What Car? says...
The Renault Zoe Van has several things going for it, chiefly that it’s cheap to run and can take you further than any other electric powered van.
Despite those positives, this Zoe isn't really a van as you know it. Like the rival Ford Fiesta Van, this small hatchback is a rear-seats-out conversion from the passenger car, with a mesh bulkhead and flat floor.
That makes it a very small car-based van, with a load volume of just 0.51m3 and a maximum payload of just 387kg – by comparison, the Ford Fiesta Van has just under 1m3 and a 530kg payload allowance.
Power comes from an electric motor producing 107bhp, while the battery is a 52kWh pack that is capable of taking you up to 245 miles on a single charge. The option of specifying it with a fast charging system of up to 50kW also means that an 80% charge can be added in just 70 minutes. Alternatively the Zoe Van is fitted with a so-called Chameleon charger, which can adapt 3kW to 22kW supplies.
Other, larger rivals for the Zoe van include the Fiat Fiorino and the now discontinued but much-missed Vauxhall Corsavan.
In this review, we'll tell you what the Zoe Van is like to drive and to live with, and remember, we can help you find the best leasing deals through the free What Car? Leasing section, where you can get a quote for whichever make and model of car or van fits your personal or business needs.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Renault Zoe Van is small, agile, nippy – whether you have a full or empty loadspace.
The single 107bhp electric motor provides instant torque, giving a sensation of pace up to about 30mph, while the regenerative braking is unobtrusive until you engage the most severe ‘B mode’, at which point you have to learn to drive with the substantial stopping force in mind because the car will be trying to scrape every last scrap of energy to put back into the battery. The regular ‘D mode’ setting is a more suitable mode for most driving, we found.
In terms of pure handling, the rival Ford Fiesta Van just has the edge, but the Zoe Van fights back with a smoother ride, and driving manners which are always reassuring. It’s also noticeably quiet, especially if you are used to an older diesel van. The whine of the electric motor is easy to acclimatise to, and even road and wind noise are kept well in check. This really is a cracking car-based van to drive, especially if zen-like peace and quiet is top of your agenda.
The official electric 245-mile range you can extract from a Zoe is optimistic in everyday use, but with careful acceleration you can get within 80% of that figure comfortably. However, if you drive with a heavy right foot, then the indicated range soon plummets.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Renault Zoe Van’s interior is smart and modern, with plenty of leather and chrome finishes; the large 7.0in touchscreen in the dashboard deals with the infotainment side of things, while a 10.0in screen ahead of the driver forms the digital instrument cluster. By any van standards it’s high-tech and very sophisticated, and generally works well.
The rest of the Zoe Van's interior is much the same as in the passenger car, and that's no bad thing. There's not much in the way of storage, but you do get a central cubby hole, a small shelf above the glovebox and a narrow door bin on each side. And while larger drivers may struggle to get comfortable quickly because the seating position is so high, you can at least make adjustments easily.
And despite being a working vehicle, the materials used throughout the Zoe Van are of a high enough quality that you don't feel short-changed.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Converting the Renault Zoe into a van hasn’t required any particularly sophisticated engineering. The rear seats have been removed and a part-mesh, part-solid bulkhead has been installed to separate the occupants from the loadspace.
The rear windows are covered over with a plastic film to comply with legislation that requires them to be made unusable, while a flat floor has been created to get the loadspace nearly level with the boot lip. The plastic film windows, plus a regular rear windscreen, won’t keep prying eyes from scrutinising the contents of your loadspace for long, so a covered section towards the front keeps your bits out of sight, while the parcel shelf covers the rear.
If you can cope with the modest amount of space the Zoe Van offers – just 0.51m3 – and don’t intend to transport anything heavy, the Renault could meet your needs. Payload for Business trim models is just 387kg, while the additional equipment of the Business+ lowers that figure to 368kg.
The maximum loadspace length is 1205mm, maximum width across the load area is 950mm and the Zoe Van has a load area height of 410mm.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
This is where the Renault Zoe Van really shines, because like all electric vans, it's exceptionally cheap to run. And while it will cost you more to buy or lease than some rivals, we think you'll quickly re-coup your investment – especially if you work in a city which prioritises electric vehicles.
Helping that recoupment significantly are the Zoe Van’s predicted residual values, which reflect future-proofed propulasion method; you could be looking at nearly a third more of your money back than you would with a similar diesel-powered rival. In the meantime you’ll be enjoying cut price pence per mile usage too – Renault estimates running cost can be as little as 2p per mile. Fewer moving parts also mean less maintenance compared with a petrol or diesel van, and with regenerative braking, items like brake pads are spared .
Two trim levels are available, Business and Business+, with the entry-level vehicles getting air-conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, and keyless entry and start. Integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also included, along with the 7.0in central touchscreen and the 10.0in digital cluster. Steel wheels are about the only item that stand out as being a bit ordinary on what is an otherwise very high specification.
Business+ models get satellite-navigation, wireless phone charging and rear-parking sensors with a reversing camera. There’s also 16in alloys and assistance systems including lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. It’s certainly the most luxurious trim level of any small van, and the upgrade cost is surprisingly modest. We suggest it's worth going for, not least because it comes with a higher level of safety equipment.
Autonomous Emergency Braking is the only option available, which for what will presumably be a city-based vehicle will be worth considering.
Renault has given the Zoe Van the same warranty as the Zoe passenger car which, means five years or 100,000 miles, but it is also covered by an unlimited mileage allowance during the first two years, which is worth bearing in mind if you’re inclined to travel more than 50,000 miles per year. Batteries are covered by an eight-year warranty but with a 100,000 mileage cap.
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