- Great value
- Now with decent range across all models
- Highly practical
- Not that fast, even with the new motor
- DC charging an expensive extra
- All colour choices apart from white are extras
Range (WLTP): 239-245 miles Top Speed: 84-87 mph 0 to 62: 9.5-11.4 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3p
The Renault ZOE has been around almost as long as the Nissan Leaf, with the first version shipping in volume in 2013. Now there are at least 183,000 ZOEs on the roads around the world, although mostly in Europe, making the ZOE one of the biggest-selling EVs after the Leaf and (recently) Tesla Model 3. Over the years, like the Leaf, it has improved considerably. But for 2020, Renault reckons the ZOE has been so upgraded that it is now called the New ZOE. The main headline changes are that all ZOEs now come with a 52kWh battery, when previously there were versions with smaller batteries, and there’s also a bigger engine available. A host of other enhancements are included, too. We’re not sure what the next ZOE will be called – maybe the New New ZOE – but let’s get this version out the way first, because there’s plenty to get excited about.
Price and Options
The New ZOE comes in seven different varieties, derived from three trim levels and four drivetrains, although not every trim and drivetrain combination is available. The entry-level trim is called Play, there’s a midrange Iconic trim and a top GT Line, which is what we had for review. There are R110 and R135 engine packages, both of which can be had with and without Rapid Charge options. The R110 has an 80kW / 110hp motor, while the R135 has a 100kW / 135hp motor. All versions of the New ZOE now come with a 52kWh battery, so there are no longer ZE 40 and 50 variants. The Rapid Charge option means 50kW DC charging is available, otherwise the maximum available is 22kW AC.
The Play trim can only be purchased with the R110 engine, and starts at a very reasonable £26,495, with no Rapid Charge option either. The Iconic can have either engine, with or without Rapid Charge, starting at £27,995. The GT Line only comes with the R135 engine and starts at £29,995. The R135 engine only adds £500 to the Iconic’s price, whereas Rapid Charge is £1,000 more when added to any car. All ZOEs have a base white paintjob, but there are three £560 colour upgrades, and five £660 ones, including the Celadon Blue of our press car. The Play gets 15in wheels, the Iconic 16in alloys, and the GT Line 16in “Diamond Cut” alloys. There are allegedly 17in alloys available as an option, but we couldn’t find a price for those.
There aren’t any interior design options. If you choose the Play, you get cloth, and if you choose the Iconic or GT Line, you get part synthetic leather, part recycled cloth. There is a variety of option packs available, except for the Play, which doesn’t have anything to add. It comes with a central 7in media control display, and no option to upgrade. The Iconic also comes with this as standard, but you can add the £800 Technology Pack, which upgrades the screen to 9.3in. The GT Line comes with this as standard. All ZOEs have rear parking sensors, but the Technology Pack adds front ones and a rear camera, so the GT Line also has these as standard.
Automatic emergency braking is a £150 option on the Iconic but again standard on the GT Line. There are Bose sound system and hands-free parking options, which are only available for the GT Line. There’s a £500 Winter Pack that adds a heated steering wheel and seats to the Iconic or GT Line. So not a bewildering range of extras, but enough to make the Iconic worth the extra over the Play, and the GT Line worthwhile over the Iconic.
While we’re not sure about the Celadon Blue that seems to be the shade of choice for Renault’s New ZOE press cars and marketing images, we have no issues with the way the ZOE looks otherwise. Renault’s French flair has clearly been let loose on the ZOE and it comes across as much more than a basic little electric hatchback. It even has a bit of that legendary Clio “Va-Va-Voom” about it. The lines are contoured attractively, and the front has a purposeful aggression, with the latticed grille at the bottom adding an air of class, perhaps echoing recent Mercedes front grilles.
We particularly like the way Renault has made the ZOE look a bit like a two-door car by hiding the catch for the rear door by the window. Not exactly an original strategy, but this is the best of both worlds, with the practicality of four doors but the appearance of just two, which apparently young people prefer. The key fob contains a proximity sensor, so the car will unlock as you approach, although the driver’s door won’t pop open like a Tesla Model X. The car will also lock automatically when you’re far enough away. The paranoid amongst us probably won’t want to take this for granted, however.
The 16in “Diamond Cut” alloys look great too. Renault has upgraded the New ZOE to LED lighting, with indicators that animate outwards as found in many more premium cars. Overall, although this is a keenly priced EV, it doesn’t look cheap from outside at all.
There’s not a lot of choice for interiors with the ZOE. It’s either the Play’s cloth or the Iconic / GT Line’s cloth and synthetic leather. The colour combination is quite sober and grey, with no choice of different upholstery shades. The seats are comfortable enough, but there’s no height adjustment so if you’re very tall or short you might have trouble achieving an optimal driving position. The rear seats aren’t exactly spacious, but an average-sized adult male could sit with some knee and headroom, so you could get four adults in this car for a reasonable length of time.
The fact that there is mechanical handbrake has freed up room for two cupholders, and their placement means you could use them for passing drinks to and from the rear seats. However, the glove compartment is very small, and half taken up by the fuse box. It’s literally just enough space for some gloves.
The climate control system has nice big dials to operate fan speed, temperature and vent directions, with discrete buttons to switch the AC element on and off. There are lots of USB power connections in the ZOE. At the front, you get two, alongside a Qi wireless charging cubby and auxiliary audio input jack. There are also two USB ports at the rear for the back passengers, which is a great touch for a family car. The kids can charge their phones as you drive long distance to see grandma. These things are important.
Storage and Load Carrying
The basic boot is 338 litres, which is decent but behind the Leaf’s 420 litres. You can expand this to a more significant 1,225 litres by dropping forward the rear seats. These have a 60/40 split, so you can increase boot space and still have three or four occupants. However, the luggage shelf at the rear is really hard to remove. You can only easily take this out by dropping down one of the rear seats first.
Also, like the Leaf, you don’t get a flat boot space with the rear seats down, since only the seat backs tilt forward, leaving a sizeable shelf. The reason for this is the same as with the Leaf, too – the battery pack extends up under the rear seats. Still, 1,225 litres are more than the Leaf offers with its rear seats down, and it’s a bigger car overall. The shelf will be troublesome with some loads, but the overall space is decent for what is essentially a small hatchback. There is also a compartmentalised storage box you can add to the deeper bit of the boot that levels it out with a false floor and provides spaces for your charging cables.
Like most modern cars, the ZOE’s steering wheel is bristling with buttons. But unlike the Nissan Leaf, these are a bit larger so at least you can more easily see what they do. There’s cruise control on all models, but strangely the controls for this are on the steering wheel, with a separate stalk for the audio volume controls that you would expect to find on the wheel. There’s a stalk for the lights and one for the windscreen wipers.
The 10in screen behind steering wheel provides a digital readout of your speed and remaining range on the left, engine power output or regenerative braking on the right, and in the middle a trip computer, the speed limit, and an icon of your car which might fool a Tesla driver that sensors will show the cars around you, but this isn’t a feature.
Instead of a gearstick, you get a stubby joystick that operates in exactly the same way as the Leaf’s, but again with a more modern feel. You push forward for reverse and back for drive, or back again to enable the B-mode with more aggressive regenerative braking. You can use a button on the dash to enable Eco mode as well. There’s also a separate electronic parking brake, which is one reason why there’s room for two cupholders in the central console.
As we already mentioned, there are two media screen options – a 7in one and a 9.3in one. The ZOE Play only has the 7in version, the GT Line only has the 9.3in one, and the Iconic has the 7in one as standard with the 9.3in available as an option that comes with the Technology Pack. We only got to try the 9.3in screen, but here again the ZOE outclasses the Leaf with a much more modern appearance and menu structure. It’s not up with Tesla’s interface, but the icons are logical, and you can usually find the features you’re looking for. However, we found the sat-nav response could be a bit sluggish at times.
The New ZOE is not a fast EV, even when running the more powerful R135 engine. With the latter, it takes 9.5 seconds to hit 62mph, a similar time to Hyundai’s Ioniq Electric. The R110 motor takes an even more pedestrian 11.4 seconds. However, the R135 only takes 3.6 seconds to get to 30mph, which is arguably the more important figure in a city car, and not bad at all. So you won’t be winning any drag races in a ZOE, but around town you can get off the lights in a nippy fashion.
Although there are two driving modes – D and B – the B mode with more aggressive regeneration isn’t so harsh. We found that this was the mode of choice. Although the Eco mode stretched a few more miles out of the car, we found this blunted the enjoyable sprightliness about town, so we chose not to enable it most of the time.
This is because the ZOE is actually quite fun to drive. It doesn’t have the surprising acceleration of the Nissan Leaf e+, but the steering is light around town, giving it that small city car appeal, ideal for weaving through traffic efficiently. Or, indeed, speeding round a remote French village, if you’re so inclined. The ZOE is comfortable enough at motorway speeds. Although the top speed of neither version is that high, driving at 70mph feels fine, and you won’t be unhappy using this car for a commute that involves some motorway stretches, nor for longer-distance highway journeys.
Range and Charging
Now that all ZOEs come with the 52kWh battery, they all offer at least 239 miles of range, no matter which motor you choose. The Play has a slightly longer 245-mile range, presumably due to the 15in wheels. This is a very usable distance, and (again) like the Nissan Leaf e+ lifts the ZOE from a pure-city vehicle to a car that could be used over longer journeys. This was an option with the previous ZE 50 but having it even in the entry-level Play is a real win. The MG ZS EV is still cheaper and being a SUV is “more car” for your money. But the WLTP range is 80 miles less, making the ZOE more flexible unless you need to transport big people and more stuff.
As we already mentioned, rapid charging is an optional extra with the ZOE, and at £1,000 a bit pricey. If you don’t specify this, the car just comes with a Type 2 connection and only offers AC charging. This sounds like a major drawback, but the ZOE includes Renault’s “Chameleon” charging system which supports up to 22kW three-phase AC charging. On a 22kW supply, the car only takes 2.3 hours to charge from empty, which isn’t the end of the world. On a 3kW home charger, it takes 17 hours, but this drops to a much more manageable 7 hours on a 7kW AC supply. This is likely what you will be using the most, because Renault throws in a 7kW BP Chargemaster wallbox for free, including having it installed in your home.
The rapid charging option swaps the Type 2 for a CCS2 socket and adds 50kW DC support. This means the car can get to 80% in 45 minutes. The £1,000 price for this is rather steep, but if you do plan to take longer journeys that require a recharge, it’s probably an essential option. If you just intend to make journeys less than 100 miles from your home, however, you might get away with the 22kW AC only.
With the 52kWh battery and a range of 239 or 245 miles, the ZOE is one of the cheapest EVs to run on the market. On a 14p per kWh supply, this works out at just 3p per mile, which is exactly what EVs are all about. They cost a lot to buy, but you’ll be paying next to nothing to use the ZOE for all your daily needs. The average person does 7,600 miles a year, so this car will cost just £228 in annual energy. Even a frugal hatchback capable of 60mpg would cost more like £650 in petrol, and we all know petrol cars are much less economical than their MPG rating about town.
Aside from the low purchase price, if you’re a business customer you can pick up a ZOE on a lease for as little as £140 a month. Or if your company does buy it outright and offer it as a perk, like all EVs it will have tax benefits from zero benefit-in-kind (BiK) as a company car. So even a 40% taxpayer would be liable for scarcely more than £300 over three years. However, the insurance groups are relatively high for a small family hatchback, with the R110 models in insurance group 20, while the R135-equipped cars are in group 23.
All new ZOEs have rear parking sensors, and that’s all you can get with the Play. The Iconic also just comes with rear sensors as standard, but if you add the Technology Pack you get front ones too and a rear reversing camera. The GT Line has this as standard.
All cars also come with Electronic Stability Control to prevent skids and spins, as well as traction control. There’s also Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, and blind spot warnings on the wing mirrors. These light in red to attract your attention as a car is sensed entering the zone where you might miss it. There’s a speed limit symbol on the dashboard behind the steering wheel, which is always handy. Since mid-July, Active Emergency Braking has been a £150 option for the Iconic, but again comes as standard on the GT Line. As with most modern cars, the Euro NCAP rating is five stars, and now that autonomous braking is available, the ZOE should continue to rate highly in this respect.
|Price:||Play – £26,495; Iconic – £27,995; GT Line – £29,995|
|Range (WLTP):||245 miles (Play), 239 miles (Iconic and GT Line)|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||7 hours|
|Charge time (22kW):||2.3 hours|
|Charge time (50kW, 20-80%):||45 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||22kW|
|Cost per mile*:||3p|
|0-62mph:||11.4 seconds (R110), 9.5 seconds (R135)|
|Top Speed:||84mph (R110), 87mph (R135)|
|Power:||110hp (R110), 135hp (R135)|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh