We test the all-electric ZOE Z.E. 40 on Irish roads
Pros: Standard equipment, affordability and running costs, increased range
Cons: Range varies greatly, rivals are more spacious
The Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE are among the best-selling electric cars in Ireland right now, and both cars have capitalised from being early to the EV party. The ZOE first arrived on the scene in 2013 and it is one of the most affordable and distinctive electric cars currently on sale. The newly-updated R90 model boasts increased range and faster charging times than before, but the question remains, is it suited to Ireland’s often wet and wintry driving conditions? We spent a week with the new ZOE Z.E. 40 to test its extended range and see if it can challenge class rivals such as the Nissan LEAF, Hyundai Ioniq and BMW i3.
What is it like?
We love the ZOE’s sleek and futuristic styling. The new model hasn’t changed very much however, with the same sharply-shaped front grille, pronounced side lines and subtle blue detailing in the front and rear lights. The Renault badge on the front grille pops open to connect the charging cable, and there is a small badge on the rear boot lid which also shows the ZOE is electric-powered. Base specification Expression Nav models make do with steel wheels and the standard 22 kWh battery, while our mid-range Dynamique Nav model features upgraded 16-inch alloy wheels and Renault’s extended range 41 kWh battery.
The ZOE’s interior is minimalistic and deceptively roomy, with enough space for four adults and 338 litres of boot space in the rear. There is a vibrant digital driver’s display behind the steering wheel, and infotainment is supplied through a seven-inch touch screen with Renault’s R-Link system. We like the layout of the ZOE’s cabin and there are plenty of areas to stow items away, though the materials lack the quality of other electric cars on sale. The driving position is quite high for such a small car to accommodate the electric driving system.
The ZOE is now available with two different batteries and it’s incredibly easy to drive with a conventional automatic gear lever and different driving modes available at the touch of a button. In Eco mode, the ZOE preserves battery range and produces 60bhp, while in Normal mode it offers increased performance and 87bhp. The electric motor generates considerable torque (220Nm) and it accelerates swiftly from a standstill to 50km/h, so it is ideal for daily city-based driving. The ZOE covers 0-100km/h in 13.2 seconds and cruises confidently at motorway speeds, however it loses out slightly to its rivals at higher speeds.
The ZOE Z.E 40 has a new 22kW on-board charging system, so it offers faster charging times than before. We drove the ZOE during a particularly frosty period of wintry weather which ultimately effected range. Following a full charge, the ZOE had 230 kilometres of range, which is significantly lower than Renault’s claimed 400 kilometres. That said, the range and battery usage was very accurate during our test drive and the ZOE is incredibly frugal to run on a daily basis, with low annual motor tax (€120) and the regenerative braking system subtly tops up range.
Despite the added weight of the Z.E 40 battery, handling and ride quality is much the same as before. The ZOE shares its underpinnings with the latest Renault Clio, so it’s quite engaging to drive, with minimal body roll and reasonably responsive steering on twisty back roads, even though it’s quite heavy for a small supermini-sized car (1480kg).
After applying discounts from the SEAI electric vehicle grant scheme, the base specification Renault ZOE Expression Nav costs €23,490, which makes it one of the most affordable new electric cars. If you want the upgraded Z.E 40 battery, which the majority of buyers will, you will have to stretch to Dynamique Nav specification with prices starting from €27,490. Dynamique Nav specification is strong with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic rain sensing wipers, keyless entry/start and rear parking sensors. The range-topping Signature Nav ZOE gains additional leather upholstery, a BOSE sound system and a reversing camera, but prices start above €30k.
Carzone verdict: 3.5/5
The new Renault ZOE is much-improved with increased range, generous levels of standard kit and faster charging than before. Those who have a lifestyle suited to electric driving will find it offers substantial savings on day-to-day running costs. It can’t match traditional petrol or diesel-powered superminis over longer distances however as it is limited by a sub 300-kilometre range, and other EVs such as the Nissan LEAF and Hyundai IONIQ are ultimately more spacious inside. Despite this, the ZOE remains one of the most affordable and desirable electric cars on sale at the moment, and it is a suitable alternative to its aforementioned rivals.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Renault ZOE Dynamique Nav
Prices from: €23,490 (including government grant)
Annual Road Tax: €120
Top Speed: 135km/h
0-100km/h: 13.2 seconds
Body style: Five-door hatchback
Boot Space: 338 litres