The Renault Zoe is a fairly familiar sight on our roads, but can it still cut it with newer pure electric rivals including the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen e-Up! and latest Nissan Leaf?
The five-door Renault Zoe hatchback is the best-selling electric car in Europe and it’s been on sale in the UK since 2013.
More than 100,000 Zoes have been built in France to date, where one in two electric vehicles sold in 2017 was a Zoe. The Zoe's recent awards include Best Electric Car up to £20,000 (WhatCar? Awards 2018), Best Used Electric Car (Diesel Car & Eco Car Magazine 2018) and Best Eco Car (Parkers New Car Awards 2018).
Priced from £18,420 (including a £4,500 Government Plug-in Car Grant), you also have to pay £59 per month battery rental. Alternatively, the car can be leased from as little as £199 per month.
Similar in size to a Renault Clio, the Zoe has received upgrades for 2018 including a more powerful R110 (80kWh) electric motor, Android Auto compatibility and new optional ‘Aconite’ purple metallic paint.
The Zoe has a 186-mile real world range and every purchase includes a free 7kW fast-charging wall-box with free home installation, plus a three-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Naturally, owners also benefit from zero road tax and can enter the London Congestion Charge Zone for free. Depending on charger speed, it can be recharged to 80% in as little as an hour, or it will fully charge overnight at home.
The evergreen Renault Zoe still looks cute and normal, which is refreshing in a sector where weird design elements are not unusual. The interior is pretty minimalistic and futuristic with plenty of plastic and a large screen in the centre console which controls the car's major functions. Generally it seems well put together.
The driving position is quite high (the batteries are places underneath the cabin) which takes some getting used to, but it's generally comfortable.
There's plenty of room up front, but space is tighter in the back for taller passengers. There are lots of spaces to store smaller items, while the boot is bigger than you might think (338 litres, rising to 1,225 litres with the rear seats down).
There are two basic trim levels - Dynamique Nav and Signature Nav.
Standard specification on the entry-level car includes hands-free keycard, automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, cruise control, climate control, an Android Auto-enabled 7-0-inch infotainment system with voice-controlled TomTom sat nav, and LED Daytime Running Lights.
Signature Nav adds features such as leather upholstery, a BOSE audio system, heated front seats, electrically folding door mirrors and a rear parking camera.
The top-of-the-range version is now also available with a new optional Purple Interior Pack, which includes a violet satin finish for the dashboard trim strip and air vent, gear lever base, loudspeaker surrounds, top stitching along with black and violet fabric upholstery.
How does the Renault Zoe drive?
As long as you're not expecting an electric pocket rocket, the Renault Zoe is surprisingly good fun to drive.
Officially it takes 11.4 seconds from standstill to reach 62mph, but it feels faster (especially when accelerating away from traffic lights, for instance). However, the Renault Zoe's top speed of 85mph is academic, because you risk draining your battery super fast if you break the national speed limit.
The truth is that the motorway is not the Zoe's natural habitat. It's more for shorter journeys or nipping around town in zero emissions silence (actually more of a subtle whine like most EVs). That said, it's quite capable of handling the odd short motorway journey. Nippy, compact and fun to drive, the Zoe has light, precise steering, good visibility and is easy to drive - just press the accelerator pedal and you're away.
Ride comfort is good at lower speeds, though it's a little more unsettled when pushed on more challenging roads.
The brakes take some getting used to. They are more abrupt, partly because they are also trying to harvest energy to recharge the battery, while speed drops off abruptly as soon as you lift the accelerator. However, these aren't so much criticisms as observations of the way electric cars in general differ from conventional cars.
Renault Zoe: the verdict
Cute, comfortable, quiet, well equipped and fun to drive, the Renault Zoe is the perfect introduction to electric cars and zero emissions motoring. If you only need a car for relatively short journeys and you can recharge it at home or work, then welcome to the future.
Find out more about eco driving
To learn more about hybrid and electric cars, take a look at our myth-busting eco-driving hub. If you want to put your money where your mouth is and buy a new car, use our eco-friendly car comparison tool and see which cars are right for you.