Recommended. The Zoe has lots going for it, but you’ll still pay a premium for electric power.
First and foremost, the Renault Zoe is a cute little supermini, a thoroughly modern city car. And that’s especially true when you find out that it’s all-electric.
It’s about the size of a Ford Ka and it oozes Frenchness, with a little futuristic spin to it. The good thing about the Zoe is that Renault, like others now, has decided that a car doesn’t have to look different because it’s electric.
It doesn’t need to stand out any more than any other, so it looks like a car, not a spaceship. And this is surely the sector in which, for the moment at least, electric power makes the most sense.
Sure, firms like Tesla are pushing the boundaries when it comes to range, but for the most part you’re lucky to get 150 miles between charges. That means that city use is the electric car’s forte, so it makes perfect sense in a little motor like this.
And the Zoe drives very well. Electric power makes for swift and near-silent progress. Like all electric cars, no gearbox means that the Zoe is no slouch – and it also puts juice back into the battery when you decelerate.
It’s a lot of fun to drive, which is key in this market. We’ve already mentioned range – the bane of any electric car’s existence. The good news is that, for 2017, Renault has given the Zoe a new battery with a theoretical range of 250 miles.
Even Renault itself admits that, in the real world, that means between 124 and 186 miles – but it’s progress nonetheless, as the original car’s real-world range a few years back was about 80 miles.
The Zoe is now offered with either the new battery or the existing lower-powered unit, with entry level Expression trim getting the basic one and the new one being available on Dynamique Nav and above. There’s also a quick charge facility for the new one.
And all owners get a fast-charging box installed at their home included. The updated Zoe is now a five-model line-up based on three trims – the two we’ve already mentioned and the new top-end Signature Nav. You can either lease the battery or buy it outright. You can charge in as little as three hours at home.
Basic trim includes a 7in touch screen with sat nav, as well as climate control, electric windows, cruise control and Bluetooth among its features. The mid-range Dynamique Nav gets auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, alloys and leather trim.
The big news for this year is the top-of-the-range Signature Nav, which gets full leather, heated fronts seats, Bose audio system and a rear parking camera on top of everything else.
The inside looks good and would appeal to younger drivers and rear space isn’t too bad for a small car, while the boot is a good size.
Range is still a bit of an issue if you want to do long journeys, but more miles between charges and an improving infrastructure are making that easier than it used to be. In truth though, if you were buying a petrol or diesel Polo or Fiesta, you’d be buying it knowing that it’ll spend a lot of its time on short journeys.
So the Zoe is probably one of the best examples of electric so far, in this segment at least. It’s a good looking supermini that is ideal for city living without the fuel costs or carbon emissions. Imagine if everyone drove them in a busy city, the air would be so much cleaner.
But it’ll all depend on how much you’re going to use it. Prices from £14,245 to £26,020 mean that there are cheaper options out there if you just need to get around. And it’s a little tough to justify that against cars like the Kia Picanto, which start at barely £10,000.
1. A fun, funky city car.
2. It looks good.
3. Range is improving.
We don't like:
1. It’s still a bit pricey.
2. Long distances need planning.
3. Nothing else.
Most fun: Electric power means it’s zippy.
Most sensible: Zero emissions and charging up for a few quid are very appealing.
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