The all-electric Renault ZOE has a fresh look and new motor, but just how good is it?Verdict4The Renault ZOE has improved since it was launched back in 2012 but this ‘third-generation’ model represents the car’s biggest step-change. It dramatically trumps rivals for usable range, interior quality and outright value for money. Compared with the equivalent petrol-powered Clio, it looks expensive, but depending on how you buy, lease or finance your ZOE, this could end up being the cheapest car you’ll ever own.
Only a week ago we were driving the all-new Porsche Taycan – one of the fastest and most expensive electric cars on the market. And now we’re in the hot seat of something that’s arguably every bit as innovative, but much more affordable: the new Renault ZOE.
Since launching in 2012, the ZOE has been given periodic updates to improve its practicality, with faster charging and ever more range. This new version – depending on spec and wheel size – claims between 238 and 245 miles (WLTP) on a charge.
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The revised ZOE gets a fresh look, as well as a new battery and a new motor. Styling changes are evolutionary, with a tweaked nose, more chrome, and full-LED lights front and rear, plus new wheels and colours.
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Every model uses a new 52kWh battery, but there’s a choice of motors. You can still buy a ZOE with the 107bhp R110 unit, but it’s the new R135 model we’re driving here.
With 134bhp, it’ll do 0-62mph in a respectable 9.5 seconds, but in reality it feels even quicker, thanks to that instant hit of torque; Renault claims this new ZOE is more than two seconds faster from 50-75mph, which helps when overtaking. Eco mode improves the car’s range, but numbs acceleration so much that we can’t see owners making much use of it.
It’s inside where the ZOE demonstrates its most sizeable gains, with improved quality. There’s cool-looking fabric on the doors, dash and centre stack, and everything you regularly come into contact with is soft.
A sharp 9.3-inch touchscreen is part of the £800 Technology Pack on mid-spec cars, but standard on top-end versions. It’s a huge improvement – both in functionality and responsiveness – over the old unit.
There are three trims available at launch, and as before, a choice of purchase plans. You can lower the car’s overall cost by leasing the batteries for a monthly fee (expected to start from around £49/month), or you can buy the ZOE outright – batteries included – as per the price in our spec box.
Prices for the entry-level ZOE Play start from £18,670 plus that battery lease, or £25,670 if you buy the car with the cells. That model is only available with the older 107bhp R110 motor, but all cars get the aforementioned LED lights, air-conditioning and a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus cruise control, and auto lights and wipers. Every car also comes with a 7kWh home wallbox, assuming you have somewhere to put it.
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Iconic (£1,500 more than Play) is the mid-spec model, and this is likely to be the UK’s big seller. Available with the choice of R110 or R135 motors, the Iconic gets climate control, wireless phone charging, rear parking sensors and 16-inch alloys.
GT Line is at the top of the range, adding the larger 9.3-inch screen, a parking camera, and different upholstery. GT Line is only available with the more powerful motor.
Every model is now also fitted with a ‘B mode’, which intensifies the regenerative braking, slowing the car significantly when you lift off the throttle. With enough anticipation you can pootle around town, only occasionally dabbing the brakes.
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With more than 130bhp, the ZOE doesn’t sit far away from ‘warm’ hatchbacks like the Suzuki Swift Sport. However, while it can almost match that car for power and pace, it isn’t as engaging through the corners.
It admittedly no longer feels like an eco-special designed to extract every last kilometre from its available range, but while the ZOE demonstrates acceptable body control and decent grip, its steering is light and lacks any kind of feel.
Renault claims to have fitted the new car with more soundproofing, and on the move this is an impressively refined supermini. It rides well, with only a murmur of road and wind noise; intrusions heighten at motorway speeds, but no more so than in an equivalent petrol-powered Clio or Captur.
Charging the ZOE is simple, and relatively quick. Renault says the 52kWh battery will top up to full in a little over nine hours using a 7kW home wallbox, or three hours via a 22kW charge point. For £750, Iconic and GT Line buyers can specify 50kW DC (CCS) rapid charging, allowing for a 0-80 per cent charge in one hour and 10 minutes.
- Model: Renault ZOE R135 Iconic
- Price: £27,620
- Engine: Single electric motor
- Power/torque: 134bhp/245Nm
- Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
- Top speed: 87mph
- Range: 239 miles (52kWh battery)
- CO2: 0g/km
- On sale: Now
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