Renault Zoe review: Hands-on

The Renault Zoe may be quiet but you'll definitely see it coming

What is a hands on review?
Image 1 of 4 Renault Zoe front
Renault Zoe review: Hands-on
Image 2 of 4 Renault Zoe interior
Renault Zoe review: Hands-on
Image 3 of 4 Renault Zoe dash
Renault Zoe review: Hands-on
Image 4 of 4 Renault Zoe side
Renault Zoe review: Hands-on

Electric cars are undeniably the future but the reason they are yet to become socially mainstream is their hefty price tag. They might be cheap to run but most of them are far from economical to buy.

The answer is the Renault Zoe. Despite it bearing a surprisingly reasonable price Renault hasn’t held back on the features. If you’re looking to go green without breaking the bank then this might just be the car for you.

Renault Zoe: Features

It’s not just the comedy-“evil”, slanting eyes of its headlights that make the Renault Zoe stand out. Although certainly, a car that constantly looks like its cackling at someone saying “boobs” is a talking point. It’s the floor-mounted, 22kWh lithium-ion battery, 87bhp electric motor and – despite there being nary a whiff of carbon emissions – the fact that it’s actually rather like driving a car.

Steering wheel, pedals, doors… they’re all where you’d anticipate, and operate as you’d expect from a bog-standard hatchback automatic. There’s also a pleasingly techy vibe to the inside, inspired by your Android tablet and supporting apps. Yes, it’s all very familiar. But there’s one thing that isn’t: the silence.

Renault Zoe: Tech

Plug in and Zoe immediately detects the power source, juicing here up to 80 per cent in 30 minutes on a commercial charger and to full in nine hours at home.

The Android-based, app-enabled, seven-inch touchscreen system from the Clio is incorporated, with tweaks including a TomTom satnav that knows if there’s enough battery left to reach your destination.

You can also remotely control the charging process, view its range status and even preheat the cabin remotely via iOS or Android app.

Renault Zoe: Specs

BATTERY MOTOR SYNCHRONOUS COIL
ELECTRIC POWERED BY
22KWH LITHIUM-ION BATTERY
0-62MPH 13.5 SECONDS
TOP SPEED 84MPH (LIMITED)
POWER 87BHP
TORQUE 162LB/FT
RANGE 130 MILES
CHARGING NINE HOURS ON A
STANDARD DOMESTIC SOCKET
WEIGHT 1,468KG

Renault Zoe: Performance

In performance terms, the Zoe is neither special nor off the pace. It’s the same as most hatchbacks, just different. Range anxiety is rife when it comes to electric cars but it officially hits 130 miles and our real-world testing suggests more than 100 miles is doable.

Anyway, the vast majority of journeys are under 20 miles, and as many as a third of similarly-sized petrol and diesel hatches never do a journey of 100 miles in their entire lives.

Furthermore, Ecotricity plans to install high-power, 15-minute chargers in “every service station in the UK,” so Zoe and her electric pals may yet graduate to the motorways.

There is a compulsory monthly lease charge of £70 for the battery, but given that the cost of refuelling your new Zoe is negligible, and that it removes the risk of battery failure, we reckon we could live with that.

Renault Zoe: Interior

The inside shares similar traits with the Millennium Falcon. A ton of tech is at the driver’s disposal with a large colour touch-screen being at the centre of attention mounted in the middle of the glossy dashboard.

Features such as climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, USB socket and a navigation system are incorporated into all versions.

If there’s a taller person in the front then passengers in the back may be a bit squeezed for legroom although its standard five-door layout makes it more-than-adequate especially for children even on longer journeys.

Renault Zoe: Verdict

The eco-argument is stronger than you might think. Yes, there are emissions associated with the grid electricity used for charging but it still holds a roughly 20 per cent advantage over the best combustion cars.

A decent, silent drive, plenty of range and green brownie points? No wonder the Zoe’s always wearing that sly grin…

Renault Zoe release date: Out now

Renault Zoe price: From £13, 650, Car-on-test: £15, 500

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.

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