Many manufacturers are having to make major changes to their ranges to keep pace with the rise of electrified models, but one firm that was well ahead of the curve was Renault.
Its popular Zoe supermini has been around since 2012, going from being a left-field choice through to appealing to all supermini buyers looking to cut their costs by going electric.
As sales keep growing year-on-year, it’s about time we had an all-new second-generation model, and here it is.
Of interest to most buyers will be the 245-mile electric range, achieved by a larger battery. Inside it benefits from the interior of the superb new Clio, which has been drastically overhauled with a new portrait touchscreen and improved quality. The exterior is very much evolutionary – as tends to be the case with most new Renault's.
Renault continues to offer the Zoe with the option of an 80 or 100kW electric motor, which are badged as the R110 and R135 – the number correlating to the metric horsepower. The smaller motor unlocks the full 245 miles of range from the car’s 52kWh battery, though opting for the more powerful motor only reduces this to 239 miles.
If you’re coming to the Zoe from a petrol- or diesel-powered supermini, you’ll be shocked by the 245Nm of torque, which is available immediately. It shoots off the line without hesitation, and it surges up to speed at some pace. It certainly feels faster than the claimed 9.3 seconds suggest, with the top speed being capped at 87mph.
Ride and handling
Our Sardinian test route wasn’t the best indication of how the Zoe will fare around the cold damp streets of Sheffield (or similar) – though we think it won’t be the most comfortable car in its class, the ride settled down quickly, and hopefully the serenity that comes with electrification won’t be tarnished.
The ultra-responsive electric motor is also a complete delight – it makes driving fun again. While the Zoe isn’t tailored to be a weekend fun car, there’s a surprising amount of enjoyment that can be had, but all kept within sensible law-abiding speeds.See Available Zoe Deals
Interior and equipment
Renault has been hard at work on the cabin giving it a complete overhaul, and it has really paid off. It’s a positive upgrade, with the touchscreen being more intuitive than before, and the cabin quality being vastly improved. The dashboard now features a host of soft-touch fabrics, while the 10-inch digital instrument binnacle is superb and very clear to use.
The cabin is let down by a few cheaper plastics on the door cards, while the ‘gear shifter’ feels a bit sub-par. But these are small negatives that make little difference to the overall package.
The Zoe is offered in three trim levels – Play, Iconic and GT Line.
Standard equipment is excellent, with the Play coming with keyless entry, LED headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen and the aforementioned digital instrument cluster. Upgrading to the Iconic brings climate control, satellite navigation, smart charging, rear parking sensors and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The range-topping GT Line adds a different touchscreen, a reversing camera, blind spot warning and diamond-cut 16-inch alloy wheels.
All but the entry-level Play versions are available with rapid charging capability, which can mean the Zoe can be charged in one hour and 10 minutes. Using a wallbox at home, the Zoe can be topped up in nine hours and 25 minutes – so it’s ideal for overnight charging.
Unlike just about every other electric car on sale, the Zoe still comes with the option to buy the car at a more affordable price so you can lease the battery.
If you’re wanting long-term battery security, or you’re only looking at owning the Zoe for a short period of time, this could be the best option. Prices for a Zoe with a leased battery start from £18,670, which makes it comparative to other similarly equipped superminis.
It’s pricier if you look to own the battery, though a £25,670 starting price makes the Zoe an appealing prospect next to rivals that aren’t able to manage such an impressive range.
The Zoe has clearly been doing something right to be one of Europe’s most popular electric cars, and this second-generation model has overhauled the Zoe in exactly the right places.
The result is a hugely accomplished EV that can rival cars three times as expensive when it comes to its seriously impressive 245-mile range. The appealing driving experience and vastly improved interior are all bonuses to what is a seriously well-rounded electric car.