The new Renault Zoe is light, airy and perfect for zooming around in the city
Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
The Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf were the first two mass-market, (relatively) cheap electric cars. Both are now on their second versions, which seems crazy when you consider that most people are only just starting to get their heads around possibly buying an electric car. We look at the total cost of owning a Zoe here, from buying it, to charging it.
The Government is still offering £3,500 off the cost of your electric car, plus some car makers will also pay for the cost of your domestic wallbox, which otherwise works out at about £500-£750. Renault is offering a free BP Chargemaster wallbox with the Zoe.
On a monthly PCP (personal contract plan) deal, the Zoe works out at about £270 a month, based on a £3,000 customer deposit and £3,108 Renault contribution.
On top of that, you’ll be paying far less to recharge your car with electricity than you would to refuel with petrol or diesel. Handy hint: get yourself on an electric-car tariff with your energy provider. I’m on a British Gas electric-car tariff which means that in the day I pay 19p per kWh of electricity whereas from midnight until 5am I pay 4p per kWh. I set the charging timer on the car to charge only between midnight and 5am, then plug it in and go to bed. The Zoe has a 52kWh battery, so it costs me 52 x 4p, which is £20.80, for a full charge, or about 200 miles of range.
Servicing and wear-and-tear costs are all lower as there simply aren’t so many moving parts in an electric car.
While style is subjective, it seems a shame that Renault hasn’t followed its competitors in streamlining the design of their electric car second time round, instead sticking with the odd and vaguely comical egg shape, which makes occupants feel faintly ridiculous, unless you like the Tiny Tikes vibe around town.
Inside, however, it’s light and airy, with lots of recycled and sustainable materials. In fact, there’s 22.5kg of recycled synthetic materials. Apart from the base Play trim level, every Zoe gets a 100 per cent recycled dark fabric upholstery on the seats, with pale grey trim on the doors.
This is where the Zoe excels, and pulls away from the Nissan Leaf. While the base Play trim level gets a 7in touchscreen in the centre, the top GT Line spec gets a large, swipe-able tablet, with unique colours and graphics that challenge the accepted industry way of doing things: the DAB radio stations scroll vertically with each station enlarging as your finger approaches the screen. The satnav takes up half the home screen but can fill the whole screen, and Bluetooth audio gives you the chance to scroll between smartphone-connected songs, which many do.
Most clever of all, is the audible warning sound for pedestrians below 18mph. It’s an eery sort of whistling and whirring that sounds futuristic and cool, and helps saves lives.
The Zoe continues with Renault’s insistence on having the volume buttons on a block behind the steering wheel, which never feels intuitive. There are blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning systems on the high trim level, while the base trim level offers climate control, air-con and smartphone connectivity.
The Zoe is, naturally, silent apart from the tyre noise at high speeds and artificial warning noise at low speeds. It feels light and bright with a surprisingly deep boot for shopping/dog and the charging leads (although you should take those out when not in use as they’re heavy and will consume more electricity). The seats are supportive and there’s plenty of storage room in the doors as well as two cup holders between the front seats. Thanks to the odd high-riding bubble shape of the car, there’s also lots of head room for four adults.
There are two batteries on offer, like two engines – the R110 and R135. We tested the R135 with 134 horsepower – 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds. The Zoe feels nippy when it pulls away at junctions because all electric cars accelerate quickly from a standstill, but run out of puff as you speed up. If you nudge the smart little gear selector from D to B, the car is meant to slow significantly when you lift off the throttle pedal, storing the energy in the battery that would be wasted by braking. In practise, however, it isn’t strong enough so you still need to apply the brake – Nissan’s one-pedal function in the Leaf is much stronger. The Zoe also doesn’t feel as sharp to drive as the Leaf does, with woolier steering and dull handling. But it’s hard to argue with the maths on the ownership: 200 miles for £20, a free wallbox for home charging and £269 a month for ownership. Plus you’re doing your little bit for the planet.