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

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.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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david RS 6 December 2009

Re: zoe gordini?

Renault fiftie : a good concept car!

A good future Gordini ;-)

4cvg 6 December 2009

zoe gordini?

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

Klaaz 1 November 2009

Re: Renault Zoe Z.E. Concept

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