This new Zoe feels much more at ease on a greater proportion of Britain’s roads than the old model. The 132bhp delivered to the front wheels is a healthy increase over the old 106bhp R110 motor (which has now been relegated to entry-level status) and strips nearly two seconds from the 0-62mph sprint. That puts off-the-line pace in check with other affordable EVs, though both the Vauxhall Corsa-e and the larger MG ZS EV reach our national speed limit a second quicker. It also improves acceleration between 50 and 70 to a similar degree, which makes a big difference to motorway driving.
Drive modes are now split between D and B using a strangely mechanical gear selector, which feels at odds with the smooth, silent powertrain. The latter mode provides just enough regenerative braking for one-pedal driving. It’s far smoother than an MG ZS EV or Kia e-Niro at maximum regen, though there’s no option to dial the intensity up or down.
Sci-fi whooshing noises that accompany you up to 20mph are certain to be one of those marmite moments for electric car converts, and Renault’s are particularly noticeable. It certainly puts some drama into shorter trips, but if you aren’t a fan the button to disable them is within easy reach.
The new car rides just like the old Zoe, so while relaxed enough at city speeds, it can still be somewhat brittle over motorway expansion joints, and deteriorated B-roads do unsettle things. The quick and light steering is more adept at low-speed manoeuvres, providing little feedback when hustled. A Clio is still the more dynamic drive, and both fall short of the Ford Fiesta.
The cabin is a real step up over the outgoing Zoe, borrowing heavily from the recently-updated Clio. Hard interior plastics have been swapped for soft-touch ones, the climate controls get chunky physical dials instead of being relegated to a touchscreen, and the digital instrument cluster is far more detailed than any immediate rivals’. Stereo controls are still relegated to a stubby steering wheel stalk, though.
Renault’s 9in portrait touchscreen might have basic graphics, but the interface is easy to operate and is rather feature-packed, with custom widgets for altering the main menu and putting regularly-used settings just a tap away. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also welcome additions, as was the wireless charging pad found on our top-spec test car. GT-Line models get synthetic leather and interior panels made from recycled plastic that elevate the cabin’s perceived quality.
Unfortunately the Zoe doesn’t share the new Clio’s revised seating position, meaning you’re left perched rather high behind the wheel, but better soundproofing and higher quality materials make it a much nicer place to be than the old car. There’s plenty of room in the back for children, though taller adults will find things a little cramped in both the head and leg departments.