Renault Zoe review

Category: Electric car

Section: Performance & drive

Available fuel types:electric
Available colours:
Renault Zoe rear cornering
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RRP from£30,095
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

One of the great benefits of electric cars is that they have just one gear, so smooth, nippy acceleration is on tap the instant you squeeze the accelerator pedal. This slightly eerie, uninterrupted stream of power is what makes the Zoe relaxing but, surprisingly, also quite enjoyable to drive around town. Mind you, the grabby brakes can frustrate by making it difficult to slow your progress smoothly.

The cause of this frustration is the Zoe's regenerative braking system, which recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted during braking, and converts it to electricity to feed back to the battery. As well as working when you press the brake pedal, it's also engaged to some degree when you simply lift off the accelerator pedal. If the mode selector is set to 'D', the slowing effect is quite gentle, but move it to 'B' and it becomes more marked. After a bit of practice, using 'B' mode will allow you to do large parts of your journey without using the brake pedal at all.

The Zoe is available with either a 107bhp or a 134bhp electric motor. The former is called the R110 and the latter the R135. You don't notice a massive difference in acceleration at town speeds, but the R135 will get you up to motorway speeds much more swiftly (0-62mph takes 9.5sec, compared to 11.4 in the R110). That said, even the R135 can't quite keep up with the Peugeot e-208 or MG ZS EV in a straight line, let alone more powerful electric rivals, such as the VW ID.3 and Mini Electric. Of the two versions of the Zoe available, we reckon the R110 will suit most people’s needs.

The Zoe turns in to corners keenly enough, helped by light and reasonably precise steering, and there’s plenty of grip spread evenly front to rear. There's more body lean through bends than there is in a Mini Electric, Fiat 500 or Honda E, but the Zoe handles more tidily than the taller, but similarly priced ZS EV.

Ride comfort is okay at low speeds with broken surfaces absorbed effectively enough – even potholes don't send a nasty jolt through to your backside, like they would in a BMW i3 or Smart Fortwo EQ. Overall, it's also less fractious than the altogether firmer Mini Electric, and a Fiat 500 has choppier ride, but the e-208 and ID.3 are more comfortable cars in all situations.

Compared with most petrol and diesel rivals, the Zoe is pretty quiet, largely because there's no combustion engine chugging away under the bonnet – just a subtle whine from the electric motor and a strange whirring at low speeds to warn pedestrians of its presence. However, by electric car standards, the Zoe isn't actually that refined, generating more wind and road noise than rivals such as the e-208.

Renault Zoe rear cornering

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