Renault Zoe Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Car Review

Renault Zoe

£ 21,865 - £ 24,865
710
Published: 02 Oct 2019
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Renault expects most Zoe customers will go for the new, more powerful motor. Dubbed ‘R135’, it makes the equivalent of 134bhp and 181lb ft. From 0-30mph the R135 is precious little quicker than the R110, which is carried over from the old Zoe unchanged (3.6 plays 3.9 seconds). But it’s around two seconds faster from 0-62mph, and the same again from 50 to 75mph. 

The R135 is marginally more expensive to buy outright (£450 - and you can’t get it with base Play trim), in a higher insurance group (18E vs 22A) and slightly less efficient than the less powerful R110. Nonetheless, it’s still the one we’d buy - you really notice the extra power. Makes the Zoe feel much more sprightly. In town you can exploit gaps you wouldn’t have dared go for in the old one, while on faster roads it means the Zoe feels more mature, less out of its depth. 

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Both motors come with the new 52kWh battery, which is physically the same size and shape as the old one so it doesn’t compromise interior space. Quoted range is between 238 and 245 miles (depending on which motor and trim you go for), which isn’t far off twice as much as the Honda e, and significantly more than the Corsa or 208. Renault says realistically you should get about 233 miles of range in summer months, but as little as 149 miles when you’ve got the heating running full-blast in the winter. We reckon that’s about right - after 150 miles or so of mixed driving, we averaged about 4.9mi/kWh (Renault claims 5.65mi/kWh). Driven carefully a VW e-Golf might average 4.0mi/kWh, and we struggle to get any more than 3.6mi/kWh from the Nissan Leaf. 

There’s an ‘Eco’ button for even more...eco, but all it seems to do is feed the throttle a sleeping tablet. Or six. Leave it un-pushed. 

New for the, erm, new Zoe is a ‘B’ mode that amps up the regen. You can never turn it completely off - even in D you can still feel the car slow as you lift off the throttle, but B is supposed to make it more of a ‘one pedal’ car. It isn’t really a one pedal car in the same way the Nissan Leaf (with its ‘e-Pedal’ system) is, but with a bit of forethought it’s totally possible to drive the Zoe around with only sparing use of the brake pedal. Which is good, because even though they’ve supposedly been improved, the brake pedal still feels a bit springy to us. 

The Zoe rides pretty well given its titchy dimensions. Things can get a bit bobbly over really broken surfaces, but for the most part it’s soft and forgiving enough. At least around town - it’s less good on quicker roads, but still by no means uncomfortable. More sound deadening has been added, so now the Zoe is quieter than ever, and the new front seats are comfortable if a bit flat. Long journeys are no trouble - I’m 6ft and emerged after a couple of hours driving no grumpier than when I got in. 

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Is it fun? Not in a “this thing handles better than a Ford Fiesta ST” kind of way, but yes, there is fun to be had here. Mostly in town - squirting between sets of traffic lights and blatting your way through side streets avoiding tailbacks. This is probably the most fun you can have driving in built-up areas - right size, right powertrain, right performance. Now the Zoe’s got more power there’s fun to be had out of town too - the steering is light and fluffy but pretty accurate, and despite a hefty kerbweight (1502kg, 326 of which is battery. That’s more than a Focus ST) it’s quite agile.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Renault ZOE 100kW S Edition R135 50kWh Rapid Charge 5dr Auto
  • 0-629.5s
  • CO2
  • BHP136
  • MPG
  • Price£ N/A

the cheapest

Renault ZOE 80kW Dynamique Nav R110 40kWh 22kWCh 5dr Auto
  • 0-6211.4s
  • CO20
  • BHP109
  • MPG
  • Price£ 21,865

the greenest

Renault ZOE 65kW Dynamique Nav Q90 40kWh 43kWCh 5dr Auto
  • 0-6213.5s
  • CO20
  • BHP88
  • MPG
  • Price£ 22,615
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