The natural strengths of an electric motor satisfy the typical requirements of a supermini quite well. As a rule, cars in the Renault Zoe’s class don’t drive long distances and don’t get much motorway use.
They’re short-hop, predominantly urban-environment runarounds – and so they see the sort of service that the Zoe serves best. Although the upgraded battery and 250 mile range seems to suggest that the 2017 Zoe may be more capable of cross-country sojourning than its predecessors.
The car is blissfully easy to operate: insert keycard, press start button, engage ‘D’, press accelerator. There are no gearchanges to worry about. Speed is acquired easily from a standstill and performance feels instant and peppy up to about 40mph.
Low-speed refinement is excellent, too, but better still if you turn off the car’s ‘ZE Voice’ – a low-speed warning to pedestrians that makes the Zoe whine quietly as it speeds up and slows down below 20mph.
Above 50mph, the Zoe begins to feel a bit underpowered. On the motorway it’s decidedly exposed – vulnerable, even. But that’s because, above 60mph, the electric motor is producing less than 40lb ft of torque and peak power is tailing off. The Leaf is a much less limited performer at these speeds. But the Leaf is also a bigger and more expensive machine.
A standard Leaf will also take you slightly farther between charges. Not much – probably only 10 or 12 miles, and only since Nissan’s recent update of its EV. Still, the Zoe’s average range of 80 miles should be entirely acceptable to both battery converts and average supermini drivers. Although the ZE 40 is capable of surpassing the most powerful Leaf by nearly 100 miles, hypothetically.