Renault Zoe driven

* Funky, all-electric supermini * Price £12,000 (est) * plus 70/month battery lease...

Renault Zoe driven

Rumours that 2011 will be the year of the electric car are somewhat wide of the mark. For starters, with the exception of the Nissan Leaf, theres not much youd really want to buy.

Next year, however, could well be when electric cars start to catch on. The choice of models will explode and they'll be cars that youll actually want to buy, just like this, the Renault Zoe.

Okay, it is still classed as a concept car, but weve driven it and it wont change very much before it goes on sale in the spring of 2012.

Yours for around 12k but

What makes the Zoe really stand out, apart from its cute styling and jazzy, yet practical interior, is the price. The Zoe can be yours for around £12,000.

There is a catch, though. Well, its not really a catch, but its something you might not have expected. To get past the question marks over the longevity of the battery pack, youll never actually own it youll lease it. So, you own the car, but you pay around 70 a month to lease the battery. The people who set residual values are still scratching their heads over that one, but we think itll work a treat especially because most people will finance the car on a monthly basis anyway.

Behind the wheel

Back to the Zoe. Its not fair to judge the driving experience of the production car on this hand-built prototype, but from previous experience the most remarkable thing about driving an EV is how unremarkable it is theyre peppy, quiet and good fun.

You can charge it from your 13-amp socket at home or through one of the increasingly common public charging points where youll get 30% charge in 10 minutes, 80% in half an hour and a full charge in around eight hours. That full charge will carry you up to 100 miles.

What we can say about the Zoe is that it offers as much practicality as any other modern supermini, with okay space for four and a reasonably sized boot.

The Zoe will keep some of the funky functions of this concept, too, such as the 'spa in the car' a combination of lights, sounds and smells to keep you chilled while on the move. Nice.

The golden age of EVs may not be upon us yet, but with cars such as the Zoe on the horizon, we get the feeling its not that far away.

What Car? says

Fun and affordable, an electric car youll want to own.

Check out our video for our first impressions

Renault Zoe driven