New Renault Zoe vs used BMW i3: which is best?

People are switching on to electric cars, but is a brand new Renault Zoe a better buy than a used BMW i3? Read on for our verdict...

New Renault Zoe vs used BMW i3: which is best?

Silence is golden, or at least that’s what The Tremeloes and now electric car advocates tell us. And while that song is no longer a chart-topper, interest in and sales of quiet, zero-emissions cars are rapidly gaining momentum. 

One of the most popular electric cars is the Renault Zoe, because it was pretty much the first to make electric motoring affordable to the masses. Today, you can get a ZE40 R110 i Dynamique Nav model for £25,546 (before the Government's £3500 grant) if you use the What Car? New Car Deals service.

That's a fair deal less than it would cost you to get a lightly used BMW i3 120Ah. This is the version that was introduced in 2019 with a bigger battery and revised suspension to improve range and ride quality respectively. It’s the premium choice, and that’s reflected in the price: you’ll need to part with around £27,000 to get one. You might think that makes it a clear win for the Zoe, but hang on; we’ll get back to the price difference later.

For now, read on to find out whether or not you should go for a new Zoe or a more expensive used i3. The answer might just surprise you.

Renault Zoe ZE40 R110 i Dynamique Nav List Price £28,520 Target Price £25,546 Power 107bhp 0-62mph 11.4sec Top speed 84mph Official range 186 miles (WLTP) CO2 emissions 0g/km

BMW i3 120Ah Price new £35,350 Price today* £27,000 Power 168bhp 0-62mph 7.3sec Top speed 93mph Official range 189 miles (WLTP) CO2 emissions 0g/km

*Based on a 2019 model with average mileage and a full service history

New Renault Zoe vs used BMW i3 – interior & equipment

The fact that the Zoe was designed for a far lower price point than the i3 makes drawing a balanced comparison between their interiors tricky; of course the BMW has plusher materials, because it was £35,350 when new against the £28,520 of the Renault.

However, both cars forgo conventional instrument dials in favour of digital screens, while the i3 also has the benefit of BMW's excellent iDrive system, which is really easy to use, quick to respond and very sharp. Find one with the Professional Media package and it’ll have a bigger, 10.3in infotainment screen, a rear-view camera and a Bluetooth connection for Apple CarPlay. Android users will have to go for the Zoe, because BMW doesn’t offer Android Auto at all. Renault's touchscreen is smaller (7.0in) and not as responsive, but it still gets all the basics, including sat-nav.

New Renault Zoe vs used BMW i3: which is best?

Both cars have climate control, cruise control, automatic wipers, rear parking sensors and a DAB radio. The i3 has brighter LED headlights and the added luxury of heated seats in the front for cold morning comfort.

New Renault Zoe vs used BMW i3 – space & practicality

Both cars have a high driving position that gives you a good view out, although the small rear screen of the Zoe and thick pillars of the i3 hamper your view out of the back.

Aside from that, those sitting in the front of the i3 have plenty of room and the absence of a centre console helps open out the space. The gear selector is mounted to the steering column, freeing up further room.

New Renault Zoe vs used BMW i3: which is best?

The Zoe has a far more traditional layout but still plenty of space in which to stretch out and a number of places for hiding belongings. Rear passenger room is compromised by the high floor (under which the batteries live), but the same is true of the i3. At least in the Zoe you can access the back through two conventional doors, rather than the awkward arrangement in the i3 that requires you to open the front pair first.

The i3 trails the Zoe for boot space; we were able to fit only four carry on-sized suitcases into its rear, compared with six.

Next: What are they like to drive? >

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