The Renault Zoe supermini is the friendly face of the future. A 100 per cent electric vehicle, unlike a hybrid, there’s no petrol/diesel engine to kick in.
From the outside, this five-door hatchback looks very much like a normal car – except that there’s no fuel cap. The charge point is neatly hidden away behind the oversized Renault badge at the front of the car.
Although the battery sits underneath the cabin, headroom is not compromised in either the front or the back and the boot is also a decent size. The rear seat folds, but doesn’t lie flat.
The long charging connector also lives in the boot in a handy ZE bag to keep things tidy.
Unless they’re very tall, rear seat passengers shouldn’t need to complain about legroom. However, my passengers told me that the rear bench seat isn’t the most comfortable – but it’s very handy for fitting a child seat.
The story up front is better, with an elevated, comfortable driving position.
‘Friendly futuristic’ was the term that came to mind when I saw the Zoe’s high tech interior encased in chunky white plastic.
Infotainment is provided via a nice big touchscreen in the centre console.
Our test car was fitted with a decent Sat Nav system, as well as a nicely graphiced radio, Bluetooth phone and music streaming. I was impressed with the sound system in this car.
Soundproofing in the cabin was also very good.
As you’d expect in an EV, the instrument panel in this car is all digital. It offers a battery level display with available range and a digital speed readout.
You can also easily see if the battery is using power to propel the car forward or if the regenerative braking system is charging the battery when you take your foot off the accelerator.
Storage in the Zoe in general isn’t great. The glove compartment is very small and cup holders in the centre console are shallow. They’re also badly placed to the side of the handbrake so they get in your way.
The door bins do hold bottles upright though and I also liked the coin tray and parking ticket holder in the centre console and the non-slip surfaced ledge over the glove compartment.
The transmission in this car is a simple automatic with manual handbrake.
Although it’s essentially a city car, we took the Zoe on a more challenging road trip and while the 130km range made what should be a medium trip into a long and tedious journey, it performed much better on its home turf in the city.
It’s a comfortable drive in urban traffic. The electric battery meant it was very peppy and fast at the lights. It was also easy to manoeuver and to park. Cruise control is standard.
The 130km range makes it perfect for low mileage urban drivers.
I don’t have a home charge box so had to rely on public charge points but the number of those scattered throughout the city meant it wasn’t an issue.
I got a full charge on the AC fast charger in 55 minutes – handy if you can work it into your normal day, not so handy if you’ve to make a special effort to do it.
Currently charging at public charge points is free and overnight charging at home should cost around €2 for a full charge.
However, there is a minimum €50 monthly battery rental charge associated with the Zoe, which might reduce the savings for many drivers. The Zoe is also more expensive to buy, even taking into account the Government grant, that its traditional supermini counterparts.
Build-wise, I found the front pillars a bit chunky, which impeded my vision somewhat.
And early on in my week, I noticed a funny glare on the windscreen – with the dash being reflected on to it. Either I got used to it, or it rectified itself because I didn’t notice it later.
Overall, I liked the Zoe. While it’s not practical for long journeys, it’s great in the city and the whooshing noise it makes as it glides past makes it a real headturner.
The Renault Zoe is available now with prices starting from €17,490, including Government grant. The Dynamique Zen model we were driving starts from €19,290.
Powertrain: Electric, 65kW/88bhp
Range: Renault says 150km in warm weather and 100km in cold weather, only once did we get a charge close to 150km, all the others were around the 130km mark
Charge time: Between 30minutes (for an 80 per cent charge), and 9 hours, depending on the type of charger used
Acceleration: 0-100kph in 13.5seconds
Maximum Speed: 135kph
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Annual road tax: €120
First Look – Renault Zoe ZE