Renault Zoe long-term test review

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 header

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 1608 List price £34,595 (before gov't grant) Target Price £28,325 (before gov't grant) Price as tested £34,655 (before gov't grant) Official range 245 miles Test range 236 miles Dealer price now £23,453 Private price now £20,847 Trade-in price now £21,038 Running costs £92.72

03 August 2021 – The small electric car that could

Can the Renault Zoe provide a genuinely viable alternative to the likes of the Volkswagen Polo or the Honda Jazz? That was the question I posed at the start of my journey with this electric car, but I’m afraid that the answer isn’t quite as clear cut as a simple yes or no.

You see, as you would probably expect, regardless of how good it is, running an electric car requires an adjustment in lifestyle, and while the Zoe is impressive, it isn’t necessarily the perfect solution for everyone.

Renault Zoe long-term goodbye

I, like most, am used to the convenience of shooting off on a journey, and worrying about filling my tank later. You wouldn’t pull such a stunt in an electric car. Even with nerves of steel, you need the patience of a saint to sit in a rest stop for 40 minutes charging up, and I was determined to avoid unnecessarily tethering myself to a motorway fast charger if I didn’t have to. I would always suggest using local chargers at either end of your journey.

Running it required that I make extra considerations. Not only would I ensure that I had close to 100% charge before any journey longer than 140 miles, but I also found myself, on occasion, deciding against taking the fastest route if it meant driving too many extra miles. I should say, though, that those fears began to disappear the longer I had the car, as I realised just how realistic the 192-miles that the Zoe achieved in our Real Range tests actually is.

Renault Zoe long-term frost on screen

In fact, come rain, shine or... frost, the Zoe never returned less than that figure. Not only that, but it's managed 238 miles on a charge during these warmer months. Impressive as those figures are, though, it goes to show that even the best EVs will experience a dip in range according to the temperature, and that's something that owners have to take account of.

The smoother I drove, the more the car rewarded me. It was at its most efficient in eco mode (paired with the most aggressive brake regeneration), and it consistently displayed the same range I had remaining after parking up when I'd return the following day. Previous experience in the BMW i3 has taught me that you can’t always trust the readout.

Renault Zoe long-term screen buttons

For all the pros, there were a few cons, namely the infotainment system and its laggy touchscreen. I wasn’t expecting to find something as smooth as BMW’s iDrive system in the Zoe, but at this price point and in 2021, you'd hope that manufacturers would find a way to mitigate the irritating delay between you pressing the touchscreen and something happening.

Thankfully, that frustration was eased by the media stalk behind the steering wheel, allowing me to change music tracks, scroll through radio stations and take calls on the move without using the touchscreen. This and the tactile, metal climate controls and shortcut buttons meant that I seldom found myself needing to prod the screen on the move.

Renault Zoe long-term media stick

The Zoe provided plenty of space for luggage, swallowing vacuum cleaners, folding bikes and suitcases with ease. It isn't a big car, but it’s also not as small as it looks either, providing a usefully sized boot and decent rear seat flexibility.

So, with all of these reasons to consider a Renault Zoe, could you actually make the move to an electric small car? Well, I know I could, and with minimal change to my life, but it still won’t be the solution for everyone.

Renault Zoe boot long-term

You need to ascertain whether the lifetime ownership savings on the initial purchase price (free congestion charge if you live in a city like London, free local parking, no road tax etc) are enough to justify the price premium, and you'll need to judge whether you’re fine with spending the time it takes to charge up on those longer trips. It’s also worth establishing the quality of your local charging infrastructure; the local lamppost chargers were the solution to my not being able to charge at home.

Still, these factors notwithstanding, if ever there was a car that could prove to those on the fence that the switch (no pun intended) to electric could be so convenient, it’s the Zoe. For my use at least, I would choose one over a conventionally powered small car again. And that’s the biggest accolade I can give it.

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