K E Y P O I N T S
The new Renault Zoe 2018 is a fully electric car with a powerful new R110 motor and a real-world range of around 180-miles.
It’s the smallest of the electric cars but it’s also the cheapest, with the base Dynamique Nav model costing just £18,420. By comparison Nissan’s cheapest Leaf starts at around £21,990.
You get a fantastic amount as standard including a 7-inch touchscreen with TomTom navigation, rear parking sensors, automatic lights, DAB radio, keycard entry system and cruise control.
It feels great to drive in the city thanks to its incredibly light, precise steering and perky acceleration at low speeds.
The Zoe is less suited to motorways thanks to sluggish performance a high-speeds and some stability issues when hitting bumps or dips.
The touchscreen multimedia system is hit and miss. TomTom navigation is great but annoyingly every time you go past a speed camera an audible alert temporarily pauses the music you’re playing. It’s infuriating.
Interior feels a bit cheap however the Zoe has a huge boot that beats even the Clio for storage space.
V E R D I C T
The Renault Zoe might not get as much publicity as the Tesla Model S or the Nissan Leaf but it has quietly been winning the public over to the idea of electric cars since 2013.
This new 2018 model is the culmination of years spent working towards what feels like its single objective: for you to forget that you’re driving an electric car.
This new model comes with Renault’s new R110 electric motor and its 40kW battery. Combined this gives you acceleration of 0-60 in 11.9 seconds and a real-world range of around 180-miles.
Despite those sluggish figures the Zoe felt incredibly nippy around the city, thanks in part to that instant acceleration you get from an electric motor.
Where the Zoe struggled was at higher speeds. It is not by any means an overtaking car and putting your foot down on the motorway provides you with only a small speed increase and a very large drop in range.
Renault claim this little five-door supermini has a range of around 186-miles. Over the week it became clear that by keeping the Zoe at low speeds up to around 50-60mph you can easily get 150-160 miles per charge. Go even a few mph higher though and the range can start to drop dramatically, at one point on the A12 we were losing around 2 miles of range for every real-world mile.
This tale of two halves applies to the handling as well. As we drove through London and then Colchester, the Zoe felt in its element. That zippy electric acceleration combined with its effortlessly light steering made navigating both urban centres a complete doddle. The suspension was also very forgiving, absorbing all but the worst road bumps without too much drama.
Out on the motorway and it’s a different story. Hit a dip or bump at around 65mph and you’ll be acutely aware of it. The car’s light steering also starts to play against it as well, taking away some of that connection to the road’s surface.
The Zoe’s interior is simple, modern and feels like it was made for handling everyday life. There’s acres of plastic so while it doesn’t exactly look premium, it does feel capable of handling trainers up on the dashboard or the occasional spilled drink.
The seats are comfy enough however one thing that almost immediately annoyed me is the fact that you can’t change the height of the driver’s seat. It’s a baffling omission, especially when you then can’t change the angle of the TFT colour display behind the wheel.
This meant that for most of the journey I had to ever so slightly dip my head just to see what my current range was.
The Zoe comes with a 7-inch multimedia system with TomTom navigation as standard. On paper it’s a great package, but in reality the system is very hit and miss.
The positives are that the screen is bright, responsive and relatively easy to use. You also get Android Auto which means if you have a compatible Android smartphone you can use a whole range of apps through the car from Spotify to Google Maps. Sadly there’s no Apple CarPlay support.
The TomTom navigation system is excellent, if a little fiddly to use. It also comes with a number strange quirks the most annoying of which is the speed camera warning system.
Any time you have audio playing (in our case an iPhone through a USB cable) the car will temporarily pause the audio to play a loud alert when you get near a speed camera, it then goes silent for three seconds and finally resumes the music. After just a few speed cameras this becomes quite remarkably annoying.
I did eventually turn it off, however you then have to do it every single time you get into the car. Yes it’s a small issue but it’s one that becomes annoying very quickly.
What we can very much recommend is the optional £350 Bose sound system. Considering how much high-end sound systems cost on most cars this not only feels pretty reasonable, but it sounds absolutely superb. Small warning though, it does take up a little bit of space in the boot for the bass speaker.
Located behind the Renault badge at the front is a Type-2 connector for charging. Our model charges from 0-100% in a little over 7 hours using the installed wall socket at home. That goes down to just 4 hours if you use a 11kW public charger and just 2 hours 40 mins if you use the 22kW rapid chargers found in most service stations.
If you want an even quicker charge time at those service stations you can pay £750 extra for Renault’s Q90 Chameleon charger which supports up to 43kW and a charging time of 1 hour 50 minutes.
Finally, one of the reasons the Zoe is cheaper than its rivals is because you don’t actually own the battery. Instead you’re leasing it from Renault for around £59 per month.
Yes that’s a lot of money but when you factor in weekly fuel costs (just £5 to charge the Zoe) and the fact that Renault will service or replace the battery for free should it fail you’re actually getting a pretty good deal.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
- Car tested: Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav R110 Z.E.40
- Engine: 40kWh battery
- Range: 186-miles
- Top Speed: 89mph
- 0-60mph: 11.9 sec
- Cost: The model I drove costs £19,770
- Features: This model came with metallic paint (£650), Bose premium sound system (£350), 17-inch alloy wheels (£310) and purple interior touch pack (£175) as added options.
T A K E H O M E M E S S A G E
The Renault Zoe isn’t perfect. It struggles on the motorway, features some questionable interior design decisions and has a multimedia system that’s obsessed with speed cameras.
What it gets right though far outweighs these negatives. It’s absolutely fantastic for everyday driving, whether it’s the school run, going shopping or popping into town. The light steering, instant speed and fantastic boot space mean that for 99% of the time you’re driving it you’ll forget that this is an electric car.
Instead this is a brilliant little supermini that’s great for the environment and thanks to its low charging costs, could be just as great for your finances over the long run.