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Gull-winged supermini tantalises - not least as it'll never go on sale

Our Verdict

Renault Zoe

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

Steve Cropley Autocar
27 October 2009

What is it?

Zoe is the most advanced of Renault’s new family of four battery-powered models shown recently at the Frankfurt show to publicise the company’s position as a leader in electric car technology.

This one, a gull-winged supermini slightly larger than a current Clio, is the only one of the Regie quartet which doesn’t look as it will in production (due before the end of 2012). That's because the company’s hyperactive designers have used it as a reporitory for electric-car ideas they’ve been storing up for ages.

What's it like?

It’s a teardrop-shaped, front-drive supermini-sized four-seater, with one huge gullwing door each side giving access to front and rear compartments at once.

The engine packs 94bhp, develops 167lb ft of torque from standstill, and can propel this 1400kg-plus machine at speeds close to 90mph.

Driving is a bit iffy – this prototype was the least resolved of the Renault quartet – but you still get the sense of powerful step-off torque, near silence and impressive smoothness, spoiled a bit by rattles and squeaks typical of a prototype, and yet-unresolved suspension and steering systems. It’ll come.

Still, the interior details are amazing. Every seat looks different, the looming fascia architecture is like no production car, and its central screen features an avatar (ours looked and sounded like Fernando Alonso), who gives you energy-saving hints as you drive, and admonishes you if you make a mistake.

Boot access is through twin rear doors, both hinged down the rear spine of the car. Inside of the usual double-fold hatchback’s rear seats, each of the rear seat backrests hinges rearwards into the body sides, a brilliantly simple solution.

The roof is transparent and carries solar cells which feed the car’s ancillary systems, and the battery is chargeable in situ with either household or three-phase power, or exchangable for a fresh one at one of the new Quickdrop centres that Renault intends to establish.

Should I buy one?

No chance, I’m afraid. There’ll be something like this on the market in 2012, but you’ll never get the gullwing doors (too cumbersome and expensive) and some of the interior stuff is just too outlandish to live a life in production. But some of the design will survive. The name, too, could make it onto a High Street near you.

Join the debate


30 October 2009

On looks alone this is the sort of styling that futuristic electric cars ought to have. If the car companies really want young people to gain an interest in motor cars again (as mentioned by Akio Toyoda at the Tokyo show) then they have got to look different from today's cars. I would want to buy the future, not just an electric version of an existing car. Make it as unorthodox as you like and I believe that the public would pay a premium to get hold of cars that look more futuristic and have different interiors as well.

Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

30 October 2009

[quote ordinary bloke]I would want to buy the future, not just an electric version of an existing car. Make it as unorthodox as you like and I believe that the public would pay a premium to get hold of cars that look more futuristic and have different interiors as well.[/quote]

I would second that. They would become an accessory as well as a mode of transport for young urban and student types and if they were just aimed at cities and sold through showrooms there, they might not be an object of derision to anyone the cars arent targeted to

1 November 2009

This looks like a concept version (with extra bits) for the upcoming Twingo Coupe. Check out the overall proportions, it makes sense...

6 December 2009

well i suppose it's all very well having an electric car and i note with regret that it might be much changed to reach production but i hope that the external shape is kept and i really really would like to see this as a gordini!

previously i have thought that the 4cv celebrating fiftie concept car would have made a wonderful flagship gordini in a hotter version and i now think the same of this.

the shape is wasted on an electric town thingy.

anyone care to photoshop one into gordini livery?

cheers! peter

6 December 2009

Renault fiftie : a good concept car!

A good future Gordini ;-)

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