The new Renault Zoe is probably the first all electric car to emerge from a major manufacturer which is aimed at a mass market. By that we mean it is not priced for Californian millionaires, has four wheels and no strange habits, and can carry the shopping as well as a bundle of family members.
In this respect therefore, the vehicle (alongside its sister the Nissan Leaf) marks a real departure in strategy for our global car makers, which seem to enjoy announcing ‘concept‘ electric vehicles (EVs) every few months which never see the light of day. Well the Zoe is definitely alive and kicking, and we’ve been discovering just what a great little car it is in lots of different ways.
Style & Exterior
Externally you immediately notice the Renault pedigree in terms of styling, with the high waisted profile and stubby tail of the Megane series, but look closer and you’ll notice immediate differences. For a start there’s no exhaust pipe of course, but there are also other interesting touches such as the cute recessed handles in the rear doors, reminiscent of Alfa Romeo (and dare we mention Tesla?).
At some angles it looks a little bulbous, but in others it just looks like a normal conventional super mini hatch back, with no indication just how technologically advanced it is. The overall effect we felt was pleasant, and certainly from a driving point of view the shape and design really helps with visibility for the driver.
Pop open the front of the car and you’ll be presented with a flux capacitor and fusion generator, or at least something very similar, since it bears no resemblance to anything under the hood of a normal car at all. The only points of reference you have as an owner are the brake fluid container, the washer bottle and a small water tank for cooling purposes on the right hand side.
That’s it as far as conventional DIY goes, anything beyond that is a trip to a dealer. Well apart from changing a tyre of course.
The practical styling doesn’t stop with the externals either, as the interior offers the same kind of light airy ‘roomy’ feel as the best of the super minis, with plenty of glass, and the raked windscreen leading to good all round visibility.
The driving position in general is excellent, with an adjustable steering wheel and lots of leg room. Nothing cramped about this piece of modern technical engineering. The steering wheel controls for the multimedia were a little obscured by the wheel itself, but that’s a minor point really.
The really impressive thing about this car is how boringly utilitarian it is. There’s a conventional hatchback, with a drop down rear seat and lots of room for your IKEA flatpacks. The rear seats offer enough leg and seat room for two to three adults, although they’ll have to squeeze in through rather narrow rear doors. But it’s totally practical and offers more than enough flexibility for the average owner. No compromise and not a battery pack to be seen, since they’re all under the seats.
Even the lack of a spare wheel is tastefully handled, with a small wheel well containing a sunken tire repair kit. No wasted room, but no lack of space either.
As you’ll see from the video above, the car is a blast to drive. It’s zippy in town, smooth, quiet and tractable, with no hint of all that battery weight sitting under your bottom (or should we say derriere?). The performance specs of the car are definitely respectable, with a top speed of 84 mph and a 0-60 mph in 8.2 secs, which is nearly hot hatch GTI numbers, and it definitely feels like it. With that front wheel drive, and torquey 75 HP electric motor, things get very brisk, very quickly at the traffic lights.
Read on after the jump for detailed specifications and our views on the major drawback of this neat little city car.