Without gears to shift or revs to build, electric cars are well known for being able to provide immediate power. However, while the entry-level 109bhp R110 motor is by no means slow, you have to wait a moment for pace to start building when you put your foot down. By contrast, the 134bhp R135 motor makes the Zoe pleasingly brisk when accelerating from a standstill. The motor’s power arrives instantly when you want it, swiftly whisking you to 30mph and making it effortless to scoot through town.
It's no surprise, then, that the R135 is nearly two seconds quicker from 0-62mph than the R110. But it's not just the difference in low-speed acceleration that you'll notice; the R135 feels far happier on the motorway, too. Top speed is only 87mph, though; the e-Golf can achieve 93 mph while the BMW i3 can hit a speedy 99mph, so both these rivals feel slightly more at home in the outside lane.
Another notable feature of electric cars is regenerative braking – a system that takes energy that’s usually lost when you apply the brakes and uses it to recharge the battery. In normal driving, the system is barely noticeable, but you can select ‘B’ (for 'braking') mode to strengthen the regenerative braking force when you lift off the accelerator. Doing so allows you to travel for long parts of your journey using just one pedal, making for an easy, relaxing drive once you’re used to it.
Another joy of ditching combustion engines for electricity is the hushed noise from under the bonnet. The Zoe is impressively peaceful inside; the only hint that there are any moving parts at all is a subdued whine from the motor when accelerating briskly and slowing down again. However, this does mean there’s little to drown out tyre rumble on scruffier surfaces, so the tranquillity doesn’t last too long once you’re out on the open road.
The ride is a slight letdown; coarse surfaces and road imperfections send shudders through the interior. However, larger obstacles such as potholes or expansion joints are absorbed more adroitly and things settle down on a motorway cruise. The e-Golf has better overall composure, though.