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Used test: BMW i3 vs Renault Zoe

These two are among the most affordable electric options on the used market, but which is the better buy?...

Used test: BMW i3 vs Renault Zoe

The contenders

BMW i3 94Ah

List price when new £33,070
Price today £9000**
Available from 2013-2022

Even though it's a decade-old design, the i3 still looks very futuristic, inside and out

Renault Zoe R90 ZE40 Dynamique Nav

List price when new £22,670
Price today £8500*
Available from 2013-present

The Zoe is slightly cheaper to buy, but can it compete with the premium nature of its rival?

*Price today is based on a 2017 (**2016) model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

The phrase "cheap and cheerful" seems to have faded in recent years. It's easy to see why, with many new small cars – let alone electric ones – pushing well beyond £20,000.

The used car market still has some bargains, mind you, with the BMW i3 and Renault Zoe being two of them. These electric cars are pence next to a new Vauxhall Corsa Electric – a car that currently costs £38,275 in its top trim. 

BMW i3 rear driving

You'll need to opt for an i3 or Zoe that's got a few years on it – more so in the i3's case – and that might understandably raise an eyebrow. Fortunately, we can tell you whether they've aged gracefully. 


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

The i3 is a punchy little car, with its 168bhp aiding a 0-60mph time of 7.2sec (in our hands). What's more, being electric, acceleration is instantaneous. 

Putting your foot down in the Zoe yields more pedestrian results. It has 87bhp and can complete the 0-60mph sprint in 12.9sec – acceptable, albeit lacklustre next to its rival. Like the i3, the Zoe is responds instantly to accelerator inputs. 

Renault Zoe rear driving

The Zoe grips and handles neatly enough, but it suffers from some body lean and it doesn't feel as agile as the i3. The i3 is fun to drive and that's something we can't say about the Zoe. 

Then again, the Zoe doesn't feel like it's trying to be sporty. It has a softer suspension setup, meaning it is more adept at cushioning it's passengers. The i3 isn't uncomfortable per se, but it's firmer. 

Both are similarly quiet on the move. All we'd say about the Zoe is that its electric motor makes more noise than the i3's. Unless you turn up the radio, you can constantly hear the Zoe's motor whirring away and that can get annoying on the motorway.

Renault Zoe battery screen

On the plus side, the Zoe's motor will go for longer. Officially, the Zoe can travel 174 miles on a charge, while the i3 has a measly 125-mile range. In the real world, you'll struggle to match those figures, especially if it's cold.

Batteries do degrade – to varying degrees – over time, too. In summer conditions, we managed 145 miles in the Zoe. When we tested a 2013 version of the i3 (in the same conditions), it went just 64 miles before conking out.