£18,495 - £30,745 Price range
The Renault Zoe is a small all-electric car that has stylish looks and is more technologically advanced than ever. All-electric cars are relatively new so there are few rivals such as the slightly smaller Volkswagen e-Up, the slightly larger Nissan Leaf and the more expensive BMW i3.
Prices start from £18,495 and if you buy your new Zoe using carwow you can save £10,250 on average.
The Zoe interior is taken straight from the Renault Clio so it’s modern and comes with plenty of technology such as a TFT display instead of dials and a very advanced infotainment system with many features. Passenger space is decent, if not as much as in petrol-powered superminis like the Honda Jazz. The boot, though is quite big despite having to accommodate the batteries.
Driving the Zoe is typical electric car fare – slot in keycard, stick the gear lever in D, press the right pedal and off you go in relaxing silence and decent shove from the electric engine. It accelerates quickly to urban speeds but on the motorway it’s noticeably underpowered.
The electric drive system in the Zoe is too complicated and boring to go into much detail but what you need to know is that is offers extended range, quicker re-charge time and longer battery live than ever before. The time it takes for the batteries to re-charge varies between 40mins and 3 hours, depending on your equipment, but a regular three-pin adaptor is not available even at an extra cost.
The asking price of the Zoe definitely won’t help it replace conventional and cheaper petrol-powered alternatives, but you do get plenty of kit as standard such as Renault’s R-link multimedia system, climate control, Bluetooth phone connection and electric windows.
Read on for more in-depth information about the Zoe.
The Zoe’s interior doesn’t look too different from that of the Renault Clio, but a little more high-tech as befits its electric car status. Testers like the funky TFT instruments but aren’t as keen on some of the cheaper plastics you’ll find dotted about the cabin.
Renault Zoe passenger space
As well as good visibility the Zoe’s interior offers good levels of space and comfort. You sit quite high – something testers commend or decry based on personal preference – and Renault has picked lighter interior shades for a trendy but relaxing ambiance.
Renault Zoe boot space
Because the Zoe stashes its batteries under the floor (resulting in that higher stance and seating position) boot space is unaffected, unlike in some hybrids and electric vehicles. There’s 338 litres of space, making the Zoe more capacious than a Clio.
With all those batteries under the floor the Zoe is a heavy old thing – over 1,400 kilos, or a good 400-ish more than a Clio – but because all the weight is very low down, handling isn’t as compromised as you might expect. It’s not as nimble and reviewers say you can feel all that weight, but importantly it’s an easy car to drive.
The steering is light but doesn’t have much feel, and a few reviewers aren’t so keen on the brakes. There’s nothing wrong with their power, but due to the combined effects of regenerative braking (harnessing the car’s kinetic energy as you slow, for better range) and friction braking, they feel grabby. The ride isn’t quite as compliant as a Clio either – thank the slightly stiffer economy-biased tyres for that.
The Zoe uses an 87 horsepower, 162 lb/ft (torque) electric motor in lieu of the diesel or petrol lump you’ll find in a normal supermini. In fact, it’s similar in power output to, but delivers more torque than, the diesel Clio 1.5 dCi.
Because electric motors develop their torque as soon as they’re spinning, the Zoe’s initial acceleration is brisk – enough to see off most other superminis up to about 40 mph. After then, testers say performance tails off, so it’s not really one for taking any further than urban clearways.
What no petrol or diesel can match is the Zoe’s refinement: it’s near-silent at low speeds and essentially vibration-free. As an automatic and with no gears to worry about, it’s just a case of get in an go – all very relaxing. And range? Renault says anywhere between 60 and 90 miles, depending on conditions. That’s about par with most other electric vehicles.
Renault seems to have a knack when it comes to Euro NCAP and the Zoe is another example. Five stars, highly commended in three of the four categories, job done.
Part of the success is because it’s based on the previous generation Clio that also scored five stars. The other is something seemingly innate to EVs – a baffling array of electronic aids. The battery pack is sealed away safe and sound so that there’ll be little chance of electricity-related maladies in a serious shunt.
The Zoe starts at over £18,000 right now, but all Zoes are eligible for the government’s Plug-In Car grant, so you can take £4,500 off that figure. As electric cars go, it’s something of a bargain and that price drops the Zoe right in the middle of typical petrol and diesel rivals, something few electric cars have ever done. In Expression trim, it’s only a little more than a Clio Expression+ TCe ECO petrol, and a little less than the equivalent diesel.
It’s free to tax and to drive into London, comes with Renault’s competitive servicing and warranty package, inexpensive to insure and costs about £2 to “fill up”. However, you do have to pay a minimum of £70 a month to “rent” the battery (one reason the purchase price is so low), and that limits your mileage to 7,500mi per year – but fully insures the most worrisome part of the car.
As a normal car, the Zoe gets a few trim levels to choose from – the basic Expression Nav, the mid-range Dynamique Nav and the most expensive Dynamique Nav Rapid Charge. The repeating ‘Nav’ in all trim levels means all cars get sat-nav as standard and the only difference between the two top trim levels is that the Rapid Charge, as the name suggests, gets more expensive batteries that can be charged to 80% in under four hours.
Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav
The middle-of-the-line trim comes with almost any option imaginable that you can find in a supermini including automatic lights, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera, keyless entry and an upgraded stereo. If you plan on charging your Zoe during the night, at home, then there’s no reason to stretch for the more expensive Rapid Charge version.
Bought as a second car, the Zoe comes highly recommended. Reviews are generally pretty positive and bought instead of a traditional supermini – easier to do because of the price – you may find it a more pleasant city runaround and potentially cheaper to run, too.
As a primary vehicle it really does make less sense unless you never break free of city limits. But it’s still one of the best electric cars on sale right now.