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.