Renault proudly claims this is the market’s longest-range mainstream electric car, and with some credibility, at least as far as UK consumers are concerned. It’s certainly true that none of the Zoe’s current crop of electric rivals (the Leaf, i3, Volkswagen e-Golf and Hyundai Ioniq Electric) has been rated to go quite as far on a single charge.
Had the 2016 Opel Ampera-e (up to 240 miles on the tougher WLTP test) ever made it to the UK as a Vauxhall, mind you, things would have been different, and once the imminent Hyundai Kona Electric (up to 300 miles on WLTP) arrives, they definitely will be.
What's it like?
Renault says that it’s at long-distance speeds where you’ll notice the difference made by the Zoe’s motor upgrade – that the new version (which it quixotically calls R110 even though it’s only rated for 109 metric horsepower) is a full two seconds quicker to accelerate from 50-75mph than the old R90 (which had 92 metric horsepower, oddly) was. And the car feels quicker than its forebear at urban speeds, too.
The Zoe now makes very short work indeed of nipping away from standing and up to 40mph or so, quite easily leaving the vast majority of town traffic behind away from roundabouts and traffic lights. As before, the car’s urban pace is derived as much from its instant throttle response as its outright torque – that and the fact that the energetic surge of acceleration it takes you on is totally seamless and gearshift-free. It amounts to a town driving experience that is at once liberating and enjoyable. The Zoe feels suited to its environment in a way that few combustion-engined cars do when cooped up in the urban sprawl.
And, alright, the Zoe’s performance out of town is improved as well, fair enough. Not that the difference made is anything like enough to make the Zoe seem as well suited to longer-distance journeys as it is to urban errand-running.
Where the old Zoe quickly seemed to run out of puff about 50mph, the new one maintains a turn of pace strong enough up to about 70mph to make it seem a lot less vulnerable on the motorway. Unfortunately, a more powerful electric motor can do nothing about the car’s slightly wallowy, under-damped vertical body control at higher speeds – one of the ways the Zoe still gently reminds you that it’s not really intended for longer journeys or a quicker stride.
The car handles well enough through bends and on smoother surfaces; it’s only bigger lumps and bumps that set off some fore-aft pitching and fussing and generally seem to upset the car's composure. With the isolated feel of the steering, plus the wooliness and lack of progressive feel of the brake pedal (which can struggle to juggle the influences of regenerative and friction braking), you’ll certainly never confuse the Zoe for a driver’s car. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to drive.