Renault ZOE review

A much-improved interior and bigger battery make the new 2020 Renault ZOE even better value than before

£25,670 - £28,620
Electric

Pros

  • Smart interior with ethical materials
  • Long driving range
  • Loads of equipment

Cons

  • Driving position could be better
  • CCS fast charging is optional
  • No AEB on lower trims
     
Car type Electric range Wallbox charge time Fast charge time
Electric 245 miles 8hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW) 1hr (10-80%, 45kW)

The Renault ZOE was a milestone car when it launched in 2012. It made the electric car more affordable to the masses, especially if you went for one of the battery-leasing options.

And given that you’d have been lucky to see 100 miles out of the ZOE back then, the fact this heavily updated version gets a 52kWh battery and 245-mile official range, plus the option of CCS fast charging, is a huge improvement.

Range isn’t the only area of drastic change. Renault has also given the ZOE a totally new interior finish, complete with tactile textiles and imitation leather that’s made from recycled seatbelts and plastic bottles.

There are two motor outputs to choose from: the R110 gets 107bhp and a 0-62mph time of 11.4 seconds, while the R135 gets a heartier 134bhp and 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds, although both have sprightly 0-30mph sprint times of under four seconds.

You have to go for the R135 if you want CCS charging (in addition to the standard Type 2 charging), which comes at a cost of £750 and enables you to plug into the fast chargers you find in motorway service stations, for a top-up of some 90 miles in 30 minutes.

Go without that optional extra and you can still plug into any Type 2 public charger, but you'll only get a 22kW maximum charge, delivering some 40 miles of range in 30 minutes. Better than all of that, perhaps, is the fact that Renault will give you a free 7.4kW home wallbox, provided you’ve got the off-road parking necessary to install it. This will fully charge the ZOE in under nine hours.
 
It’s a tidy drive, too, the new ZOE. The R135 GT Line car that we sampled felt grippy and secure, with well weighted, if light, steering that gives you confidence and makes light work of awkward car parks – although a turning circle of nearly 11 metres could be better.
 
Ride comfort is fine, if a touch bouncy at times, but mostly you’ll be happy to sit back and enjoy the peppy performance and easygoing nature of the R135. A new ‘B’ mode – accessed by pulling the (also new) gearshifter – ups the rather light regenerative braking and delivers a similar one-pedal-driving potential to the Nissan Leaf’s E-Pedal system.

The biggest improvement (after that jump in driving range) is in interior design and quality. Gone is the cheap-and-cheerful look, and in its place is a tactile combination of chunky textiles, leatherette and gloss-touch finishes, with a significant portion made from recycled seatbelts and plastic bottles.

Other than the annoyance of a driving seat that doesn’t have height adjustment, it’s a totally different feel to the pre-facelift car, particularly if you go for the 9.3-inch colour touchscreen that’s standard on GT Line or optional on mid-range Iconic. It’s a neat system that has all the features you’d want, including charging point search, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, DAB, Bluetooth and – on top-spec cars – wireless charging and two additional USB charging sockets for the rear seats.
 
There’s room enough to make this a great small family car, too. The standard five-door hatchback body offers adequate access to the rear bench, which can take three kids at a push, even if they’ll be clashing elbows.

It’s quite a high-set rear seat, too, and you have to go for mid-range spec or above to get split-folding backs, but for a car that’s likely to do mostly short trips, it’ll cater to the after-school-club run with no hassle at all. A 338-litre boot with neat underfloor cable storage will also easily cope with a multitude of muddy football kits.

And the price? Well, it seems a tad expensive at first glance, but when you consider that the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e are very closely priced, yet neither offers the battery leasing option, nor the lengthy driving range of the ZOE, you realise that the Renault is still just about the most affordable way into a small, pure-electric family car.

Sure, if you really do stick to short hops in town all the time, you should definitely consider the dinkier and more basic alternatives like the Volkswagen e-up!, SEAT Mii Electric and Skoda Citigo iV, since they cost less than £19,000 with batteries included and still have a range of 160 miles.
 
But the real joy of the ZOE is that it has all the comforts – particularly the range and equipment levels – of a big electric car, just in a more affordable and compact package. Even with the influx of shiny new rivals, it deserves to retain its place as one of the most popular electric cars in the UK.
 
For a more detailed look at the Renault ZOE, read on for our in-depth review.