Renault ZOE Dynamique R90 Z.E 4001 | 03 | 2017
Renault gives its Zoe all-electric supermini the range to go mainstream ... and it feels proper
LET ME SAY it right from the start: the Renault Zoe R90 feels like a real, proper car. There’s a lasting, unfortunate image about electric cars that they’re somewhat of a flimsy afterthought hastily created by manufactures to boost their green credentials. Well, the Zoe R90 blows that image clear out of the water. (Related: Renault's 456bhp, 130mph Zoe e-sport)
Before we submerge ourselves in the technical wonders, the first impressions of the facelifted Zoe’s cabin is that it feels right. You could easily be sitting in a Clio, it all feels so Renault-familiar. It’s a nice place to be.
In fact, it’s a proper, conventional, practical five-door hatchback, with plenty of space for the front occupants, and more than comfortable space for those in the rear.
And it feels well built; there are no shakes, rattles (yes, or rolls). At £17,845 (after the Government’s Plug in Car Grant), the Dynamique spec is definitely the one to go for, and more sensible than the costly Signature Nav.
Go for the Dynamique and you get rear parking sensors, climate control, cruise control and seven-inch touchscreen nav all as standard. That’s in addition to keyless entry, auto lights and wipers, plus stylish 16in alloys. So already we’re off to a cracking start.
Light steering makes it easy to manoeuvre, while its dinky dimensions ensure it’s a doddle to park, especially with its rear parking sensors.
Externally, it also looks … well, normal. Which is a major plus point.
It’s already acknowledged that Renault hit the sweet spot when it launched the original Zoe. It’s arguably the most mainstream EV currently on sale. Now this facelifted model, which significantly increases the car’s range, simply makes the car even more attractive.
Officially this new Z.E. 40 model should do 250 miles on a full charge. But this is where Renault rises above its EV rivals: it admits that’s not going to be achievable in real world driving, and instead quotes a range closer to 180 miles. In winter, that could tumble to 124 miles as you turn the heater on and use the headlights.
Ok, it’s much less than you’ll get on a full tank in a conventional petrol or diesel-powered supermini, but for a pure EV, 180 miles is pretty impressive for one full charge of electricity which should cost you around three quid.
The extra range — up from around 100 miles of the original entry-level 20kWh Zoe — comes from a new 41kWh battery which has almost double the storage capacity of the initial one.
Cleverly, and crucially, Renault engineers and technical bods — having maximised their knowledge of batteries developed from racing in Formula E — have ensured the 41kWh pack is no larger or heavier.
They’ve achieved this by increasing the energy density of individual cells rather than adding more battery modules. The result is Renault has been able to pack the battery into the same compact space as in the previous model.
With the facelifted Zoe, Renault believes range anxiety is a thing of the past. That’s further boosted by a free home 7kW fast-charger, which takes just three to four hours to charge a Zoe to full capacity from empty.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a new satellite navigation software that allows drivers to access paid charging points regardless of the operator. Reassuring if you’re out and about, and you realise you forgot to plug the car in last night.
There’s a simple, straightforward battery graphic on the left-hand side of the instrument binnacle which illustrates how much charge the car has left.
What I really loved was the fact it also shows you when you’re recharging the battery through regenerative braking; you actually see the range figure increasing, which is always reassuring.
Cars like the Zoe are used predominantly as short-hop, urban-environment runabouts. And I have to say I think the Zoe, with its zippy acceleration from standstill, is the best-equipped for such a role.
My test route was 18 miles, a mixture of free-flowing cross-country roads and town centre driving. Diligently, I stuck to the speed limits; 30mph in town, and 60mph out in the country.
I specifically didn’t back-off to try and coax as much range out of the battery as possible, and at the end of my run, the charge-range had actually dropped by 21 miles.
Given that most ‘average’ people travel less than 20 miles a day to and from work, there’s no question one full, £3 charge per week from the plug will give your Zoe more than enough power for your travels.
In ‘standard’ driving set-up, the engine delivers a bit more torque, but I ran the car most of the time in Eco mode and didn’t find it lacking in power; it was more than up to the challenge of nippy, instant overtaking. I didn’t hang about.
That said, sacrificing just a tad of speed by sticking to the speed limits to ensure you generate another 10% of range just feels right in a car as well thought through as Zoe. And don’t forget, the cute little car delivers a restful, silent cruising environment.
Just one other consideration to throw into the equation. The list price of £17,845 doesn’t include battery rental, which starts at £59 per month depending on your average annual mileage. Sure it’s an extra cost not associated with conventional cars, but Renault promises to replace the batteries if they ever dip below 75% efficiency. To date, the company says it’s never had to replace a unit.
Unquestionably, the Zoe is the best electric car on the market, and its appeal has only been further boosted by the introduction of the longer range models.
The choice of original Zoe, or the new extended range model will be dictated by your driving patterns, but be under no illusion, the R90 is poised to ensure the electric car goes mainstream.
Related: Roadtest — Renault Grand Scenic Dynamique S Nav dCi 130
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|Price OTR/As Tested
||£17,845 / £19,145 (both after PiCG) plus £59/month
|Engine / Power:
||Electric motor with single-ratio gearbox / 91bhp
||13.2sec / Max 84mph
||L4084mm W1730mm (excl door mirrors) H1562mm / 1468kg
||Range 250 miles / 0g/km CO2
||16 / Band A
||Nissan Leaf, BMW i3