Aside from Car of the Year, the Best Hybrid/Electric Car category is arguably the most important and certainly the most relevant for modern-day car buyers. With fuel prices rising, it's the economical diesels, hybrids and electric cars that shift into focus, with models like the innovative Vauxhall Ampera offering emission-free electric power combined with the reassurance of a range-extending petrol motor.
It wins this category thanks to its superb 27g/km CO2 emissions and impressive 235mpg fuel economy. If you drive less than 50 miles between charges, you can better this, too, by running on electric power alone. The seamless way the petrol motor kicks in to feed the batteries when they run out is another plus point for the clever Ampera. Mid-spec Positiv cars offer the best balance of equipment versus cost, adding hands-free phone connectivity, parking sensors and a reversing camera – though all cars come with a premium sound system, DAB radio and 17-inch alloy wheels.
What's more, thanks to bags of low down torque available from zero rpm, the Vauxhall will produce an impressive turn of pace when you put your foot down. It’ll hit 60mph in nine seconds flat, but the car's relaxing character means you won’t feel the need to do this very often. This character is in part down to the whisper-quiet driving experience. On battery power alone, the only sound comes from the road and tyres, while the range-extending petrol motor is relatively hushed, even at motorway speeds.
Its futuristic mechanics are matched by innovative looks and a stylish interior. The wraparound headlights and sleek body make the Ampera look totally individual, while two seven-inch screens display all the car's instruments and audio in full high-definition. Charging takes just four hours from a standard mains socket, but thanks to the back up petrol generator, there's never the worry of running out of juice. This eliminates the range anxiety frequently associated with all-electric cars, yet still offers up to 50 miles of guilt-free motoring.
Vauxhall's comprehensive lifetime warranty and a battery that's covered for eight years or 100,000 miles complete the package, while a £5,000 government grant reduces the initial list price of this innovative car.