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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
Dynamique Nav Rapid Charge 5dr Auto
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 under £14k. 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 sub-£30k pure electric car currently on sale. Official figures say 130 miles, 30 per cent more than the first-gen 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 electric motor produces 88hp, but also puts out 162lb ft of torque, from zero rpm. This means wheelscrabbling immediacy in town and, thanks to an 84mph 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
All the talk of ‘wellbeing’ in the press material suggests Renault’s gone for the calm, elegant, welcoming approach with the Zoe’s interior.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 is 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 only has 42 litres more.
To aid recharging, Renault offers a rapid charge variant 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. Not so sure? Enter the i-Dynamique: batteries are included but the price goes up £5k.