The Renault Zoe is a hatchback model designed for city life, but it won't feel out of place on the motorway. Does the Zoe deliver? Find out more about the whats on offer with this small EV.
The Renault Zoe is the top-selling model within the Renault ZE range of zero-emission vehicles. Officially classed as an all-electric five-door supermini, the Zoe was first introduced as a concept in 2005 before Renault finally unveiled a production version of the car in 2012.
It is much quieter than a petrol-driven car of its class, but it handles very much like a standard hatchback. Indeed, many casual drivers wouldn't immediately notice they were behind the wheel of an electric car when seated in a Zoe.
When new, Renault called the Zoe the Renault Zoe City Car. However, it has since been marketed simply as the Zoe ZE. In 2016, the French carmaker launched the then new Renault ZE40, which had a larger battery. In 2019, it came up with the Renault Zoe ZE50, which offered more range under WLTP conditions. There is also a Zoe E-sport model variant, but this has never gone into production and remains a concept car.
As with other electric cars, there are many factors to consider with this Renault city car model. Frequently, reviews of the Zoe fail to compare it favourably to other, newer electric cars because it was one of the first out of the blocks. That said, any new Zoe purchased today will stand up very well against any other electric car designed for the urban environment.
In particular, the range offered by the Renault Zoe will appeal to motorists who want more than just a run-around from their chosen electric vehicle.
According to Renault, the latest Zoe comes with the aforementioned ZE50 battery capacity. Under WLTP conditions, this version of the Zoe will allow you to drive up to 245 miles. Therefore, the Zoe's range has compares favourably with the popular Nissan Leaf, which has just a 239-mile range under WLTP test conditions, or just 211-miles for the Corsa E.
No review of the Renault Zoe would be complete with a breakdown of its batteries. Firstly, a current Renault Zoe will be a ZE50 model, meaning a 52 kWh capacity battery is included.
A second hand Renault Zoe ZE40 will have a smaller 41 kWh lithium-ion battery. A Zoe made within the first year of production is likely to have just 22 kWh of battery capacity in the car, limiting its range considerably.
The R135 motor in the Renault Zoe ZE50 has been around since September 2019. After this date, any new Zoe purchased from Renault will offer a three hour charge time from a 22 kW DC charging point. Three hours is reasonably rapid for a 100 per cent charge that will provide a 245-mile WLTP range. However, performing the same feat from a standard three-pin connection would take 23 hours.
If you have a 7 kW wall box charger, expect to get the batteries fully laden with electric power within eight hours. Charging from 20 per cent to 80 per cent with a commercial 50 kW charger would only take 50 minutes, however, leaving you free to continue most onward journeys after a modest break.
All-electric cars only make sense when they produce no local emissions and are cheaper to fill up than fossil-powered alternatives. From a domestic charging point, you can obtain a full charge for as little as £8.40. Powering a Zoe from a rapid public charger from 20 per cent to 80 per cent would set you back a little more per mile, though.
A Renault Zoe ZE50 auto 5-door will sit in insurance group 18 or 19. Some higher specification models of the Zoe can be in insurance group 22. An older Renault Zoe R110 ZE40 with a quick charge function will be in group 16.
Renault says that every Zoe it makes will come with a five-year warranty. The Zoe's battery is guaranteed for a more extended period. You can have this serviced by Renault under the terms of the warranty for up to eight years after the car was first registered or before the motor has clocked around to 100,000 miles. The Zoe's five-year warranty is unlimited for year one, but after that, it, too, has the 100,000-mile limitation.
The Renault Zoe ZE50 must be serviced for the warranty to remain valid. Renault recommends an annual check or every 18,000-mile period to check the pollen filter, while a service for the Zoe is needed at 54,000-mile intervals for the brake linings, among other checks.
Like every other electric Renault Zoe produced in the past, the new Renault ZE50 has no road tax to pay. Indeed, the Renault Zoe is also exempt from the London Congestion Zone charges. What's more, the Zoe is eligible for the OZEV plug-in car and electric vehicle home charge scheme, known as EVHS. This, and its impressive range, makes the Zoe a very appealing vehicle when you compare it to other cars of its class.
A typical Renault Zoe five-door auto R135 will get from a stationary start to 62mph in just 11.4 seconds which is rapid enough for most hatchback owners. The motor delivers 107 bhp of power, and the top speed of the car is 84 mph.
Because the Renault Zoe is reasonably fast, even if it does not always accelerate as quickly as other electric models, you could say it is a car with few competitors.
Despite the impressive range of the Zoe, it is not quite as quick as the Nissan Leaf or the VW ID3, however. Volkswagen's offering is also slightly faster out of the blocks, reaching 62 mph in just 8.9 seconds. This makes the Renault Zoe slightly less appealing based on performance alone, although Renault would, of course, point to its superior range and charging times for mid-length journeys of 90 miles and so on.
There was just one driving mode with older versions of the car. However, the latest Renault Zoe to become available has two. The standard one is pretty much as before, affording drivers with the same motor output for motorway and city driving as previous models.
The Zoe ZE50 auto will also come with what is called B mode, however. In B mode, regenerative braking is maximised to turn your stopping energy into forwarding energy the Renault Zoe can use.
The range of the Renault Zoe means yo you will want to take it on longer journeys, out of town and onto dual carriageways and motorways. With a top speed that is well above the legal limit on UK roads, you will feel confident cruising at 70 mph and braking in time when the traffic snarls up.
The car is fast from 0 to 30 mph, taking just 3.6 seconds with the R135 version to achieve this feat. Joining moving traffic, you rarely feel underpowered in a Renault Zoe. However, when accelerating up a hill from about 30 mph, the Renault Zoe feels like it lacks something.
The vehicle has enough power, but it seems like the Renault Zoe doesn't consistently deliver it where it should on inclines – important to note if you live in a hilly area, especially if you opt for a used R110 which has less power.
From the outside, the Zoe looks a bit like a Renault Clio. The latest version comes with some brand new colour options. From behind, the Renault Zoe looks like a typical hatchback, while the logo of the carmaker is just about the most prominent thing to point out.
There are three vehicles in the current Zoe line, the Play, the Iconic and the GT Line trim.
Every Zoe comes with a rear windscreen wiper, while the Play trim levels offer a heated windscreen, front fog lights and heated door mirrors. You get this with the Iconic trim, too, plus anti-punch technology with the front windows. Opt for the GT Line version, and you will also enjoy deadlocking and hands-free entry.
The tech on display in the Zoe is impressive. A stylish digital TFT display replaces all the dials you get in most cars, making it easy to see your current speed and available range. Of course, being an electric with a high range, a good deal of prominence is given to the remaining range you have.
A 10-inch screen supplies the infotainment on offer in the Renault Zoe as standard, big enough to operate its menu of services. This system is compatible with Apple's CarPlay system and Android Auto. A smaller, portrait-oriented screen is fitted in the GT line model.
As you might expect, the GT Line comes with the most equipment. Most drivers will enjoy the standard 9.3-inch touchscreen and Bose sound system. The GT Line is also supplied with handy 3x3 rear seatbelts and a central seat headrest in the back. Automatic climate control is standard in the Iconic and GT Line, but not the Play.
The interior of the Zoe feels fine so long as you are sat in the front. While driving, you could even say it feels spacious. However, taking a seat in the rear will often mean an adult will soon feel uncomfortable. It is acceptable for kids, however. Tall drivers should note that the headroom may be limited as there is no chance to adjust the height of the driver's seat.
The Renault Zoe offers 338 litres of room in the boot, impressive for an electric vehicle. Most reviews won't point out that the 1,255 litres of space you get when the rear seats are folded down is not that practical, however. Yes, there is more room on the interior in this mode, but the centres will never provide a flat surface for loading items inside.
When it went through its test back in 2013, the Renault Zoe auto was given five stars by NCAP. NCAP's review of the safety of the car's driving and braking prowess meant it scored most highly for adult occupant safety.
Every generation of the Zoe has excellent safety features. The newest ones come with ABS and EBD as standard, with the higher trim level offering auto-dimming rearview mirrors and blind-spot assistance. All models have front airbags in the driver and passenger seats, a seatbelt reminder system, and speed control assistance.
The entry-level price of a Renault Zoe from new is £27,495, although this will soon go up if you want a non-standard, non-white paint finish. The Iconic price starts at £28,995, while the highest specification will set you back anything from £30,995.
When looking at cost, it is essential to note the life cycle of the car's batteries, and since Renault guarantees them for eight years, this will play on most people's minds when choosing a Zoe over another all-electric model.