From £17,795
We test Renault's Zoe, an electric supermini that's designed for everyday use

Our Verdict

Renault Zoe

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

22 March 2013

What is it?

The Renault Zoe is an all-electric city car, designed for everyday use, that can seat five in comfort.

The Zoe looks great, with clean, crisp, concept car lines that are futuristic but not outlandish. It features some subtle blue tinting of lights and badges and a calm, sleekly styled cabin with a large 'R-link' display screen. You can pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin while charging, too.

On that all-important topic, the official EU test regime credits the Zoe with a 130-mile range on a full charge. Renault itself reckons on a worst-case 60 miles in winter, 90 miles in summer.

What's it like?

The Zoe's pile of torque is instantly available at an ankle flex and delivered with one of three selectable, synthesised and curious hums so pedestrians can hear the Zoe coming. (The hum stops above 18mph, or you can kill it completely.)

That initial friskiness on getaway fades significantly as speed rises, and the the upper limit is set at 84mph to conserve the battery and prevent the motor over-revving. But there’s enough urge here for you not to crave more even in Eco mode, which stifles the scorching starts but feels fine on the open road while adding another 10 per cent or so to the range.

The Zoe corners with conviction and stays flat while resisting understeer. You can feel the weight, all 1468kg of it, but the centre of gravity is lower than the latest Clio’s, whose platform the Zoe shares. That’s because the 22kWh, 400V battery pack is spread under the floor, so the Zoe is a proper five-seater with a normal-size boot.

Initially the battery promised 81 miles, but a check after 22 gentle suburban miles showed 70 miles of remaining range. The range was down to 43 miles after a further 14 miles of rapid driving with full acceleration, but after ambling for another 14 miles there was still 42 miles of range left. Overall, the Zoe went further than its range-calculator initially thought it would.

Among its range-extending devices is a reversible air-con system that heats the Renault Zoe as well as cooling it without stealing much energy from the battery.

Energy recuperation from slowing or braking is strong, too, but the integration of virtual brakes with real ones isn’t entirely smooth and feathering to a gentle halt takes some skill. More jolts come when the wheels fall heavily into road surface breaks, but otherwise the ride is smooth and supple on the bespoke Michelin Energy Z-E tyres.

Should I buy one?

This is an electric car that you could actually consider buying, helped by the free fitment of a home charging unit, paid for by Renault (25 per cent) and the government (75 per cent).

In city traffic the Zoe makes even more sense. It waits patiently and silently at the lights, surrounded by clattery, time-served diesels that seem like relics.

When the lights switch to green, the Zoe streaks ahead of dawdling hatchbacks to snick into gaps. It's a brilliant urban car.

John Simister

Renault Zoe Dynamique Intens

Price £15,195, plus battery rental from £70 pm; 0-62mph 13.5sec; Top speed 84mph (limited); Range 130 miles max; CO2 0g/km; Kerb weight 1468kg; Engine Electric motor; Power 87bhp at 3000-11,300rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 250-2500rpm; Gearbox Single-speed, clutchless 

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Comments
26

22 March 2013

Quotes like " It's a brilliant urban car" can only do this little renault a power of good. A downside for the renault is the fact you have to hire the battery, the next golf and Focus won't be like so why the renault?

Otherwise a brillant car, Renault could be on the Up (not the VW Up obviously)

  

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

26 March 2013

People baulk at the battery rental but it's offset by the zero road tax and, if you live in London, zero congestion charge. It's also offset by the much cheaper servicing costs of an electric car. And of course by the lower fuel costs.

I wouldn't buy an electric car any other way. How do you sell a fiveyear old electric car with a failing battery? Battery rental overcomes this resistance.

The range is only an issue if it's an issue for you. Like having an MX5 would be an issue if you had three kids. If it's an issue for you, don't buy it. It's not designed for you. Always annoys me when mototring journalists think the best way to test an electric car is by taking it across America. Dumb. It's like taking a tractor around the Nurburgring and complaining it set a poor time.

It's a good job Renault have decided to pay for the home charging station that was looking like a dealbreaker. What isn't mentioned here is that if you want to charge the car away from home you have to spend several hundred pounds on a special cable. 

People also think the car's expensive. I think people think it's smaller than it is,  but it's just tall and chunky. It's actually longer than a Polo. And it's incredibly well equipped. And people will pay a slight premium for something special, which this is.

If this doesn't overcome resistance to electric cars, I don't know what will. I love it.

 

22 March 2013

I have seen 0-60 times for the Zoe quoted at anything from 8.1s to 13.5s with quite a few in between (including 8.2s on a renault dealer spec. sheet).  Any idea what the real figure is?

22 March 2013

I'm considering getting one of these as a 2nd car. Nothing to do with its environmental credentials. I borrowed a Leaf on a 24hr test drive and absolutely loved its refinement and ride. If this has a similarly smooth ride I might be sold. I should add that it'd be my wife's car and she has an auto only lisense so it makes even more sense.

22 March 2013

I'd go with Autocar's figure there, the Renault info on this car seems a bit odd. They've just updated the website for it so maybe it's changed now.

22 March 2013

While being sold at around £15 grand wouldn't make it a mass seller, yet there's no denying the fact that Renault Zoe changes the face of electric motoring and brings the BEV's price closer to an acceptable level.

22 March 2013

All the people that could make use of this dont really need a car in the first place and/or have no where to charge it. Those that have the space/facilities to charge it, the range is still an issue (60 miles in winter !). The sums add up more than they ever have before..... but still not enough to make it a killer (I do 20k a year @ 60+mpg). What happens at the end of the contract for the battery (An expensive toy... batteries not included).

A step in the right direction....only another 50 steps to go.

22 March 2013

audiolab wrote:

All the people that could make use of this dont really need a car in the first place and/or have no where to charge it. Those that have the space/facilities to charge it, the range is still an issue (60 miles in winter !). The sums add up more than they ever have before..... but still not enough to make it a killer (I do 20k a year @ 60+mpg). What happens at the end of the contract for the battery (An expensive toy... batteries not included).

A step in the right direction....only another 50 steps to go.

 

I think you are slightly missing the point or misrepresenting a lot of car owners in small to medium towns. There are many who live on the edge of towns, who only use the car for trips to the shops and or work. Most of these journeys are no longer than 2-3 miles. The cars are garaged with an electricity supply and I would guess a maximum total of 30 miles a day (20 more than likely). So for a second car that probably averages 40mpg on short runs, a minimum of £82 on petrol, suddenly the £70 on the battery doesn't sound too outlandish. Yes there is a small cost of electricity on top but I bet the average family wouldn't spend more than £12 per month (these are small drain charges). It suddenly makes sense. Added in stunning looks, clever and stylish interior and a 4 year all in guarantee and the whole package is even more desirable. If I lived in or near a small town and needed a commuter vehicle i would give this a serious look. Sadly I live in central London and it would be parked on the street with the only reason to buy a car is for long journeys. However there are lots of dwellings that could suit. All new build developments since 2005 within the M25 had to have between 40-50% parking exclusively for 'green' vehicles. In many with secure underground parking, this is 100%, so the tables have turned again in favour of the Zoe. £15,000 is no more than a well specced Corsa or basic Mini, for city urbanites, this would be an appealing proposition. 

23 March 2013

marj wrote:

Most of these journeys are no longer than 2-3 miles. The cars are garaged with an electricity supply and I would guess a maximum total of 30 miles a day (20 more than likely). So for a second car that probably averages 40mpg on short runs, a minimum of £82 on petrol, suddenly the £70 on the battery doesn't sound too outlandish.

Do not actually necessarily disagree with you,

however its that second car bit thats the clincher at present an EV can really only be a second vehicle (i am sure several people do manage as a primary vehicle but they are the severe minority). Buying such a vehicle as a second car makes no sense if it is just for popping 2-3 miles to work, kids from school, shopping etc etc there are far cheaper cars that will do the job admirably. That could be bought new, insured, taxed and fuelled for years for less than just the purchase price of Zoe. Until this barrier can be broke it makes no economical sense, a good conscience is all well and good but it should not cost (too much). If your conscience is strong you should really be thinking do i really need a second car at all(i realise this would be quite a stretch for many).

Purchasing a second vehicle just to be green(er) is the un greenist thing you could ever do.

A little off piste and slightly idealistic if it really is only 2-3 miles to work its probably almost quicker to cycle (and saves on gym fees), make the kids walk to school( i always did 4 miles) and borrow the main car to do the shopping or get it delivered. Yeh, i know all the counter arguments so lets not go there. Its just that some people are just so lazy. My next door neighbour but one drives the kids to school. One footpath and one alleyway and a short walk across a green gets you to school in say 400yds (googled 247 yards door to door as the crow flies). She drives the kids not to the rear entrance you can walk to but the main entrance which is actually on another estate to ours..... its a mile and a quarter (and yes she comes straight back home, not on to somewhere else). Just what a Discovery was designed for.

23 March 2013

audiolab wrote:

marj wrote:

Most of these journeys are no longer than 2-3 miles. The cars are garaged with an electricity supply and I would guess a maximum total of 30 miles a day (20 more than likely). So for a second car that probably averages 40mpg on short runs, a minimum of £82 on petrol, suddenly the £70 on the battery doesn't sound too outlandish.

Do not actually necessarily disagree with you,

however it's that second car bit thats the clincher at present an EV can really only be a second vehicle (i am sure several people do manage as a primary vehicle but they are the severe minority). Buying such a vehicle as a second car makes no sense if it is just for popping 2-3 miles to work, kids from school, shopping etc etc there are far cheaper cars that will do the job admirably. That could be bought new, insured, taxed and fuelled for years for less than just the purchase price of Zoe. Until this barrier can be broke it makes no economical sense, a good conscience is all well and good but it should not cost (too much). If your conscience is strong you should really be thinking do i really need a second car at all(i realise this would be quite a stretch for many).

Purchasing a second vehicle just to be green(er) is the un greenist thing you could ever do.

 

I agree buying a secong car is un-green as you put it, but there are lots of households up and down the country that have two cars, if not three. Replacing the likes of a diesel mini cooper with one of these is more green (at least in the local environment). Yes, the argument for the Z.E. is harder to define (other than an urban taxi) but the Zoe is a genuine shift in how cars are 'bought' and how aftercare is managed. The majority of cars in Uk are leased either on personal contract or corporate, so leasing a part of the infrastructure of the car is technically no different. The main problem with current batteries is that they degrade quickly and if you want to replace one (for charging or servicing) who owns the battery that has been taken away. As a leased product, the manufacturer owns it and therefore the risk is with them. If you need to replace for new charge at a Renault dealer, not a problem, if the battery pack is degrading ahead of schedule, simple, replace at no cost. At the end of the initial 3 year ownership, Zoe (bought back by Renault through purchase finance) will receive replacement batteries so the next owner will have a refreshed car with brand new batteries (with potentially much better technollogy). This I see as the future of car ownsership and personal motoring, it takes out the risk out of pre-owned motoring and the second/third/fourth owner will be safe in the knowledge that the vehicle has been comprhensively serviced and fully back by the dealer. This also opens up the possibility of pre-owned personal leasing ( at a significantly reduced rate). This is potentially a ground breaking car on many facets. 

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