Renault Zoe long-term test: report 1

Can you switch from a small petrol car to an electric one without changing your lifestyle? We've added our best value small electric car – the Renault Zoe – to our long-term fleet to find out...

Renault Zoe long-term test static

The car Renault Zoe R135 ZE 50 Rapid Charge GT Line Run by Louis Shaw, social media manager

Why it’s here To prove that small electric cars can be more than just city runarounds and in the case of the Zoe, a genuinely viable alternative to a small car.

Needs to Be Practical, comfortable and efficient, with decent range between charges.

Mileage 160 List price £34,455 (before gov't grant) Target Price £30,187 (before gov’t grant) Price as tested £35,155 Official range 245 miles Test range 192 miles Options fitted Rapid charge function (£1000) Celadon Blue metallic paint (£660)

16 February 2020 – All charged up

I have a dream, and while it’s not quite as selfless as Martin Luther King’s, it might be similarly ambitious: no road tax, no Congestion Charge and no compromises.

Yes, I’ve gone electric, and while that means the first two elements are ticked right off the bat, it’s the third that’s the real challenge, especially since my budget doesn’t stretch to something big and luxurious.

Renault Zoe long-term static birds eye

I have, though, gone for a Renault Zoe, because it has one of the best official ranges of any small electric car. Specifically, I’ve got the more powerful R135 variant in the hope that it will feel as at home on motorways as it does in town, and the Rapid Charger function, so I don’t have to sit around stationary for any longer than needed.

Our recommended trim is usually Iconic, but I decided to spend a little more to get a GT Line Zoe, because this brings a selection of items that I feel are important if, like me, you live in the city.

Electric folding door mirrors, for example, are only available on GT Line, while Ionic cars only get front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera if you specify the £800 Technology Pack (which also provides a larger 9.3in screen, up from the standard 7.0in).

Renault Zoe long-term interior

The only option I felt the need to spurge on was Celadon Blue metallic paint. I’ve told myself it’s a responsible consideration for resale, but it also happens to make the car more visible, which can only be a good thing when you’re travelling around a busy city with very little noise.

My first couple of weeks with the Zoe have provided plenty of excitement. It started with a sizeable real-world test and my chance to jump head first into the icy pool that is driving with range anxiety. The car was delivered to my door with just over 140 miles of juice and I had a 125-mile return journey to Bicester to do for work.

Ultimately, I wasn’t prepared to push my luck and decided to top up for a couple of hours before heading off using my new favourite thing – street lamp chargers (more on those in the coming months). With just over 175 miles of range in the batteries I was able to complete the journey with plenty to spare.

Renault Zoe long-termer street lamp charging

Up until now, my experience with electric cars has been limited to my mum’s BMW i3, which I’ve found guzzles the battery range under consistent motorway acceleration. Here, however, with the heater on, the radio in full swing and 70mph on the speedo, I wasn’t panicking. I began to realise that when you have a sizeable real-word range you can afford to lose some without feeling the squeeze.

But, sadly I can’t leave this first report there, because the Zoe and I have also had our first disagreement. Specifically, while out taking some of the photos you can see in this report, the car refused to release the charging cable, leaving me stranded for more than an hour. Renault engineers say they’ve never seen this issue before and they were unable to replicate it, so it’s hopefully a one off.

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