Renault Zoe (2012-17)

The latest version of Renault's small electric car is better than ever, with a bigger battery, a longer range, and a more powerful electric motor.



The previous Renault Zoe won our ‘Green Car of the Year’ award twice in a row. We think it’s better looking than before too, trading some of the car’s cuteness for sharper styling.

How much will it cost to insure?

Good question, although you may not like the answer. Even the most basic, least powerful model is going to have a higher insurance premium than most conventionally powered small cars. Blame insurance ratings starting from group 18E (cars are grouped from 1 to 50, the higher the number the more expensive the premium is likely to be). The top-spec car with optional rapid charging is in group 23A.

Renault Zoe cabin

What about economy?

Well, the Zoe is a battery electric car, so we’re interested in miles per charge rather than miles per gallon. With the latest, high-capacity battery, the car will go 245 miles on a full charge, according to official figures. Choose the more powerful of the two electric motors and that drops to 240 miles.

At extra cost, buyers can upgrade to 50kW rapid charging. This allows the car to go from zero range to 80% charged in 70 minutes, but you’ll need to find a compatible rapid charger. A 7kW homecharger is supplied for free with the car, and will fully charge the Zoe in nine hours and 25 minutes.

How safe is it?

Fundamentally, the Zoe should be a very safe car. The previous generation had a five-star rating from the safety gurus at Euro NCAP, although it was tested way back in 2013 and achieving a top score now is harder than it was then as the tests are regularly updated.

There are lots of driver aids available to Zoe buyers, but it’s disappointing that autonomous emergency braking (AEB) isn’t standard on all versions. Top-spec GT Line models will have it from mid 2020, but early cars won’t be fitted with AEB at all. Once it is standard on the most expensive model, it will be available as an option on the mid-spec Iconic.

Can I personalise the car?

There are nine different colours to choose from, three of them are new to the updated car. The most affordable specification, Play, has 15-inch wheels. Iconic spec upgrades to 16-inch alloys. GT Line cars have 16-inch alloys as standard with the option to upgrade to 17-inch alloys.

What about infotainment?

We love the Zoe’s portrait-shaped touchscreen. It works really well when using the screen for the sat nav, showing you clearly what’s up ahead. The screen can be split to show lots of information at once, and the menus are easy to navigate. The system works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a DAB radio as standard.

Renault Zoe infotainment

There’s also a clever app that lets you check how much charge is left when you are not in the car, or turn on the air con so the car is already at a comfortable temperature before you drive. The app also helps with route planning and finding charging stations.

What’s it like to drive?

So easy, and so much fun. There are no gears to worry about, just select ‘D’ for drive and off you go. The suspension smooths out bumps in the road well, and there’s very little noise at speed. Acceleration is surprisingly lively too. We really love driving the Zoe.

Is there plenty of room inside?

For a small car, yes. There’s lots of room for the driver, an attractive interior design using recycled materials, and enough rear legroom for adults. Headroom is a bit tight in the back, though. The boot should handle a weekly shop but would be a bit tight for holidays.

How much does it cost?

It depends on whether you buy the car complete with the battery or buy the car and lease the battery. At the time of writing, if you go with battery leasing, prices start from £18,670. Pay for the battery outright and that rises to £25,670. Check Renault’s website for up-to-date pricing and offers.

Should I buy one?

As a first car, the Zoe is expensive to buy and insure. But the price of charging the battery is tiny compared with filling up at a petrol station, so you’ll start to win back some of what you spend as you drive. But for many, it’s worth stretching the budget to buy a Zoe because of the benefits to air quality and carbon emissions. If you can afford one, and you care about the environment, the Zoe is a great choice.

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