab, but the advent of a small hybrid version into the supermini segment is a welcome development.
7. Fiat Panda
The ‘Bakelite’ retro styling is smart and upcoming versions with a city safety collision prevention system is a great addition to the city car market.