What's the used Renault Zoe hatchback like?
There are many who want a piece of the electric car pie but won't commit because of the costs involved and fears over battery life and range. The Renault Zoe tried to dispel some of these worries at its 2013 launch by being reasonably priced and offering the option of leasing the battery rather than buying it outright. It also had a longer range than most of its rivals at the time.
It helped that the Zoe was designed from the ground up as an electric car, rather than adapted from a conventionally powered model, and came with a distinctive look all of its own. From new, you could either buy a Zoe and lease its battery for a monthly fee or buy the car and battery together. However, any problems that occur with the battery after its four-year warranty runs out will then be your problem, and replacement units can be prohibitively expensive – often more than what the car is worth.
This means most used Zoes will come with the battery leasing option, the cost of which varies depending on the sort of mileage you do and how long you want the contract to last. Early Q210 models with the standard 22kWh battery have the shortest range but are significantly cheaper to buy, while post-2015 R110 versions with the uprated 41kWh battery are much better but will cost you more. It's also worth noting that these official range figures can easily drop in real-world use, depending on the weather and your driving style.
The Zoe is available in its later forms with either an 87bhp or 107bhp electric motor; the former is called the Q90 and the latter the R110.
There are three trim levels: Expression Nav, Dynamique Nav and Signature Nav. The entry-level models get 15in steel wheels, cruise control, climate control, a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system, TomTom sat-nav, USB connectivity, Bluetooth and a Chameleon charger. Upgrade to Dynamique Nav and you'll get 16in alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, keyless entry and start, a DAB radio, rear parking sensors and the 41kWh battery, while Signature Nav adds numerous bronze accents, electronically folding door mirrors, a rear-view camera, heated front seats and a Bose sound system to the already burgeoning package.
Inside, the Zoe is bright and modern and proves itself to be a very usable urban runabout. You sit a bit higher than the small hatchback norm and there’s no base height adjustment on the driver's seat. You get a decent range of adjustment for the steering wheel, though, as well as competitive head room and leg room and decent cushioning under your backside.
To drive, the Zoe is nippy and smooth. For starters, there's the uninterrupted stream of power, and this is what makes the Zoe relaxing and surprisingly enjoyable to drive around town. Above 40mph, the Q90's acceleration quickly starts to tail off, though; the R110 will get you up to 70mph noticeably more swiftly. Mind you, the Zoe's grabby brakes frustrate by making it difficult to slow smoothly – the payoff for topping up the battery with recovered energy that would otherwise be wasted during braking.
Ride comfort is okay at low speeds: broken surfaces are absorbed effectively, with little suspension thump. However, the Zoe is less composed on faster roads, where ruts and potholes unsettle it a little too easily. It turns in to corners keenly enough, though, helped by its light and precise steering, and finds plenty of grip. With soft suspension, it tends to lean through corners.
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