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Used test: Mini Electric vs Peugeot e-208 vs Renault Zoe interiors
At three years old, these small electric cars will save you around £9000 off their respective new cars prices. To find out which is best, we've pit them against each other...
Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality
The Renault Zoe stands alone in having an oddly lofty driving position. This is caused by its battery’s location beneath the floor and also accounts for why you don’t get any seat height adjustment. To make matters worse, there's no lumbar adjustment and little side support in corners. But, as with all the cars here, the steering wheel is at least adjustable for reach and rake.
Step into the Peugeot e-208 and the seating position – complete with height adjustment – is far more conventional than the Zoe’s, but its tiny steering wheel and high-set instrument panel aren’t. Indeed, some drivers might find they need the steering wheel set unnaturally low to avoid blocking off the instruments. The seat is comfortable and supportive, although lumbar adjustment was part of a £1400 pack from new, which also includes leather seats.
The Mini Electric got lumbar adjustment at no extra cost and has the best driving position overall. A good range of height adjustment lets you sit low if you wish and the supportive seats are comfortable. Meanwhile, the instruments move with the steering wheel so you can see them more clearly.
As for the instruments themselves, they're digital in all three cars, with the Mini's having the clearest graphics. By contrast, the e-208’s ‘3D’ screen is a case of style over substance. Yes, your speed readout is placed in a usefully prominent position if you’ve selected the right layout, but overall it's still trickier to read at a glance than the Zoe’s simpler panel, let alone the Mini's.
The Zoe’s high driving position and relatively slim front pillars give you the best view forwards. The Mini’s upright windscreen and thin front pillars also make it easy to see out the front – more so than in the e-208, which has by far the chunkiest pillars front and rear. The Zoe also has thick rear pillars, leaving the Mini easiest to reverse.
With a screen size of just 6.5in, the Mini gets off to a poor start with regards to infotainment. An 8.8in system is available, but you’ll need to jump up to an example in Level 3 trim to get it. The e-208's Allure trim comes with a 7.0in touchscreen with a DAB radio. Whereas most Zoes get a small (7.0in) touchscreen, GT Line versions have a 9.3in touchscreen in a portrait orientation.
All three cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, bar the Mini that only has the former. You'll also have sat-nav with whichever car you choose.
It’s the Mini that impresses most for quality. There are huge swathes of soft-touch plastic and switches that work with precision; the overall feeling is one of solidity and plushness.
The e-208 has more hard plastics lower down, but swish materials elsewhere – including gloss black and metal-effect trims – lift the ambience.
The Zoe has a spread of appealing fabric – made from recycled plastic – on the dashboard and doors, but its cheaper-feeling plastics and flimsy-looking air vents relegate it to last place for fit and finish.
The Zoe’s high front seats mean occupants will find their heads closer to the roof than they would in the Mini or e-208, but there’s still enough head room even for six-footers. Leg room is adequate in the e-208 and Zoe, while the Mini is far roomier for those long in the leg.
None of our trio is particularly spacious in the back. The Zoe is the most bearable, with a little more knee room and the most space under the front seats for your feet. The high floor doesn’t make for a particularly comfortable seating position, though – your knees are high and your bum relatively low – and it’s the tightest for head room.
The Mini and e-208 have a fraction more rear head room on paper, but because their rooflines curve down more sharply at the rear, there’s less room than in the Zoe if you lean back on the head rests. The e-208 is tighter for leg room, while the Mini is cramped.
The e-208’s small rear door apertures restrict access more than the Zoe’s, but at least it has rear doors; the three-door Mini requires some athleticism simply to get in, and even then it has only two rear seats. The others have seating for an extra passenger in the middle, although three adults sitting side by side would be very cramped.
The Zoe has big front door bins and decent cupholders, but its oddment trays are shallow. Despite having slimmer door pockets, the Mini has more easily accessible storage, but the e-208 wins here, thanks to its many big cubbies and pockets.
Meanwhile, the Zoe’s boot monsters those of our other two contenders, swallowing six carry-on suitcases. The e-208’s can carry five cases, while only three cases can fit into the Mini’s boot.
If you don’t need to carry loads of stuff, the Mini’s boot is useful for having a two-level floor with extra storage underneath. When raised, this reduces the load lip and also smooths out the step created by dropping the rear seats down. You’re left with an awkward step when you fold the rear seatbacks in the e-208 and Zoe, while the latter’s seats don’t lie as flat as the others’ will.
The release buttons for the rear seatbacks can be accessed easily from our contenders’ boots (or via the rear doors in all but the Mini); the e-208’s and Zoe’s are divided 60/40, while the Mini’s have a less useful 50/50 split.
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