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Renault Zoe Review – Hands On

A great electric supermini, but you'll need somewhere to charge it



The Zoe transfers the rotational speed of the motor straight to the wheels, so there’s no clutch. You simply put the Zoe into Drive and go. The first thing you notice as you set off is how quiet it is. At first you notice a whine from the motor that increases and decreases in pitch as you accelerate and decelerate. It’s reminiscent of the alternator hum of a dodgy 80s car radio, but it isn’t loud, and is only noticeable because the Zoe is so quiet. Road and wind noise increases as you accelerate to higher speeds, but never top obtrusive levels.

Renault Zoe One

We first drove the Zoe in the energy efficient “Eco” mode. The acceleration wasn’t rapid, but it was quick and we soon found ourselves travelling at 30mph. As there’s only one gear, the acceleration is smooth and linear. The Zoe had no problem cruising at 60mph and ascending inclines. It’s a pleasure to drive in Eco mode, but we wouldn’t have the confidence to overtake and were especially cautious when pulling out of junctions.

The Zoe performs best with Eco mode off. Acceleration is even quicker, and the Zoe feels much more lively and responsive. You’ll reduce your range by disengaging Eco mode, but it’s worth doing if you want to have a little fun on twisting roads.

The Zoe handles pretty well for a supermini, although it does feel slightly front heavy going into corners in comparison to other superminis, such as the Alfa Romeo Mito and Toyota Yaris. Not dangerously so, just enough to notice. The brakes are powerful and quickly bring you to a halt.

Renault Zoe Two

Renault claims the Zoe will reach 30mph in 4.4 seconds and 60mph in 13.5 seconds, with a top speed of 84mph, and those figures feel right. It was quick to reach 40-45mph and then the acceleration slowed down.

We thoroughly enjoyed driving the Zoe. Other cars may be more exciting, and have better handling and gadgets, but the Zoe has a tranquillity that fossil-fuelled cars don’t.


The Zoe has a number of clever features that help it to be as energy efficient and homely as possible.

The Zoe comes with a “chameleon” charger that lets you charge the Zoe at different power levels, from 3kW to 43kW. This gives you flexibility over where you charge your car.

R-Link Two

The installed R-Link tablet that shows you where the nearest charging points are located, and can tell you the car’s energy consumption in real time as well as the energy flow between items such as the motor and air conditioning system. It also has an “econometer” that shows you when the car is using energy or recovering it, such as when braking.

If you have an iOS or Android smartphone, you can download an app that lets you program the temperature of the Zoe so that it’s perfect for you when you get in it. You can also set a timer that will perform this operation at a specific time. Assuming the Zoe’s plugged in and charging at the time, this pre-heating won’t impair the Zoe’s range.

Speaking of heating, the Zoe’s the first car to use a heat pump to control the Zoe’s temperature. Air is drawn in from outside, compressed, heated and then used to heat the car. Its air conditioning system works just like a normal electric system.


The Zoe is available in three different trims: Expression, Dynamique Zen and Dynamique Intens. The basic Expression model is priced at £13,995 on the road. It should retail at £17,983, but its price is reduced thanks to a government plug-in car grant. The Dynamique Intens model starts at £15,195 on the road including the plug-in car grant, but the version we tested costs £15,790 on the road including options.

Renault Zoe Charging

On top of that you must pay £70 per month for battery hire based on an average mileage of 7,500 miles per year. It is however, covered by a lifetime warranty, and Renault will replace batteries that fall below 75 per cent of their original capacity. Renault also includes comprehensive breakdown cover, even where the battery has run flat. The rest of the car is covered by Renault’s four-year/100,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty.


The Renault Zoe is an electric car that you can easily live with. It’s quiet, it has all the modern conveniences you need in a supermini, it’s easy to drive and it has good range for most day-to-day driving tasks.

Although Renault makes much of its exemption from the congestion charge, we think the Renault Zoe would suit those living outside the M25 circle in a house with a garage rather than a Londoner living in a block of flats. The Zoe’s performance is plenty good enough for common driving tasks such as shopping, picking up the kids from school and nipping into town for a meal. We’ve been impressed by electric cars before, but the Zoe is the first electric car we’d enjoy owning.

Renault Zoe Side Shot

If you’re looking for a general-purpose car for short trips around town and you have the facility to charge it easily, then you should give serious consideration to the Zoe. It isn’t just a good electric car, it’s a good supermini in its own right.

More information can be found on the Renault website.

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