Handbook: Renault Zoe

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.25.24Leon Poultney gets behind the wheel of an important car which Renault hopes will help it hit the big time.

What is it?

The fourth and arguably most important car in Renault’s burgeoning ZE (Zero Emissions) range that includes the van-like Kangoo, the four-door saloon Fluence and the tech-lover’s plaything Twizy. Zoe fills the gap for an all-electric, zero emissions hatchback that looks and drives like an everyday car.

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.24.28What’s under the bonnet?

It’s not really about what’s under the bonnet – which is a lively 65kW electric motor that produces the equivalent of 86bhp – but what’s under the seats, which is a large stack of state-of-the-art lithium ion batteries. Combine the two and you get a nippy city runaround that can hit 30mph from standstill in around four seconds – perfect for city dwellers zipping about.

What’s the spec like?

There are three trims: Expression, Dynamique Zen and Dynamique Intens. The former includes 15-inch wheels, R-Link touch screen infotainment system, climate and cruise control – it costs £13,995 after the £5k Government grant. Both Zens and Intens cost £15,195 after the grant and there’s a reverse parking camera and a remote access system that allows owners to pre-heat or cool the car’s cabin while it charges, ensuring vital juice isn’t zapped while on the move.

What’s it like to drive?

EVs tend to roll through corners and crash over potholes but Renault’s engineers have done a stellar job in making the Zoe behave like its rival superminis. Minor niggles? The steering is slightly vague and the driver’s seat is a bit high.

What do the press think of it?

Honest John said: ‘The Renault Zoe is sensible, practical, enjoyable and any worries are taken away. That’s why I rate it as the first electric car I’d actually hang my hat on.’

What do we think of it?

Electric vehicles remain a difficult concept to fathom, however Renault assures us its salespeople will never force the Zoe onto customers. But if the many criteria are matched (their commute is within range, they cover more than 9,000 miles a year, their home can facilitate a wall-mounted charging point etc.) then the Zoe is a viable and cost-effective option, especially as Renault will throw in the wall-mounted charging point free of charge.

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