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First drive: Renault Zoe Z.E. 40. Image by Renault.

First drive: Renault Zoe Z.E. 40
More range makes the Renault Zoe a more compelling electric car purchase than ever before.

 



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Renault Zoe Z.E. 40

4 4 4 4 4

A significantly extended electric range is the headline news for Renault's updated Zoe supermini, though it also marks the introduction of the option to buy the car outright instead of leasing the battery pack. The changes mean a car that has appeal to a much wider variety of drivers.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Renault Zoe R90 Z.E. 40 Signature Nav
Price: starts at 13,995 (22kW version after PiCG) plus monthly battery lease, 19,895 (after PiCG) as tested, plus monthly battery lease
Engine: synchronous electric motor with rotor coil
Transmission: single-speed reduction gear, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat hatchback
CO2 emissions: 0g/km (Band A, 0 per year)
Driving range: 250 miles (NEDC), 186 miles (real world summer), 124 miles (real world winter)
Top speed: 84mph
0-62mph: 13.5 seconds
Power: 92hp at 3,000- to 11,300rpm
Torque: 220Nm at 250- to 2,500rpm

What's this?

The supermini-sized electric Renault Zoe has had a battery make-over to see its driving range increase significantly, making it more appealing to a wider variety of people. Aesthetically, there aren't any obvious changes to the car, which will keep existing owners happy. For the Renault aficionados out there, it's worth pointing out that the brand's emblem on the front grille is now chrome, rather than blue as before.

If you opt for the entry-level Expression Nav, you don't get the longer range battery, as Renault has decided to keep producing the 22kW battery for the entry level model. This will still give a driving range of around 106 miles in real world driving during summer months. The mid-level Dynamique Nav trim adds the new battery and features a reasonable level of standard equipment including keyless ignition, parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and smart looking 16-inch alloy wheels.

A new Signature Nav specification grade has been added to the Zoe range, bringing it into line with the rest of the Renault range. This model is pitched at those looking for a more upmarket look, which is why Renault offers an exclusive colour, Ytrium Grey, and a BOSE audio system. Inside, there is a plusher interior with leather upholstery and a distinctive bronze colour scheme.

One further feature of the new longer-range Zoe is the option of a Quick Charger system that enables the battery to be charged to 80 per cent in little over and hour when using a 43kW public charger - compared with around 1 hour 40 minutes with the standard battery. The only slight downside to this is that, despite it recharging more quickly, the total driving range is around 20 miles less and it takes longer to fully charge using the usual 7kW home charger. Incidentally, Renault does include a complimentary home charging wall box and installation with every retail sale of the Zoe.

How does it drive?

All of the gains achieved with the new battery technology contribute only to the driving range. The power output of the electric motor remains the same as in the 22kWh model, which equates to 92hp. Torque also remains unchanged at 220Nm. Considering the Zoe's weight, it feels nimble in urban environs, with initial acceleration up to 30mph coming in at just 4.1 seconds thanks to the instant torque delivery of an electric motor. Continuing up to 62mph takes a more lengthy 13.2 seconds, though it feels faster in reality.

Ambling around town the Zoe is lovely to drive. Its light steering and compliant suspension make for a relaxing driving experience. Below 15mph it emits a low-level digitised hum as a way of alerting pedestrians to its presence, though this is not a legal requirement.

Away from town and on more open roads the Zoe keeps up its pace with real ease. It feels comfortable keeping up with motorway traffic though its top speed is just 84mph. Should you switch to the Eco mode, throttle response is dulled and the car's rate of regenerative braking increases. With a bit of practice, you soon find yourself barely every using the brakes, instead just lifting off the throttle to slow the car down. That Eco mode will also extend the potential driving range of the Zoe to what Renault claims is a real world 186 miles, though this falls back to 124 miles in winter as the heating system puts more of a drain on the battery.

If you're less concerned about eking out every last mile from the battery and prefer to have a bit more fun with your driving, then the Zoe doesn't disappoint, though don't expect hot hatch levels of performance, as this is a good deal heavier than most other cars of a similar size thanks to its larger battery pack. But as that battery is housed low down in the floor of the car, it therefore lowers its centre of gravity. While the steering remains light, it isn't as vague as in some electric cars.

Verdict

The extended driving range now offered by the larger capacity battery does give the Renault Zoe a new lease of life and puts the car onto more people's radar, many of whom possibly hadn't previously considered an electric car. Bolstering its appeal is the option for buyers to either take up the monthly battery lease deal or purchase the vehicle outright. While the latter is more expensive, it does then mean that subsequent costs are limited to charging the car.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

3 3 3 3 3 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 16 Dec 2016









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