One of the great benefits of an electric car is the absence of any gears, meaning smooth, nippy acceleration the instant you squeeze the accelerator pedal. This slightly eerie, uninterrupted stream of power is what makes the Zoe relaxing but, surprisingly, also quite fun to drive around town. Mind you, the grabby brakes do frustrate; they make it difficult to slow your progress smoothly as they try to harvest energy to recharge the battery.
The Zoe is available with either an 87bhp or a 107bhp electric motor; the former is called the Q90 and the latter the R110. You don't notice much difference in performance at low speeds, but above 40mph the Q90's nippy acceleration quickly starts to tail off, whereas the R110 will get you up to 70mph noticeably more swiftly. Still, more powerful rivals, such as the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf and BMW i3, are better suited to outside-lane motorway driving.
Ride comfort is okay at low speeds; broken surfaces are absorbed effectively and with little suspension thump. However, the Zoe is less composed on faster roads, where ruts and potholes unsettle the car a little too easily. It's still more comfortable than the i3, but the e-Golf smooths over bumps far more adroitly.
The Zoe turns in to corners keenly enough, helped by its light and precise steering, and there’s plenty of grip. The soft suspension does mean substantial body lean, but the Zoe never lurches around wildly.
Compared with any petrol or diesel rival, the Zoe is extremely hushed, because the electric motor only makes a subtle whine. However, by electric standards, it isn't actually that refined, generating more wind and road noise than rivals such as the Leaf and, particularly, the e-Golf.