Renault Zoe long-term test: report 7

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 and dog long-term

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 a small electric car can be more than just a city runaround and, in the case of the Zoe, a genuinely viable alternative to a conventional small car.

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

Mileage 1146 List price £34,595 (before gov't grant) Target Price £34,595 (before gov't grant) Price as tested £34,655 (before gov't grant) Official range 245 miles Test range 234 miles

22 June 2021 – The freebies

Do you remember what it was like to say “I’m driving into town” without worrying about anything except the hunt for a free parking space? I do.

In fact, I can remember the glory days before the ULEZ (an Ultra Low Emission Zone fee charged to the most polluting vehicles) and the increasingly more expensive, all-hours Congestion Charge Zone.

Renault Zoe long-term congestion charge zone

While I appreciate the reasons for introducing the zones, it reminds me how lucky I am to have the Renault Zoe. Running an all-electric car comes with some unique pains (charging up on long journeys being one of them) but for my daily use, and my general, London-based life, the perks are enough to make me feel like a superhero.

Slinking past the Congestion Charge cameras without paying the £15 entry fee is nothing short of exhilarating – I feel like Harry Potter wearing his invisibility cloak to sneak into a club through the back door.

Renault Zoe long-term congestion charge zone

The best part is, once you’re in town, you can park in any number of dedicated charging bays and top up without explicitly paying for parking. There is a charge for the privilege, but the £5 you’re likely to pay for a little extra range will almost certainly be far less than the small fortune it usually costs to park in London.

I suppose that’s my sentiment in a nutshell: for all the elements of electric car ownership that get some bad press, I’m reminded on a daily basis that the number one reason to consider a zero emission daily driver is the freedom it provides me.

Renault Zoe long-term charging in town

It is, however, important to remember that to make the most of these “freebies” (£0 road tax, free residential parking, etc), I would need to keep the Zoe long enough to get my money's worth. You have to ask yourself, is something like Congestion Charge exemption a perk or a novelty in your circumstances?

If you’re travelling into the city centre every day, you’ll be making your money back in the third year of ownership. If it's once a week, you’ll only scratch the surface of the £10,000 premium the Zoe commands over a hybrid Honda Jazz or petrol Volkswagen Polo. As ever, circumstances and context are key, but for me the benefits of driving an electric car are starting to make themselves very clear.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more on our long-term Renault Zoe >>

Read about more long-term test cars >>