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Car Reviews, Electric, Hatchback

Renault ZOE Review – The concept car you can drive

18 Oct , 2013  

Renault ZOE Review - Fron Side Angle - carwitter

Renault have waited a long time to break into the EV market properly, and boy are we glad they did!

We recently tested the Zoe in top of the range Dynamique Zen spec. Starting at £15,195 (after government rebate) ours had a few extras, bringing the total up to £16,250.

However, there is now a company that will give you 10,000 miles of fuel (electricity) in with the cost of your new car, check them out at


Options on our car included, 17” alloys, rear parking sensors with camera, R-Link live services and metallic paint.

With 87 HP, 220Nm of instant torque and a range up to 93 miles, it’s looking like a great alternative to your run of the mill supermini!

Renault ZOE Review - Front - carwitter

I LOVE the look of the Zoe. It’s just stunning, futuristic, modern, cool…I could go on!

From its rounded nose flow the sweeping squint headlights. LED running lights are fitted into two slashes each side of the front bumper, just above a small oval lower grille.

Along the sides, lines flow down the doors from the rear to the front lights. A small pull out handle is built into the plastic rear window trim, hiding the back doors, this gives the car a sleeker look about it.

At the back the rear is equally pleasing, small brake lights are set at the outer edges, and a large rounded bumper mimics the shape of the front.

Renault ZOE Review - Rear Door Handles - carwitter

All of the lights and badges have the Z.E blue tint to them, it looks very smart. The bigger 17” alloys look great, and fit the arches well. Pearlescent white paintwork finishes the car off perfectly.

Renault ZOE Review - Zoe Badge - carwitter

Now if you think 87 HP is slow then you’re wrong…in electric car terms, it flies!

With 220 Nm of torque being available from a standstill, you will often find the front wheels scrabbling and ESP kicking in.

ZOE accelerates brilliantly, no current generation, fossil fuelled supermini has this kind of go to it. 0-60 is a damn fast 8.2 seconds, that’s near to hot hatch territory!

We took the little ZOE out on a fast dual carriageway, to see if it could keep up with the pace of things.

No problem. Past about 40 MPH acceleration slows, but it will easily get to 70 (and beyond!).

Even at motorway speeds the range didn’t dip too badly, we found that for every mile travelled (at 70 MPH) it cost us a mile on the gauge, which was reassuring to see.

Renault ZOE Review - Rear - carwitter

Because of the funny old way batteries work, you can drive further in the summer than you can in the winter.

Winter mileage is a worst case scenario of 60 miles, whereas in the summer you can drive up to 90.

This should never really be an issue though, as 83% of all supermini journeys are around 30 miles per day, or 7,800 a year.

Now if you want to tone down that blistering acceleration you can push the “Eco” button.

This helps maintain the cars range by limiting power to the air con, heating, and the electric motor.

With Eco-Mode engaged acceleration is far more sedate, but still ample. If you do need a quick zip of speed you just have to push the throttle all the way to the floor, and it will rocket off once again.

Renault ZOE Review - Rear Scenery - carwitter

Handling is good, a little floaty at times but it corners well due to its low centre of gravity. Throw it into a corner a little quick and you can feel the weight of the car, but it still copes well.

ZOE uses custom Michelin Energy Z-E tyres which have a very low rolling resistance, but they heat up quickly under braking, to help shorten stopping distances.

We can vouch for those claims as ZOE comes to a dead stop very well from 60 MPH.

Renault ZOE Review - Rear Side Angle - carwitter

One thing everyone always worries about with electric cars is that they will forever be mowing people down due to their silence, Renault have given ZOE a voice.

Known as Z.E Voice, at speeds up to 18 MPH a sound is played through a speaker under the bonnet.

You can select from three different sounds: Pure, Glam and Sport. We couldn’t find where you change these in the menu but the standard Pure noise sounds a bit like a Sci-Fi hovering car. We liked it!

You can also turn the sound off – in case you want to be stealthy.

Renault ZOE Review - Dashboard - carwitter

So the exterior is amazing, what about the inside?

It gets better, open the door and you are met with a light beige/grey and white interior.

The seats are covered in a light grey material, which is Teflon coated so you don’t have to worry about stains.

Z.E logos are found throughout the vehicle, and even the roof lining is imprinted with the Z.E circuit board design.

The whole interior feels like you are sitting in a concept car on stage at Geneva, it’s very futuristic and modern looking.

Renault ZOE Review - Front Seats - carwitter

Renault ZOE Review - Rear Seats - carwitter

You sort of sit on the seats rather than in them, a bit more support and hugging would have been nice.

Dash controls are minimalist and well laid out. Renaults R-Link touch screen system is very nice to use, menus are clear and not fiddly at all.

Being an electric vehicle you don’t have conventional dials. Instead you have a TFT screen that shows you your current range, and whether the vehicle is using power or regenerating it.

This display layout can be changed through a button on the dash.

Renault ZOE Review - Boot - carwitter

Boot space is great at 388 litres, this is due to the batteries being stored in the floor of the car.

We really like the ZOE, its practical, drives well, and looks stunning. If you have ever driven a Nissan Leaf, then it’s pretty much a scaled down version in every way.

Renault ZOE Review - Charging Port - carwitter

The only slight catch is the battery rental.

Rental starts from £70 a month for the life of the vehicle, Renault will then cover any issues/problems to do with the battery, i.e. when the battery falls below 75% of its useable capacity they will swap it out and give you a new one.

Renault say battery leasing isn’t a money making scheme, and that they trust the battery technology completely.

If that’s the case why can’t you buy the batteries outright?

And if you think £70 a month over 4 years is £3,360, so the cost of your car is forever increasing.

Buy a diesel Fiesta for around the same money as the ZOE and that’s it, no £840 a year additional cost.

If you wish to drive your ZOE more than 7,500 miles a year then battery rental goes up. 9,000 miles is £77, 9,500 is £85 and 12,000 is £93.

Oh, and Renault can disable the car remotely if you don’t pay them!

After all that would we buy one?

As a second car, and to use around town driving 20/30 miles a day, then yes. The gearless, automatic design is built for start/stop city driving, it’s just effortless.

But we aren’t sold on the idea of pure electric cars as long journey vehicles, worrying about range, and where you can charge is just ridiculous!

Renault ZOE Review - Side Angle Scenic - carwitter

Carwitter Summary:

Renault ZOE – Hot hatch acceleration, futuristic interior, concept car looks, great city car.

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Owner / Editor of Carwitter – French car fiend, hot hatch lover. Follow @car_witter

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  • lenny

    the review was good but i find the comments about the battery lease a little odd. the author seems to compare the zoe to a conventional car that costs nothing to run! the truth is my 2002 Clio will be disabled if i don’t pay up for fuel. it would be better to make a comparison with fuel costs of a conventional car, my Clio gets a combined mpg of 41.5 meaning that if i drove it for 7500 miles with petrol at £1.258/litre it would cost me £1038. the 7500 mile battery lease costs £840 for a year, each charge would cost about £3. with an average range of 90 miles that would cost £250/ year bringing the cost of the battery plus charging to £1090/ year. if petrol was at its peak of 1.46/L (adjusted for inflation)it would cost £1199.48 per 7500 miles to drive my Clio, petrol prices are falling short term but you can bet they will rise again. i cant help feel this is a good example of how its important to compare electric cars like for like with normal cars not an idealised version of them. its like the smug guy down the pub who taunts “what happens when the battery runs out eh?!” the answer being “exactly the same as if you run out of fuel, you’ll need to call out a rescue!”

    • Thanks for the comment and you make a valid point!
      What i was trying to get across is the fact that if you purchased the battery in with the price of the car then you would simply be paying £3 per charge, which would make the ZOE very cheap to run.
      In turn this would get people buying electric cars. Instead electric cars have been priced with ridiculous battery leasing costs which (as you said) puts the price over a year just £109 cheaper to run than a conventional petrol car, but you are left with a vehicle that has a limited range of about 60 miles. Your petrol car will do nearly 300 before you have to worry about stopping.
      There needs to be a benefit to having an electric car. If they were cheap to run you wouldn’t care about the limited range. But to save just £109 a year you would be crazy to ditch your ICE engined car.

      • lenny

        in principle i agree with you however the choice of EV’s is still very limited and as it stands the Zoe seems to be the best choice, even with the battery lease. the others are a lot more expensive to buy outright. the Zoe has the best range of any sensibly priced EV at the moment. one advantage of the lease is cover against defect and wear out, I’m not entirely certain but i think it may come with a recovery service which covers flat batteries howsoever caused.