Renault Zoe long-term test review
The Zoe is one of our favourite electric cars – with its improved range, is range anxiety now a thing of the past?...
- The car Renault Zoe Q90 ZE40 Dynamique Nav
- Run by Rory White, new cars editor
- Why it's here With its improved range and keen pricing, is the latest Renault Zoe an electric car for the masses? We’re running one to find out
- Needs to Prove it can mix with the best fuel-powered cars and be a genuine alternative
List price £18,920 (after government plug-in car grant) Price as tested £19,970 Miles covered 5648 Official range 250 miles Real-world range 160 miles (summer); 130 miles (winter) Options fitted Quick charge function (£750), ID Zircon Blue metallic paint (£625), rear-view camera (£250), Blue Interior Touch Pack (£175)
18 April 2018 – saying goodbye to the Renault Zoe
So then, what’s the answer to our future mobility? Sorry, that’s a tough one, but I bet we all ponder it while driving through petrol and diesel fumes on our commutes.
Sure, it’s very unlikely that we’ll have completely left combustion engines behind in our lifetime – possibly even during that of our children – but it’ll have to end one day. And then what? If you were expecting a groundbreaking solution to all our transport troubles, then I’m afraid this article waving goodbye to our Zoe isn’t it. However, running this car for the past 12 months has confirmed a few of things.
The first of those things is that, even if electric vehicles (EVs) aren’t the ultimate answer, they are nonetheless fantastic. If you still haven’t had the chance to drive one, you should try to, because their combination of instant torque and silent operation make them superb urban transport. Add to that the Zoe’s modest dimensions, good agility and decent visibility, and you have what I believe is the best commuting tool of What Car?’s long-term fleet.
In fact, we’ve loved our Zoe so much that reviews editor Will Nightingale bought one, albeit a nearly new example. Which brings me to another confirmation: the cost. EVs need to be used often and properly if they’re to be a cheaper option than conventional vehicles.
For starters, it makes huge sense to take advantage of the ongoing government grant towards installing a wall charger at home. It’s the cheapest way to charge, because relying solely on the UK’s growing number of public charging points will cost you considerably more and they usually limit the length of time you can charge for. If you have access to another charger at work, then even better.
In Will’s case, he worked out that because his wife travels roughly 12,000 miles a year and they charge their Zoe via a 7kW wall charger at home with an Economy 7 tariff, they would save hundreds of pounds a year in running costs compared with the BMW 318i petrol model that they replaced. That’s even taking into consideration the £99 they pay to lease their Zoe’s battery on an unlimited-mileage plan each month.
But cast your eye over our running costs above and you’ll see that the 5600 miles we’ve covered in our car (based on leasing the battery rather than buying it outright) has resulted in a cost per mile figure of £1.25, which is expensive.
We simply didn’t drive our Zoe far enough to bring down that figure. Bearing in mind that we got an average of 150 miles of range from each full charge, and each charge cost us around £5, on energy cost per mile the Zoe is much cheaper than, say, a Ford Fiesta Ecoboost petrol. However, because most electric cars still suffer from higher-than-average depreciation and, in this case, there are lease costs to consider, the overall ownership cost starts to creep up. Of course, by buying nearly new, Will avoided much of that depreciation, making his Zoe a far cheaper prospect.
So, given Renault’s battery lease costs are fixed and it’s so cheap to ‘fill up’ a Zoe, you need to use it a lot if you’re buying a brand new one. This goes against the idea that EVs make great second cars; you’ll need to be using one as your main vehicle for it to make proper financial sense.
Still, EV ownership can save you money elsewhere. If you’re driving into a congestion charge zone such as London’s, for instance, you can come and go as you please for free in the Zoe; it'll cost you £11.50 each day in a combustion-engined car. Then there are parking incentives such as that offered by Westminster Council, which gives EVs big discounts on parking costs, while many councils also offer discounted or even free permits to residents with an EV.
So, back to the question we asked at the outset of this long-term test: is the Zoe a viable alternative to fuel-powered small cars? The truth is that it certainly can be. It has a fantastic range, is enjoyable to drive and holds its own in the space and practicality department, while plenty of equipment is thrown in as standard. The Zoe has also been very reliable; a USB connection gremlin was the only issue we experienced. As a thing to own and drive day to day, it’s been a joy. Like all electric cars, though, you’ll need to use it in the right way and have access to the right charging facilities for it to make sense.
EVs aren’t the answer for everybody at the moment, then. However, the Zoe has been a superb experience and I’d argue that, with a little research and preparation, many people would benefit from EV ownership more than they might think, now and in the future.
Renault Zoe – test data
Dealer price now £14,000 Private price now £13,000 Trade-in price now £12,500 Average range 150 miles Contract hire £502.76pcm Cost per mile £1.25 Insurance group 16 Typical insurance quote £522
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