Zoe provides smooth switch to electric cars

2013 Renault Zoe
2013 Renault Zoe

With every new electric car, you could be forgiven for thinking we’re getting closer to an environmentalist’s dream of carbon-free motoring.

Of course, there’s still the dirty little secret that the electricity used to charge the cars has yet to be generated entirely from rainbows, but with each new arrival comes fewer and fewer everyday compromises.

A prime example of this is Renault’s Zoe, an electric alternative to the likes of its maker’s own Clio supermini. Cars like the Zoe herald the introduction of products designed from the outset as full electric vehicles, not modified existing cars.

Of course we’ve seen most of this before in Nissan’s similarly sized Leaf, although the Japanese firm’s offering is pitched at more affluent buyers. The Zoe’s interior therefore might not be as plush, but the price tag is closer to the aforementioned Clio.

Visually the Zoe is as sensible as they come and, in 
truth, puts some of its engine-powered rivals to shame in the looks department. Inside, the Zoe’s light and airy cabin is a welcome attribute.

And then there’s the driving and ownership experience, the downfall of so many electric cars in recent years. The Zoe drives very much like a conventional supermini with an auto gearbox, acceleration from rest is brisk and the overall experience is a smooth one. Predictably the car feels perfectly at home around town – all in all, a good effort.

Living with, and charging, electric cars is dealt with neatly by the Zoe; the charging hardware is stored in the car’s nose, and the charge time can be reduced to just a few hours if you opt for a domestic wall box to supplement power from a conventional outlet.

Officially the Zoe’s range is around 130 miles, but even Renault admits the real world figure will likely be lower depending on driver behaviour and outside temperature. That said, around 80 miles should be achievable.

As far as the current crop of electric cars go, the Zoe appears to be one of the most conventional in the way it looks, drives and integrates into your life.

Average mileage drivers will pay an all-inclusive monthly charge of £70 to lease the battery.

There’s also the prospect of modest regular running and servicing costs, while the zero-rated road tax should please you as much as the presence of a generous Government grant to take the sting out of the purchase price.