This is different, and so are the cars. This isn’t about testing a trio of small SUVs or electric cars or whatever. This is about taking three five-year-old cars that all stand out in their own way and seeing how they compare and contrast as a desirable purchase.
There’s the executive hatchback in the form of the Audi A5; then there’s the cool and trendy SUV, the Range Rover Evoque; and then there’s something even more different, the Chevrolet Volt (same as the Vauxhall Ampera) which has an electric motor assisted by a small petrol engine to do away with range anxiety.
Each of the cars cost about the same, around £30k, when new, although five years has been long enough for some definite differences in depreciation to make themselves known.
The other two may be close enough on torque figures, but neither the Chevrolet nor the Range Rover can match the sheer poke of the Audi A5. It’s the quickest car here, driving hard throughout virtually the whole rev range. It also handles well, with excellent body control and taut steering responses.
There’s more road and wind noise than you might hope for, which is shown up by the eerie silence of the Volt. The electric motor endows the Chevrolet with plenty of low-down punch so it’s not left far behind by the Audi. After about 40 miles the battery needs some back-up in the form of the petrol engine, but it stays remarkably quiet and well-mannered throughout.
It doesn’t handle as crisply as the Audi, but it’s not bad at all. Rough surfaces cause it a bit of a problem though, and it does struggle overall to match the serenity of the powerplant.
The Range Rover suffers from the same issues with ride quality, except rather oddly these issues seem to get worse as speeds rise. Handling isn’t bad though, for such a high vehicle, but performance is hardly sparkling, so the chassis isn’t pushed too hard anyway.
Sit in the cabin and you won’t complain too much though. It’s big and bold and very comfy, with easy to use controls. You sit SUV high in the saddle, and there’s plenty of room for passengers and luggage. It feels premium, as it should.
So too does the A5, with its usual top-notch Audi feel and build quality. There’s decent space for everyone and everything and you’d be hard pushed to find anything to complain about.
Both these cabins are outclassed in the wow-factor stakes by the Chevrolet. The Volt looks futuristic and technologically fabulous. Who wouldn’t love that central console, or the two colour screens ahead of the driver? But get beyond the initial impact and you find some fairly cheap-feeling materials and a design that isn’t as intuitive or easy to use as initial impressions suggest.
In terms of costs the Chevrolet is the cheapest, but that’s partly because depreciation has been harder on it than the others – and why might that be? There won’t be many around, and the same goes for dealers and servicing so that’s all worth considering, along with the likely deterioration in the value.
Mind you, the headline figure of 235mpg may look unrealistic, but it could be very good indeed if you don’t have to rely on the petrol engine much. And 27g/km of CO2 is welcome on all manner of fronts. There’s not enough data to really get a grip on reliability but it does seem to be quite good.
The Evoque won’t be cheap to run, but it should hold its value well, and the same largely goes for the Audi, although we’d expect the Audi to be more reliable than the Evoque, with Range Rover usually scoring quite poorly in reliability surveys.
Of the three the Audi A5 Sportback is the least stand-out car here. But it has the best performance and handling, along with a truly great cabin that is both spacious and well made. It’s the one you’d want of these three if there was a long journey in the offing.
The Range Rover Evoque is a strange one, since it’s not the best vehicle here yet it retains its value really well, even though it’s the most expensive to buy and run. But if you like the style and the badge then it is hard to beat.
The Chevrolet Volt has neither style nor badge, but it does have a low price. Which will continue to go lower quite steadily. With no real factory support now in the UK, it would be an oddball choice, but we like the quiet and frugal performance, so long as you do shorter journeys.
Specifications: Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI 177 SE
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
List price when new £29,595
Price today £14,000*
Torque 280lb ft
Top speed 142mph
Fuel economy 61.4mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 120g/km
Specifications: Chevrolet Volt
Engine size 1.4-litre petrol (plus electric motor)
List price when new £29,995
Price today £11,000*
Torque 273lb ft
Top speed 99mph
Fuel economy 235.0mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 27g/km
Specifications: Range Rover Evoque eD4 Pure 5dr
Engine size 2.2-litre diesel
List price when new £27,955
Price today £17,000*
Torque 280lb ft
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 56.5mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 133g/km
Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing.
Graham Scott is a writer for AutoCar.