Efficiency and range, choice of motors, new interior, option to lease battery or buy outright
Fast-charger not standard and ‘only’ 50kW, can’t carry four adults comfortably, driver’s seat not height adjustable
What is it?
Tiny EVs have become rather a big thing. Until recently, Renault had the market for such cars all to itself, but with the cute Honda e, Mini Electric and Fiat 500 plus the more prosaic Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e, life’s got a bit more complex for what’s traditionally been Europe’s best-selling electric car.
The new Zoe arrived in 2019 and didn’t totally rewrite the formula of the first. It looks much the same as the original, largely because underneath it’s still that same car - the one that was launched in 2012 and since upgraded with more efficient motors and bigger batteries.
Its exterior was given a minor going over, but the interior for Zoe mk2 was totally new - with a big portrait touchscreen and more soft-touch, high-end materials instead of the old car’s brittle plastics. Meanwhile new driver assistance tech like lane departure warning, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring were designed to make this four-metre long city car feel less out of sorts on motorways.
What about power?
Zoe mk2’s bigger battery and optional, more powerful ‘R135’ motor should have much the same effect of maturing an already decent EV proposition. The former - a 52kWh pack that replaces the old car’s 41kWh battery - gives up to a third more range, for a claimed 245 miles between charges (that’s more, significantly more in some cases, than a number of its rivals).
The latter ups the base 109bhp output to 134bhp (matching the Honda and Peugeot/Vauxhall) and drops the 0-62mph time to under 10 seconds, or more pertinently in actual driving, it cuts the time taken for the Zoe to accelerate from 50 to 75mph by more than two seconds.
Charging is quicker too, now that the Zoe supports DC charging up to 50kW via a CCS port hidden behind the Renault badge. Standard-fit on all but the base level Zoe (though why isn’t it just standard across the board, Renault?) it means half an hour on such a charger is enough to add 90 miles of range. A normal 22kW roadside charger takes an hour to add 78 miles.
Anything else of note?
You can have your Zoe as a commercial vehicle now, thanks to the Zoe Van E-Tech Electric (rolls off the tongue, huh). There’s no Renault Sport version, nor will there ever be now that Alpine has usurped that particular brand.
Instead there’ll be an Alpine version of the new Renault 5 EV, which logic would suggest will replace the Zoe. It’s certainly hard to see the Zoe faring well living alongside the retro-tastic 5 in a showroom, no matter how smart it looks and feels since its 2019 regen. Though perhaps Renault has a plan that’ll give both a USP. After all, tiny EVs have become rather a big thing.
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Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Renault Zoe is Europe’s best-selling electric car thus far. It’s hugely popular – and with good reason. Renault says its customers didn’t want a massive re-design but for the company to focus its efforts on key problem areas to keep costs low.
Which is how we’ve ended up with an interior that’s leaps ahead of the old car’s, more driver assistance systems, a more powerful motor and even greater range for no more money. As heavy facelifts go, this is a good one.
Whether it’s enough to sway you from newer, glitzier rivals – style-led options like the Honda e and Mini Electric or more straight rivals like the Peugeot e-208 – is up to you. Even Renault itself has a rival (or perhaps replacement) on the horizon in the shape of its retro regen 5. Whatever the future for the Zoe, it’s place in the electric hall of fame is already assured. Mainstream EVs get no more trustworthy.