On Test: Renault Zoe ZE

In recent years Renault have had their hands in the zero emissions car market with the Kangoo ZE and Fleuence ZE, though they both didn’t sell particularly well due to the electric car market conditions. The Renault Zoe was built from the ground up as an EV and it is a car that could very well play an important role in the transition from combustion engine to electric power.

So how good is the Zoe to drive and more importantly, how good is it to live with?

Lets cover the subject of driving first. The Zoe has a great energy when driving with pretty responsive steering and a fun bootful of power. The handling is actually nice, of course it isn’t razor sharp like the Renaultsport Clio but it has a pleasant feel and weight to it at high and low speeds.

The electric motor in the Zoe produces 88hp and 162 lb-ft of torque and while that isn’t a monster amount of power, the instant acceleration from the motor makes it feel like a large amount. 0-62mph is completed in 13.5s (although I believe it can be done quicker) and the top speed is 84mph.

After a relaxing afternoon drive that included some fairly eccentric driving, the range had dropped from the 80 miles it arrived with to around 64 miles and after a few colleagues in the office got their hands on it, that was halved to around 30 miles. After heading back out in the Zoe the fear of running out of electricity entered and for some reason I am more fearful with low electric range than I am with a low petrol or diesel range but the Zoe copes well and as long as you’re near somewhere with a plug, the 3-pin charging cable will keep you running, albeit after a charge of a few hours.

Charging the Zoe is very straight forward as you get both the Chameleon charging cable for charging points and a regular charging cable which you can plug in to any plug at home or in the office and the Zoe should be up to around 60 miles in a number of hours. A a rapid charge version is available and can charge up to 80% in 30 minutes from a 43kW charging point. I have a fast charging mobile device and it is a very handy feature to have for a quick boost in power duration.

Price-wise, on paper the Zoe can compete with a number of superminis on the market thanks to the £5,000 Government Plug-In Car Grant. That brings the entry level Zoe to a reasonable £13,445. However, prices can spike into regular hatchback and family car territory. For example, the model we have is the i Dynamique Zen, specced up to a price of £21,198 after the five grand plug-in grant. That isn’t exactly supermini price range.

The level of quality inside is certainly competitive enough to compete in the very chic supermini market. The interior is mostly based off of the current Clio but it is then jazzed up with pleasant accents and design elements that separate it from the rather plain Clio. The level of standard equipment is generous on the i Dynamique Zen model we have with the only options being the rear parking camera, 17-inch wheels and the metallic paint. Inside the Zoe feels great, a lot more chic than a Clio and almost as funky as a Fiat 500.

As I mentioned the Zoe recently received a mid-life update which has increased the real-world range between 71-106 miles. The range was the number one priority for improving the Zoe and with the increased electric range, the Zoe is now a much more feasible purchasing option for those in the supermini market with a range that can more than cover the average commute and leisurely drives.

On top of that you get cheap running costs, some rather nice trim levels and each new Zoe now comes with a charging wall box for your home which gets installed for free. The 7kW charging wall box is said to charge your Zoe from 0-100% in 4 hours tops.

So for me it seems Renault have got themselves one of the best EVs on the market. Making the switch from combustion engine to electric power is not an easy one for any driver though and while this Zoe we had falls just short of being convincing enough to make the switch, the upcoming updated Zoe certainly has a stronger case.

Renault Zoe i Dynamique Zen

Price: £21,198

Engine: Electric motor

Transmission: Automatic gearbox; front wheel-drive

Power/Torque: 88bhp; 162lb/ft

Range/Charge time: 130 miles; 3-4 hours (with 7kW wall box)

0-62mph: 13.5 seconds

Top speed: 84mph

For more information click here

By James Fothergill

What do you think?


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