Renault Zoe

Zoe... She's electric.

Zoe, Renault's latest ZE (zero emissions) electric vehicle, is a relatively good-looking, modern five-door hatchback. The French-built car has been on sale there since December 2012, where it has been an EV sales success. 

Zoe is a five-seater that is slightly longer and much taller than a Renault Clio, on which it's roughly based. The exterior is a pleasant, normal enough design - unlike most EVs. Zoe has some nice curves among its mini MPV-like proportions. Inside, the cabin is unfussy, comfortable and spacious with some Hi-Tec touches like a TFT display for your speed etc. 

The charging point is housed neatly behind the large Renault emblem on the bonnet. Underneath is an electric motor that uses lithium-ion battery power. Zoe has a modest power output of 88hp, but its pulling power is more impressive at 222nm. The battery pack has a capacity of 22-kilowatt hours, which Renault says is good for a maximum range of 210 kilometres - in reality it is a lot less! 

Depending on the outside temperature, you can expect between 100-150km range - EVs don't like the cold. There is also an Eco button to help deliver maximum economy. Zoe is a heavy beast at 1,465kg; so five rugby players on board will max out its weight-carrying capacity. There is plenty of headroom, though, and 338 litres of boot space.

Renault is boastful about recharging times and quotes that Zoe can be 'fast' charged to 80% in just 30 minutes at a 42-kilowatt charge station, which is a lot more powerful than an EV domestic charge point!

Like all electric cars, Zoe can take off rapidly from a standing start, but this is something you learn to resist as it seriously eats into battery life. About town the simple EV driving experience is hassle-free. The car has just a single forward gear so you can either 'accelerate', 'lift off' - which feels like braking as the car recharges the battery when you do this - or 'brake'.

So is it all good? No. Literally there is a glaring problem from behind the wheel with Zoe. The glare when looking through the windscreen is quite distracting. The glass looks like it is coated in a film - like a smoker's car. A combination of a very large, grey dash top area, combined with the windscreen's angle, appears to cause this less-than-perfect view forward. 

Annoyingly, Renault continues with its sales policy of selling its ZE cars much like that dreaded Christmas present - with batteries not included! You can buy a Zoe but you must rent the battery pack separately at a monthly fee (from €49, depending on annual mileage use). This does allow for a reduced asking price, but it also means that you never own the car outright! 

Zoe, apart from the annoying windscreen, is not bad as an urban-use machine. Zoe can handle motorway use - but it's not an EV's natural environment. Zoe won't make you take the twisty dynamic route home either, but it has a great turning circle and is nippy about town.

Michael Sheridan


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