Group test: Hypermilers

A group test of three very different high-mileage vehicles for Professional Manager written for fleet managers.

Vauxhall Ampera

A trail-blazer in car technology, the Ampera – along with its Chevrolet Volt stablemate – is the first in what’s likely to be a growing number of Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs). The idea being that you get the best of electric and petrol cars – the economy of the former with the longer range of a petrol – with the petrol engine charging batteries rather than driving the engine.

Owner General Motors has pulled out all the stops to make the Ampera an unashamedly futuristic car. The interiors, particularly the dashboards, look and feel wonderful and the displays give the car the feel of a video game console, feeding back reams of information on the car and your driving.

The biggest problem is learning how to drive the car to get the best of it. As with other cars, the fuel economy figures are misleading but the electric element muddies the water further. Treat it like an electric car and you’ll get the best out of it. Drive it like a petrol car and you might as well buy an Astra and save yourself ten grand.

Good

Futuristic styling in and out will turn heads
Gadget-heavy, spacious and comfortable
Overall experience is thrilling, fascinating and unlike any other car on the road

Bad

Running costs depend absolutely on how you use and drive the car
Not the car if you enjoy taught handling
Strictly four seats only

Toyota Prius Plug-in

The Prius Plug-in only has a range of around 15 miles without the petrol engine kicking in – however with a huge proportion of daily commutes easily within that range the Toyota hybrid could stack up very nicely.

If it doesn’t then the premium for plugging your car into the mains doesn’t really make sense – long motorway miles render the electric element largely academic – above 50mph the car switches back to petrol power and there’s only 15 miles of charge available.

However all specifications are well-specced, there’s generous space for five plus luggage and the interior is smart, clean and tech-heavy. If the maths work out the Prius plug-in fulfils the twin roles of saving cash and providing a nice green PR rub.

Good

If you’re able to charge at home and at work you could save a pretty penny
Interior space is excellent and storage space also generous
The Prius coaxes the driver to be more economical

Bad

Unengaging to drive, dynamically and in terms of grunt
Looks frumpy and bloated – especially up against some key competitors
Unsuited to long journeys that negate the point of the electric element

Volvo V60

One of the new models that has reinvented Volvo’s range, the V60 is now available with a 1.6-litre diesel engine that nudges 70mpg and can cover 1,000 miles with a little coaxing. For an executive-class car the C02 is impressive too, while list prices undercut rivals and hybrid-style models by several thousands pounds if you put your faith in old-fashioned combustion.

This fleet-orientated model is packed with useful kit, including Bluetooth, DAB radio and sat-nav – not to mention Volvo’s quite brilliant safety technology that make Volvos the closest thing on the roads to self-driving cars.

The V60 cuts a real dash and the interior is a treat though to reduce list prices the Business Edition does away wit some exterior fripperies – if complicated powertrains baffle you and the axis of running costs and business-driver needs are imperatives then the V60 could be the answer.

Good

Stunning exterior looks, while the interior radiates a Scandinavian cool
A shade off 70mpg is about as good as cars in this class get
This is a Volvo so, needless to say, it’s as safe as houses

Bad

The V60 isn’t the roomiest estate in the sector
Dynamically the V60 isn’t all that – sluggish steering robs it of fun
The low-powered engine may need working hard too, which impacts on fuel economy

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