Renault ZOE hatchback review
“The Renault ZOE is a stylish electric supermini that’s affordable and has a decent range, making it very convincing”
- Plenty of great deals available
- Well equipped as standard
- Up to 245-mile range
- Zero-star safety rating
- Feels heavy in corners
- Slightly awkward design
Renault prides itself on being at the forefront of electric car development and the ZOE is the first electric car to offer a real zero-emissions alternative to regular family superminis. This is thanks to its relatively low purchase price and packaging that broadly matches the Renault Clio for practicality.
The introduction of the latest ZOE in 2019 brought a welcome increase in power, along with styling changes, a simplified range structure and updated infotainment system, improving what was already a quite appealing electric-car proposition. Its low-mounted battery pack has the dual advantages of increasing interior space and lowering the ZOE's centre of gravity; the car is rewarding to drive around town as a result.
It's also a lot cheaper than the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Honda e, especially when the UK Government's plug-in car grant is taken into account. From late 2019 , the pricing structure for the ZOE line-up was revised with the battery leasing option being discontinued. Now every ZOE comes with the battery pack included, putting it on a level playing field with new rivals like the Peugeot e-208, Vauxhall Corsa-e, Honda e and MINI Electric.
Its 52kWh battery offers a claimed range of up to 239 miles of range on a charge and can be charged from 0-80% in around an hour and ten minutes using a 50kW charger – although this is only feasible on version with the R135 Rapid Charge powertrain that have the CCS fast-charging capability. The quoted range is more likely in good conditions, and this new model shouldn’t drop as much range in winter as the old version.
All trim versions of the ZOE come with an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty that guarantees the battery won’t drop below 66% of its original capacity.
When choosing a ZOE, there’s the choice between the R135 engine with or without rapid charging capability on Techno trim, while quicker charging is standard on Iconic models. It has 134bhp and accelerates from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, which feels quicker than its numbers suggest thanks to the instant power available when you press the accelerator. It’s certainly more spritely than the discontinued R110 motor which generated 106bhp and offered a 0-62mph time of 11.4 seconds.
The ZOE is extremely quiet and smooth to drive, and offers a more relaxing driving experience than conventionally-engined cars. The power from the electric motor is available from standstill, and the lack of a traditional gearbox makes for seamless progress and brisk acceleration, especially around town. The ZOE is also able to keep up with motorway traffic without difficulty, particularly with the more powerful R135 motor fitted. If you accept the limitations around range and charging, it should be no harder to live with and drive than a normal supermini.
The ZOE is offered in Techno and Iconic trims. Speccing the cheaper Techno model with rapid charging puts it just around £800 behind the more-expensive Iconic trim. That said, the only real differences are stylistic – both come with different sets of 16-inch alloy wheels and the Iconic trim comes with darker exterior colour options and side decals.
Both trims feature LED headlights, climate control, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, a seven-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Convenience is also boosted with parking sensors, a reverse parking camera with Renault’s semi-autonomous parking feature, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, keyless entry, folding door mirrors, electric front windows and front foglights.
It scored five stars for safety when it was originally tested by Euro NCAP in 2013 but a retest in 2021 saw the score revised to zero stars. Renault has taken away some of the ZOE’s airbags, which means there’s less protection for the driver and passengers. It was also criticised for lane-keeping assist not being fitted as standard.
Although petrol and diesel rivals have an advantage in terms of price and range, the ZOE still offers one of the best packages we’ve yet seen to tempt motorists away from fossil-fuelled cars. It’s comfortable, fun to drive and, with increased-range versions available, flexible to use. In the light of its all-round competence, it looks like the electric revolution is overcoming resistance. Its new safety rating is the only real negative point.
See how this car scored on our sister site DrivingElectric
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