Renault Zoe Review
The Renault Zoe is a small electric car with punchy performance and an impressive range. It’s far from the roomiest electric vehicle on sale, however, and feels cheap in places.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Cheap to run
- More tech than ever
- Impressive electric range
What's not so good
- Interior feels cheap in places
- Cramped back seats
- Fast charging capability costs extra
Renault Zoe: what would you like to read next?
The Renault Zoe is a bit like an electric travel toothbrush. Sure, you might have to charge it a little more often than some more expensive alternatives, but it’s small, affordable and dead easy to use.
The old Zoe even looked a little like a piece of oversized dental equipment, but this new model benefits from some subtle nips and tucks to make sure it looks (minty) fresh. At the front, you’ll spot a few more air intakes than before – some of which help guide air past the front wheels to help reduce drag and maximise range – and a set of full-LED headlights.
Renault has given the Zoe’s brake lights the LED treatment too; ditching the old car’s weird blue lens coating.
More exciting than this, however, is what’s been done inside. Gone is the old Renault Zoe’s free-standing lozenge-like infotainment system with oddly shaped heating knobs. Instead, you get a super-slick dashboard layout, an all-new infotainment system and a digital driver’s display as standard. You can even get the dashboard trimmed in some whale-friendly recycled material made from old plastic bottles.
Thankfully, the Renault Zoe is more comfortable inside than you average Greenpeace sit-in – in the front, at least. Those in the back will feel pretty hemmed-in if they’re close to six-feet tall and there isn’t enough shoulder room to carry three adults abreast.
The Renault Zoe doesn’t rely on gimmicks like some electric cars. Instead, it focuses on being affordable, having a good range and, being surprisingly fun to drive – for a small electric car.
Chances are, you won’t be using your dinky electric city car for lugging heavy loads. Rather, you’ll be nipping through rush hour traffic – something the Zoe feels born to do. You get a good view forwards thanks to its large windows and the light controls make tight turns a doddle.
The new Renault Zoe is capable of more than just trips to the shops, though. With its batteries fully brimmed – which takes three hours using a public 22kw charger – you’ll be able to travel around 240 miles.
You can recharge even faster if you pick a more powerful 135hp model with the optional fast charger. These versions feel pretty perky for a small car, too, so you’ll have no issue scooting away from junctions or overtaking sluggish lorries.
That said, the Renault Zoe doesn’t make a particularly good motorway cruiser. Sure, its electric motor is much quieter than a petrol or diesel engine, but you’ll still hear a fair amount of wind and tyre noise at speed.
You do at least get cruise control to make long journeys a bit more bearable, but only mid-range cars and above get extra safety kit, including automatic emergency braking, as standard.
You shouldn’t let this put you off, though. The Renault Zoe is a very capable small electric car that comes with decent range and, providing you avoid the entry-level cars, peppy performance and a pretty impressive amount of standard kit. Just don’t go trying to carry tall adults in the back…
The Renault Zoe’s interior looks miles better than the old car’s and comes with a decent amount of equipment, but it still feels pretty cheap in places.
The Renault Zoe’s big windows mean it feels pretty spacious for a small car – in the front, at least. Adults will feel cramped in the back, however, and it’s boot isn’t the roomiest out there.
The Renault Zoe’s flat-bottomed front seats feel more like they belong in a chic espresso bar than in a car. They aren’t exactly the most comfortable place to park your backside for a few hours…
On the inside, the Renault Zoe feels like a larger car than its dinky dimensions suggest. This is partly down to the large windows that give you a good view out, but also because you sit very upright in the front seats.
You can adjust the steering wheel for height and reach, but you can’t move the seats up or down. As a result, smaller driver’s may struggle to get a clear view of the road ahead while those taller may find their knees are positioned a bit too close to the steering wheel. You can’t get electrically adjustable seats either, and the knob for tweaking the angle of the backrest is sandwiched between the seat and the cupholders, making it pretty tricky to turn.
Things don’t improve in the back seats. Sure, the Renault Zoe’s rear doors open nice and wide and you don’t have to stoop down too far to slide in if you’re tall, but anyone over six-foot will find their head brushes against the roof. With an equally lofty driver in front, their knees will be pushing against the seat, too.
Carrying three adults in the back is a no-go for journeys longer than a few miles, too. There’s very little shoulder space to go round and the centre seat is raised uncomfortably above the outer two.
There’s enough room to carry three kids at once in the back, though, and the Renault Zoe’s flat floor means they can slide across easily. Fitting a baby seat is pretty straightforward, too. You can lift the seat through the Renault Zoe’s back doors without any hassle and the Isofix anchor points are pretty easy to locate through raised sections in the seat padding. You will need to slide the front seat forward if you plan to fit a bulky rear-facing seat, however.
Even for a small car, the Renault Zoe’s cabin doesn’t come with a great deal of storage space. None of the door bins can carry a one-litre bottle and those in the back are so narrow they’ll struggle to hold anything larger than a phone or a paperback.
You do at least get a storage tray in the centre console, and another above the glovebox with a rubberised lining to stop smooth items sliding about. Pick and Iconic or GT Line model and you get a wireless charging pad behind the gear lever, too.
All Renault Zoe models come with a pair of cupholders between the front seats but you can’t help thinking these would have been better placed further forward so you don’t have to reach behind you to retrieve a boiling hot cup of service-station coffee.
The Renault Zoe has 338 litres of boot space. That’s more than 25% larger than the boot in a VW e-Up but much smaller than the 435-litre boot you get in a Nissan Leaf. The boot opening is reasonably wide and there isn’t a particularly large load lip so you won’t put your back out lifting in heavier items.
The boot itself is nice and square so you can easily slide in a few suitcases, and you get a couple of shopping hooks to stop your groceries rolling about on the way home. There’s a dedicated storage area under the boot floor for the Renault Zoe’s charging cables, but there isn’t enough room left over to tuck the parcel shelf if you need to pack a few very tall items in the boot.
You can fold the Renault Zoe’s back seats down to boost its carrying capacity to 1,225 litres. However, only Iconic models and above get two-way split-folding seats to let you carry a passenger in the back and some long luggage poking through from the boot at once.
Whichever model you pick, you’ll find that the back seats don’t quite fold flat and there’s a tall step between them and the boot floor that makes it tricky to push heavy boxes right up behind the front seats.
The Renault Zoe is a small city car that’s a doddle to drive and comes with an impressive range but a fast charging feature costs extra – even in top-spec cars.
Don’t go thinking that the Renault Zoe will be dull to drive because it’s a small electric car – its low slung batteries mean it’ll carve down country roads with more enthusiasm than most.
Which electric motor the Renault Zoe comes with depends on which model you pick. Entry-level Play and mid-range Iconic versions get a 110hp motor as standard, but you can upgrade Iconic cars to a more powerful 135hp motor – the same as the one that comes as standard in top-spec GT Line cars.
Models with a 110hp motor reach 60mph from rest in a fairly leisurely 11.4 seconds, while 135hp cars feel much perkier – reaching the same speed in less than 9.5 seconds. As a result, 110hp models work best in town, while 135hp versions feel much more at home overtaking traffic on country roads or accelerating down motorway slip roads.
You won’t have much trouble matching Renault’s claimed range of around 240 miles, whichever model you pick. That’s impressive for a small electric car, and a few miles more than the larger Nissan Leaf can manage.
Charging times depend on what sort of charger you use. You get a 7kw wall-mounted home charger as standard when you buy a Renault Zoe that can brim its batteries in nine and a half hours, while a 22kw public charging point take three hours. Pay extra for the 50kw DC fast-charging facility – which is available on Iconic and GT Line models – and you can boost the Zoe’s charge from flat to 85% full in seventy minutes.
You’ll also have to decide whether you want to buy your Zoe’s battery outright or lease it from Renault. Choose to lease the battery, and the Renault Zoe costs around £7,000 less to buy. How much you pay each month will depend on how many miles you plan to cover in your Zoe each year – unlimited-mileage leases will set you back more than £100 per month.
The Renault Zoe is a doddle to drive in town. Its small size, tight turning circle and large windows mean you’ll have no trouble slipping through traffic. Rear visibility is blocked slightly by a large pillar beside the bootlid, but you can get rear parking sensors and a reversing camera to help you avoid bumps and scrapes in the car park. If that’s not enough, there’s also a self-parking system that’ll steer for you into bay and parallel space.
When you have to take over the steering, you’ll find the Renault Zoe’s light controls mean your arms won’t ache after a few hours navigating through tight city streets. The Zoe’s suspension softens small bumps pretty well too, but larger potholes send an unpleasant thud through your seat.
Leave the city, and you’ll find the Renault Zoe copes with twisty country roads pretty well for such a small car. Tucking the batteries under the floor means Renault has kept the heaviest part of the Zoe as close to the road as possible. This means it doesn’t tend to lean in tight corners – something that could have your passengers feeling a little green-around-the-gills.
The smoothness of the electric motor and the instantaneous way it delivers power means the Renault Zoe is surprisingly good fun to zip from corner to corner on twisty roads. It’s no hot hatch, but it’ll put a bigger smile on your face than most compact city cars on a deserted B road.
Head out onto a motorway and the Renault Zoe holds its own among fast-moving traffic. More powerful 135hp models have enough poke to get up to speed quickly to overtake slow-moving trucks and you won’t hear too much wind or tyre noise at 70mph.
Unlike some equally dinky petrol- or diesel-powered cars, the Renault Zoe feels very stable at motorway speed and you get cruise control as standard across the range to take the sting out of long drives.
Unfortunately, you don’t get automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring and automatic high-beam headlights on entry-level cars – these features are reserved for Iconic and GT Line models.