Innovative Zoe demonstrates that an electric future needn’t be earnest, or range limited

Our Verdict

Renault Zoe
The Zoe is expected to be the biggest seller in Renault's electric car range

Bespoke battery-powered supermini aims to advance the EV’s case

What is it?

Renault’s electric charge will be spearheaded by the Zoe Z.E. model. A Clio-sized supermini – powered by electricity alone – the Zoe Z.E. will reach UK showrooms in Spring 2012.

This Zoe Preview model is the very same concept car that was shown at the 2010 Paris motor show, although its creator, Axel Breun, Renault’s Director of Show Cars and Concept Cars, admits that it’s 90 per cent representative of the production Zoe Z.E. that will silently be rolling out of Renault’s Flins plant in France this time next year.

What's it like?

Without proper firewall soundproofing, this Zoe Preview is uncharacteristically noisy for an electric car on the road. That 90 per cent figure quoted by Breun clearly relates to the car’s styling, rather than the actual engineering underpinning the Renault. The whining noise from the front-mounted motor and the direct drive reducer transmission is ever present, and it manages to grow in intensity as the speed rises.

Even as a concept, however, the performance on offer feels brisk enough, and the regenerative effect when lifting off is smooth rather than severe. Renault quotes an 8.1sec 0-62mph time and top speed of 84mph. Plenty for those Parisian side streets, the potential range of 100 miles is also unlikely to be too little for its intended urban role.

The steering, unassisted on the Preview concept, will be electric on the final production car, although despite its heft it’s accurate on the move. The suspension is more or less nonexistent, with the Zoe Preview feeling busy on tarmac that wouldn’t even trouble the Renaultsport Mégane Cup.

The production car will ride more sweetly, with it expected to feature Clio-derived MacPherson-type front suspension and torsion beam, coil spring rear set-up. Hard semi-slick had-cut Michelin show-car tyres don’t help the ride either. The tyre firm has used specific production rubber with the emphasis on providing low rolling resistance for maximum economy.

Renault’s first fully developed electric-only platform will underpin the Zoe. The French firm claims the platform is exclusively for its own use. The batteries come from a joint Nissan-Renault programme though, and thanks to that EV-specific platform they are positioned as low down in the car as is possible.

That ideal weight distribution should help the production Zoe ride and handle better than this skittish, poorly suspended show car. Input on the dynamics from Renaultsport is possible, indeed, Breun doesn’t rule out an entire Zoe Renaultsport version of the car, with Renault’s more focused wing playing a key role in the development of the Zoe’s Twizy Z.E. sister vehicle.

Understandably, the production car will lose this Preview’s more overt interior styling and gain a simple bench seat in the rear, but the digital displays will remain, with the bold central screen containing all the information regarding the condition of the battery. Breun admits too that despite the low current draw of the show car’s LED lights the production car will feature conventional headlamps. Likewise, the glass roof will go, as to retain it would only cause additional energy pull to control the climate inside.

Should I buy one?

Cut through the show-car glitz and the Zoe’s conventionality is its biggest draw. Back that with good looks and the promise of an enjoyable drive and it could change the way we look at and use our superminis. It’ll be priced conventionally too, after the Government stumps up its £5000 subsidy the Zoe will be around the same price as a diesel Clio.

A brave new electric world, which you won’t need to be too brave to take the plunge into.

Kyle Fortune


Renault Zoe

Price: £14,000 (est); Top speed: 84mph; 0-62mph: 8.1sec; Range: 100 miles; CO2: Zero (tailpipe); Kerb weight: 1392kg; Engine: Electric motor, lithium ion battery; Power: 79bhp; Torque: 163lb ft; Gearbox: Direct drive with reducer and forward/reverse inverter


Join the debate


20 February 2011

Appart from the slightly large arse, that's a really nice piece of design. I especially like the face.

20 February 2011

This is Renault moving in a new direction which is commendable.This electric tech and new styling is a vast improvement.Let us hope that the next Clio looks something like this

20 February 2011

[quote Lesia44] I especially like the face[/quote]

Me too. I like the fact that it looks a bit 'cranky' and not at all cuddly.

20 February 2011

While it is true to say that it is resonably priced, I believe that the batteries need to be paid for via an extra monthly lease for the duration of car compared to a conventionally powered car, we are not there yet....although we seem to be getting close.

20 February 2011

Looks interesting and is certainly another step forward with regards to the drive train, even if it still falls slightly short. Design of the car is fresh and interesting if a little Kia Venga from behind though and as others have said, Renault would do well to adapt this for more conventional models.

One question though and this isn't just solely aimed at this car but at all electrically motivated cars, why do none of the manufacturers fit a solar cell roof? I know this would increase cost and weight a little but surely the benefits in warmer countries (and who knows, sometimes during the summer in the UK!) would more than compensate.



It's all about the twisties........

20 February 2011

Does not look too bad . Cheap as well . Well kind of . I have seen a quote of £70/month for battery leasing but Renault have no plans for introducing quick drop battery changes to the UK and it takes 8 hrs to get a full charge on a 240v supply .

Electric cars are getting better but still have a way to go before they are truly viable .

I do like the idea of leasing batteries as I would imagine the second hand value of an electric car with dud batteries will be zilch .

Will bring in a whole new range of cons for the Arthur Daley types though !

" The batterys' a good runner sir......."

20 February 2011

Electric cars will be the biggest failure in automotive history! Manufacturers presents products nobody really needs. Small cars, hybrids, yes,because of the rising fuel prices. EVs are only for show rooms so far, with no practical usage.

Anyway, I like the dash of this one!

20 February 2011

I cant think of the last time we took our second car more than 50 miles from home. I think in 2 car families this is a good idea. The issue with battery leasing is that you pay for fuel even if you are not using it. I would only be interested if the batteries were included. In 5 or 6 years when they need replacing the batteries will be cheaper anyway.

20 February 2011

I too like the 'face' of this car. Hopefully other manufacturers might start to move away from the large lower grille look, a fashion which has lasted far too long in my opinion. I think the sides and front wings are a bit over sculpted though, but, again, there seems to be a fashion for that sort of thing.

20 February 2011

[quote TegTypeR]One question though and this isn't just solely aimed at this car but at all electrically motivated cars, why do none of the manufacturers fit a solar cell roof? I know this would increase cost and weight a little but surely the benefits in warmer countries (and who knows, sometimes during the summer in the UK!) would more than compensate.[/quote]

Because they're heavy, expensive and barely produce enough electricity to run an LED, let alone recharge a battery. Until photovoltiacs improve and become cheaper, lighter and with greater energy density there would be no point. Also warmth has nothing to do with it ;)


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