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First Drive

First Drive: Renault Zoe

The story:
Renault has revised its Zoe electric car, with a longer range, better performance and other tweaks including improved infotainment.
Key rival:Nissan Leaf
Renault Zoe GT LINE R135 ZE 50
MPG:245 miles (WLTP)
On sale:January 2020

With Benefit-in-Kind tax changes set to make electric cars more appealing to company car drivers, 2020 looks sure to be a big year for EVs. A thorough update for the Zoe means Renault is well placed to make the most of the 0%  BIK banding for zero-emission vehicles for 2020/21.

Available to order now with UK deliveries in January, the new Zoe has a larger-capacity battery, a more powerful motor, better interior quality and more safety kit.

From a practical perspective, the new battery is the most significant change. The capacity increases from 41kWh to 52kWh, enough to give a WLTP range of 245 miles for cars with the 80kW motor. Opt for the new 100kW motor instead, and that drops slightly to 240 miles.

Despite the capacity hike, the battery is the same size, so the longer range doesn’t come at the expense of passenger or boot space.

With the 80kW motor, the Zoe has always felt lively around town, but less punchy on A- and B-roads. The 100kW motor addresses that.

Urban roads may seem like the natural habitat of a supermini-sized EV such as the Zoe, but it’s surprisingly good fun to drive on a twisting back route. There’s lots of roll, but the relatively soft suspension makes for a comfortable ride.

First Drive-November 2019-Renault Zoe- Image 4Another change that makes the Zoe suited to life beyond city limits is compatibility with 50kW DC rapid chargers. However, to keep the price down this feature is a £750 cost option on Iconic and GT Line spec cars. It’s not available on more basic Play models.

Inside, the Zoe wears its eco-credentials on its sleeve, or in this case, its dash, with fabric recycled from old  seatbelts and plastic bottles. All models have a 10-inch TFT instrument cluster in place of dials, and the uprated Easy Link touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use.

Being designed on a bespoke EV platform pays off in terms of interior space, which is generous for a supermini. Even the boot, with its 338-litre capacity, is competitive with those of conventionally powered small cars.

There’s more safety kit than before, although it’s a shame that autonomous emergency braking isn’t available initially. After a few months it will be standard on GT Line, and optional on Iconic trim.

David Motton

The verdict

The Zoe is a much-improved car, setting a high benchmark for the forthcoming Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e.