Renault ZOE review

The Renault ZOE looks great, has a long range and is golf-cart-easy to drive, so if you spend most of your time in town, this should be first on your electric-car shortlist

£21,220 - £28,670
£17,720 - £25,170
Electric

Pros

  • Cheap to buy a battery-lease model
  • Long real-world driving range
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • A bit stodgy in corners
  • Expensive for top-spec models
  • Most rivals charge quicker
Car type Official range Wallbox charge time Rapid charge time
Electric 186 miles 7 hrs 25 mins (7kW) 1 hr 38 mins (22kW, 0-80%)

The Renault ZOE is a small car of roughly the size of a Renault Clio, and it aims to remedy two of the chief concerns people have about electric cars – price and range. As of 2018, it'll go as far as 186 miles, while prices start from less than £18,000 after the £3,500 government grant is taken into account.

The catch to all this is that to get down to that price you have to lease the ZOE’s battery, which costs around £60 per month or more depending on what mileage you want to do.

The other option is to buy a ZOE complete with its battery, which causes the price to jump, but you can still get big dealer discounts and cheap finance options that make the ZOE the most affordable pure-electric family hatchback you can buy.

One niggle is that the ZOE, which comes with the cables to charge from any Type 2 socket or three-pin domestic socket, doesn’t charge up very quickly at motorway rapid chargers: the ZOE R110 will take over an hour and a half to get to 80% full as the highest charge rate it will accept is 22kW.

On the road, the R110 ZOE will hit 62mph in 11.5 seconds, which can feel a bit slow on the motorway if you leave it in Eco mode, which restricts the car to 59mph, unless you stamp on the throttle. Taking it out of Eco and the ZOE becomes more than fast enough – although the range will deplete more quickly. Ultimately, the little electric Renault is best when it’s away from main artery roads, humming around town or down country lanes.

Ride comfort is a little bouncy but generally good, and otherwise the ZOE is peachy to drive around town, costs buttons to run, and it charges up as quickly as any other car from the home charger Renault will install for free (provided you have the necessary off-road parking).

It’s also well equipped. There are two trims, and even the entry-level Dynamique Nav gets 16-inch alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen with sat nav, DAB, Bluetooth and Android Auto, automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors and power-folding mirrors. It’s a shame that Apple CarPlay isn’t available.

S Edition trim commands a premium of £850 over Dynamique Nav, adding a BOSE stereo and leather-finished seats (with the driver's seat getting lumber adjustment), plus the option of upgrading to 17-inch 'Black Optemic' alloy wheels. A rear parking camera is included too. Trim levels gain an ‘i’ on the ZOE models that include their batteries in the purchase price, becoming ‘i Dynamique Nav R110’, for instance.

Whatever trim you go for, there’s no driver’s seat height adjustment, so tall drivers should make sure they’re comfortable, as it’s quite a high seating position.

Otherwise, everything in the ZOE is where you’d expect it to be in a conventional car and is easy to use. The dashboard generally looks smart, although a lot of the plastics around the interior err more on being durable rather than classy.

The good-sized 338-litre boot is actually bigger than a Clio’s, and will take a lightweight buggy or a big shop fairly easily. However, there’s a big drop down over the load lip and the rear seat back folds in one clunky piece to leave a step. More importantly, there’s nowhere to hide the cables away.

However, between the easy way it makes progress in town, fair comfort and low costs, the ZOE is one of the best electric cars for drivers who mostly do short-distance journeys.