What is it? The latest version of the Renault ZOE electric supermini.
Key features: New battery increases official range to 250 miles. New top trim level, updates across range.
Our view: The Renault ZOE is a definite contender amongst its electric rivals, particularly considering its versatile purchase options and now its range.
Type of review: Taster test.
This writer believes that the Renault ZOE is a much-underrated car. While the LEAF from sister brand Nissan continues to grab all the headlines associated with it being first to the party, the ZOE has built itself a loyal following since the car’s launch in 2012 and was the best-selling electric car in Europe in 2015.
Now for 2017 Renault has introduced a facelift for the ZOE, the major headline of which is a new 41kWh battery. This is almost double the capacity of the original 22kWh battery and pushes the ZOE’s official range to 250 miles.
While Renault claims that this gives the ZOE the longest range of any mainstream electric vehicle, we are also told that the car’s ‘real-world’ range between charges is now between 124 miles in extreme cold and 186 miles in ‘temperate’, in other words typical, conditions. This of course makes the ZOE a very practical car indeed – how often does the average motorist clock up more than 186 miles in a day?
A larger-capacity battery does mean longer charging times of course – the 22kWh unit, which is still available in the entry-level Expression model, takes four hours to charge fully using a 7kW home point, or an hour to 80 per cent capacity at a 43kW charge point like one finds at motorway service areas.
The new Z.E. 40 battery ups these charging times to 7hr 25min and 1hr 40min respectively, but one can buy an optional quick charger for on-the-road use which cuts the 80 per cent time back down to an hour and five minutes. That’ll give you well over 200 miles range with one stop, and an hour is just right for lunch…
Other changes to the 2017 ZOE include the addition of a new range-topping trim level, Signature Nav, which among other things includes the quick charger as standard. Also offered on this trim level are leather upholstery, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, rear parking camera, bespoke 16-inch alloy wheels and lumbar adjustment on the driver’s seat.
Across the range the interior and exterior are mildly modified and there are three new exterior colours, Mars Red, Titanium Grey and Ytrium Grey, the last only on Signature Nav cars.
Renault ZOE – outside and in
The biggest difference between the Renault ZOE and its great rival the Nissan LEAF, in this writer’s opinion, is in exterior looks. The LEAF, with its squared-off, slanted rear end, looks different enough to be identified as such, an electric car. The ZOE, however, looks just like any other supermini – it could just as easily be a traditional petrol/diesel sister to the Clio and Twingo and is very closely related to the former.
It’s a big car for its market, more than 100mm taller than a Clio, and the batteries under the back seats elevate the cabin producing a quite high, upright, seating position. There is plenty of space, enough to carry five adults within, and while the batteries compromise some of the practicality, the shape of the floor when the rear seats are dropped for example, the boot space of 338 litres is some 38 larger than a Clio’s.
Those that have driven the Clio will find the interior familiar, as the dash is the same, though fitted with a digital display which supplies important information such as how much battery power one has left, and when the battery is being recharged under coasting or braking – be warned, you can end up changing your driving style trying to up your figures!
On the road
Again, the ZOE scores because it is so normal. Having inserted the keycard one puts the auto gearbox into drive and presses the accelerator, and off it goes. The experinece is just like driving a typical supermini, but without the noise – the only sound is an artificially generated whine at low speed, basically to warn pedestrians that the car is coming. We understand this can be turned off.
This is not a fast car, its 0-62mph time over 13 seconds, but it feels nippy in its natural environment of urban streets. At speeds under around 40mph the torque of the electric motor is at its most efficient, and the ZOE reaches 30mph in a mere four seconds.
It’s much less fun at high speeds, on a motorway for example, because above 60mph it seriously struggles for pace. Steep gradients cause similar issues, it will get up them, but not in any hurry.
The ZOE rides in adequate fashion, though its cornering performance is staid, lumbering through the bends with a degree of body roll. The braking is a bit harsh too, taking the gloss from the car’s refinement.
Buying a ZOE
Electric cars are not cheap and on the surface the ZOE is no different, but there is a way to spread the cost. Renault offers the option of either buying the car and battery outright, or leasing the battery and paying a monthly fee that varies based on one’s expected mileage. This also answers those concerned about the staying power of the battery, though Renault does offer a five-year/60,000-mile warranty that includes the battery retaining at least 75 per cent of its original capacity.
For example if you choose the iDynamique NAV model, the second trim level and first available with the new battery, you’ll pay £23,445 outright, or £17,845 plus battery lease. This ranges over six levels from £59 a month for cars doing an annual mileage of 4,500 miles or less, to £99 for up to 10,500 miles or £110 for unlimited annual mileage.
It’s also worth mentioning one can still buy the ZOE with the original motor, so the very cheapest one can get into the car is £13,995 plus battery lease – these prices all include the Government’s plug-in car grant. And every retail purchase of a ZOE includes supply and installation of a 7kW fast-charger home wall box.
Verdict: The Renault ZOE won’t write headlines for its roadholding and handling but in the urban environment that electric cars are excepted to populate it becomes a leading contender. With its practical purchase options it should be considered by anyone wanting to go electric.
Renault ZOE – key specifications
Model tested: Renault ZOE Z. E. 40
Price: £23,445-£26,245 (With leased battery £17,845-£20,645)*
On sale: Jan 2017.
Engine: Electric motor, 92hp, 220Nm
0-62mph and max speed: 13.5, 84mph
Range and CO2 emissions: 124-186 miles (real-world), 0g/km
Key rivals: Nissan LEAF, Volkswagen e-up!
Test date: Feb 2017
* = Prices factor in Government plug-in car grant
The Car Expert Taster Tests are concise summaries of new models to the market, that we have driven for under 50 miles.