New Mini Electric & Peugeot e-208 vs Renault Zoe
Has our small electric car champion, the Renault Zoe, been superseded by the new Mini Electric or Peugeot e-208? Time to find out...
NEW Mini Electric Level 2
List price £29,900*
Target Price £29,900*
All-electric Mini promises sprightly performance and plenty of fun in corners.
NEW Peugeot e-208 Allure
List price £29,750*
Target Price £29,463*
One of our favourite small cars in petrol guise, but will it impress as much with battery power?
Renault Zoe R135 GT Line
List price £32,120*
Target Price £29,549*
Our reigning Small Electric Car of the Year faces its toughest challenge yet.
*Before £3000 government grant
Could we be seeing the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine? Despite petrol and diesel-engined cars being instrumental in getting the nation on four wheels since the late 19th century, the Government wants to ban the sale of them from 2035.
That might seem like a long way off, but urbanites could have their hand forced sooner. London already has an ultra-low-emission zone and other cities look set to follow suit sooner rather than later. Thankfully, there are already electric alternatives available that don’t just work around town but also promise reasonable ranges and super-fast charging.
One of them is the recently refreshed Renault Zoe. It’s our 2020 Small Electric Car of the Year, thanks in part to its impressive range and relatively practical interior. It’s decent to drive, too, making it a stern test for the new Peugeot e-208. The petrol-powered 208 is a favourite of ours – the best small car if you’ve got more than £18,000 to spend – so we have high hopes for this electric version.
If you prefer a premium badge, there’s also the freshly minted Mini Electric. Officially, it won’t go as far on a full charge as the others, but it promises to be far swifter, with keener handling. That’s why it wears an ‘S’ (for ‘sport’) as well as an ‘E’ (for ‘electric’, obviously) on its rump. So, which is the brightest spark of them all?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The Mini certainly earns that ‘S’ badge by having the most powerful electric motor of our trio. With 181bhp, it’s nearly as powerful as a petrol Mini Cooper S and far more responsive when you floor it. So responsive, in fact, that it’s tricky to get off the line cleanly on a wet road, but in just such conditions, the Mini still managed 0-60mph in a sprightly 7.2sec – albeit with the traction control light flickering all the way to 30mph.
It’s a similar, traction-limited story in the e-208, although it can’t accelerate quite as quickly from either a standing start or on the move. Even so, 0-60mph in 8.5sec is pretty punchy, considering it isn’t billed as a hot hatch. On a dry day with more grip for their tyres, both the Mini and e-208 would no doubt be a fair bit quicker.
That leaves the Zoe bringing up the rear, but its 0-60mph time of 9.2sec is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s still quicker than most conventional small cars. And being a little less urgent means it has less of a problem putting its power down in slippery conditions – worth knowing when you need to dash into a gap in the traffic.
All three have plenty of oomph on motorways, although the Mini’s significantly stronger pull between 50mph and 70mph makes A-road overtaking the breeziest. With no gears or clutch to worry about, they all offer seamless acceleration from the get-go.
There’s also no engine noise, although that does mean there’s less to drown out any wind and road noise at speed. The e-208 is the best at suppressing these, so it’s the quietest. In the Zoe, there’s an annoying wind whistle from the rear and a little bit of suspension noise, but it’s more bearable than the Mini, which suffers from loud road roar and constant wind noise.
When it comes to ride and handling, all three are rather different. The e-208 gets the gold medal for comfort. It feels the most settled over smaller surface imperfections and takes the sting out of the majority of sharper intrusions. Only when the road gets really undulating does it begin to get floaty as it struggles to contain its weight.
In those conditions, the Zoe controls its mass better, but it fidgets more over rough surfaces and doesn’t smother bumps quite as effectively. Still, it’s a lot more comfortable than the hard-riding Mini, which is the firmest of the three and jiggles around on even smooth-looking surfaces. On the plus side, it’s well damped, so you don’t feel its body bobble around after each impact.
The Mini’s sporty setup makes it feel the most agile in corners, too, but only up to a point. Its quick, precise steering gets the nose hunting keenly for the apex and it’s the flattest and most enthusiastic through a string of S-bends.
Unfortunately,, the steering doesn’t give you any warning that the front tyres are about to lose grip – something that happens more readily than in the other two cars. Lifting off the accelerator pulls the nose back into line, but this can make the stability control system intervene to stop the rear tyres from sliding. So, it can be fun, but it’s also the most skittish.
The Zoe is the opposite. Yes, there’s lots of body lean, but with more grip and a better balance front to rear, it’s more predictable. It isn’t exactly exciting to drive, but it gives you lots of confidence.
The e-208 isn’t sporty to drive, either. Like the Zoe, it’s softly sprung and leans over through bends, yet with sweeter steering, which offers a better connection to the road than the Zoe’s, and more grip than the Mini, it’s agile enough and has the best all-round handling of the bunch.
In the wet, the e-208 also posted the best braking distance (from 70mph), stopping a couple of metres before the Zoe. The Mini – again, pointing to a relative lack of grip – came to a halt more than seven metres farther on than the e-208. That’s quite disappointing.
But what about their ranges? It was too cold at the time of testing for us to be able to conduct our Real Range test on the Mini and e-208, but on a regular test route, we couldn’t get anywhere near the Mini’s official range of 145 miles. At motorway speeds especially, you’ll be doing well to manage 100 miles on a single charge.
The e-208 is better, with its official 217-mile capability meaning far less range anxiety, and it’ll cover at least 140 miles in real-world driving. However, with an official range of 238 miles and a 192-mile result in our Real Range test, the Zoe is the one to pick if maximum distance between top-ups is your priority.
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