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The Top Gear car review:Renault Zoe
For:The cheapest EV on sale but so much more besides
Against:They're minimised, but EV constraints do remain
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As far as electric cars go, one of the best – practical, good-looking and cheap. But we’d still have a plug-in hybrid
TG drives the new Renault Zoe. A supermini that is the company’s flagship electric car…
What we say:
The next step in Renault's Z.E range is the most important yet. The Zoe seems up for the challenge
What is it?
What a pretty, conventional-looking, supermini-sized electric car the Zoe is. Well, yes, it certainly is – but that’s not why you’ll buy it. the fact it’s so affordable is. normally something we make excuses for with electric cars, this time price becomes the key USP: they start, with the government plug-in grant included, from just £13,995. Ordinary supermini money, then, for a far from ordinary supermini.
Like the Nissan Leaf, this is an EV that’s been designed as one from the ground up, rather than being converted from an existing car like the Mitsubishi i-MiEV et al. Renault’s thus been able to idealise the design, placing things where they should be rather than where they’ll fit and, more importantly, ensuring it ekes out maximum range from those floor-mounted batteries.
This results in yet another draw – the biggest EV driving range of any pure electric car currently on sale. Official figures say 130 miles, 30 per cent more than a Leaf. as this is the biggest worry most have about running an EV, could the Zoe thus turn out to be a tipping point?
The first models will be driven later in the year but the statistics suggest we’ll like what we discover. The electric motor produces 88hp, but also puts out 162lb ft of torque, from zero rpm. This will mean wheelscrabbling immediacy in town and, thanks to an 88mph top speed, decent legs when out of it, too. The chassis, as we say, has been optimised for EV basics, so we expect Renault to have maximised the inherent low centre of gravity. Indeed, there may even be an element of Renaultsport tuning in there: the crack hot hatch team did the chassis for the Twizy, and that’s an absolute hoot. It’ll be lovely to think they’ve also had a say at this…
On the inside
The Zoe’s interior is again all-new and all the talk of ‘wellbeing’ in the press material suggests it’s gone for the calm, elegant, welcoming approach.There’s even an active charcoal air filter to ensure the grubby exhaust emissions emitted by pesky normal cars don’t infiltrate the haven.
Practicality should be good. Renault says this is a full five-seater and being able to perfect the design from the start ensures it also has a decent boot: 338 litres is pretty eyeopening, actually, given how a VW Golf has 380 litres
To aid recharging, Renault has fitted a ‘Chameleon’ charger, that will swallow any voltage. But it won’t be their own batteries customers are topping up. Part of the reason the price is so low is because batteries aren’t included. Instead, they’re leased, for around £70 a month. See it as a sort of mobile phone contract, says Renault. Fingers crossed customers see it this way.