2020 Renault Zoe review: price, specs and release date
With a new design, more powerful motor and some all-important extra range, can the refreshed Renault Zoe climb back up the electric car ranks?...
Priced from £22,170 | On sale Now
When trying to decide what to call your pets (or children), you suddenly realise how many people you don't like, ruling their name out immediately. Maybe there was a Sophie who used to pick on you at school, or an ex-girlfriend called Lydia who broke your heart. Well, if you're still stuck, the name 'Zoe' has claimed the love and respect of the electric car world. Those feelings should only get stronger, too, as the Renault Zoe gets an exciting upgrade for 2020.
It will come as no surprise that the main focus for this upgrade is increased battery capacity, with up to 245 miles of range, according to official figures. That’s around a third more than the best the previous model could manage. There’s a choice of two electric motors, too: the Zoe’s existing 109bhp unit, badged the R110, plus a brand-new R135 with 134bhp.
This new update does bring the option of a rapid DC charging upgrade, although it’s a £750 option, which seems like an odd decision by Renault. This means you can charge from 0-80% in just over an hour, using a 50kW DC rapid charger. A regular roadside charger with 22kW will give you 100% in three hours, while an at-home wallbox can do it in about nine and a half hours.
The interior has also received an overhaul, with a range of new materials and a heavily upgraded infotainment system bringing it much more in line with plush rivals such as the Volkswagen e-Golf and even the BMW i3.
2020 Renault Zoe driving
Before you get too excited about the enhanced battery, Renault is diplomatic enough to reveal its ‘real-life conditions’ range for the Zoe – and it’s something worth bearing in mind. While 233 miles in ‘summer’ conditions sounds promising, that drops to just 149 in ‘winter’ periods. Lucky all those fossil fuels have warmed the Earth enough to maintain those summery conditions for longer, then.
Without gears to shift and revs to build, electric cars are well known for being able to give immediate power when you put your foot down. If you tried the old Zoe with that in mind, though, you might have been disappointed. This is not the case with the new 134bhp motor; the Zoe becomes pleasingly brisk, especially from a standstill. Press the accelerator and power arrives instantly, whisking you strongly up to 30mph, so scooting through town is effortless. It's no surprise, then, that the R135 is nearly two seconds quicker from 0-62mph than the entry-level version. But it's not just low-speed acceleration you'll notice; the R135 feels far happier on the motorway, too.
Another notable feature of EVs is regenerative braking – a system that takes energy normally lost when braking and uses it to recharge the battery. In normal driving, this is barely noticeable, but you can also select a ‘B’ (for 'braking') mode to strengthen the braking force when you lift off the accelerator. It means you can travel for long parts of your journey using just one pedal, which, although it takes a little getting used to, makes for a relaxing and easy drive.
The ride is a slight letdown, though. It picks up coarser surfaces and road imperfections, sending a small shudder through the interior. Larger obstacles such as potholes or expansion joints are absorbed better, and it settles down on a motorway cruise.
Another joy of ditching engines for electricity is the hushed noise from under the bonnet. The Zoe is impressively peaceful; indeed, the only hint of any moving parts at all is a whine from the motor when accelerating particularly briskly and slowing down again. Annoyingly, this does then mean tyre rumble is particularly noticeable over scruffier surfaces, so the tranquillity doesn’t last too long once you’re out on the open road.
The new Zoe also keeps the love/hate artificial noise it emits when moving and braking at slow speeds. This can be turned off with the push of a button, though, if you want to stay under the radar.
2020 Renault Zoe interior
The interior is an area that let the previous Zoe down, with lots of hard, scratchy plastic and a small infotainment screen. The updated Zoe has had a complete overhaul, though, and the results are impressive. One feature you’ll find on higher trims is a selection of recycled fabrics adorning the dashboard and door panels. It’s a classy touch that really raises perceived quality towards that of more premium rivals.
Another big upgrade for the Zoe is a completely redesigned infotainment system. Entry-level Play trim gets a 7.0in touchscreen in the middle of the dash. The middle-spec Iconic adds sat-nav, while upgrading to the top-tier GT Line upgrades the screen to a 9.3in portrait unit, with a row of shortcut icons at the bottom making your selections simpler. Its graphics are a little outdated, but at least the icons are large and easy to select on the go, plus there's a mobile app that lets you check on charge status and even set the climate control remotely.
All trims also get a crisp 10.0in digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel, and it can be customised to display driving data, battery information or sat-nav instructions. There’s also the option to view a cute graphic of a leaf that grows and shrinks depending on how efficiently you’re driving.
Despite the battery having a larger capacity, its physical dimensions have gone unchanged, which means boot space is unaffected. That’s no bad thing, because in our previous tests we’ve managed to fit six carry-on suitcases back there.
Rear seat space is more of a concern; although you get seating for five, those in the back might not be too happy. Even sitting behind a shorter driver, tall rear passengers will have their knees brushing against the front seats, while head room is tight, too.