First Drive Review: Renault ZOE

Independent Review by Peter Hayward

5-minute read

Blue Renault ZOE Exterior Front Driving

First Drive: Renault ZOE

Explore the key features of the Renault ZOE in our expert first drive review

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Greatly reducing range anxiety with its impressive electric range, the new Renault ZOE proves small electric cars are no longer a gimmick.


  • Improved EV range
  • More practical than previous versions
  • Stylish exterior
  • Decent to drive
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One of the main drawbacks many people saw with all the early electric cars was a short range of 100 miles or even less.

The first Nissan LEAF supposedly had a range of about 90 miles, and I remember doing a run of about 35 to check it out.

Using my most parsimonious economy driving techniques and the best power sipping setup of the car, plus turning off the air conditioning and even the fan and stereo, I set off with high hopes and a battery filled to capacity.

The whole trip was in daylight, so I needed no lights, but by the time I was almost home I really knew what range anxiety felt like.

The computer was saying I had five miles left. I was very unimpressed.

The first Renault ZOE came out in 2012, and with a 22kWh battery, it had a claimed range of up to 93 miles – very limiting indeed.

But over the years, its range and performance have improved beyond all recognition, and so has the speed with which it can be charged.

The ride is very good too, so that it takes rough town roads in its stride, and also handles poorly surfaced B-roads at speed.

Driving Experience

The latest version is now a real alternative to petrol and diesel cars, with the most powerful 52kWh battery giving a range of up to 245 miles – far more than 90 percent of drivers are ever likely to need.

And because of the huge steps being made in battery technology, that bigger capacity battery fits into the same space as the original 22kWh one.

Using an Economy 7 overnight power supply, it costs just £5 to recharge – which has to be fantastic. That equates to running costs of just under 2.5 pence per mile.

Not only is the battery bigger and more efficient, there’s also a new electric motor producing an excellent 134bhp (100kW) of smooth and virtually noiseless power.

This gives the little hatch a 0 to 62mph time of 9.5 seconds, and the top speed is limited – as it always has been – to 88mph.

There's also a new B setting on the gear selector that effectively gives one pedal motoring, by using power regeneration under deceleration to slow the car down and send extra power back into the battery at the same time.

The driving position is excellent and living with the ZOE could not be easier.
Peter Hayward

Like all cars powered by electric motors, there's no need for a gearbox. The power surges right from a standstill to the maximum speed with no gaps or hesitation.

And this latest, more powerful battery/motor combination really lives up to its promise, giving very good acceleration from rest, and when it’s needed in the mid-range for overtaking.

With a low mounted battery helping to keep the centre of gravity down, roadholding is also good, with plenty of grip, but there was more body roll than I expected when pressed through corners.

And the power steering – which has a very useful tight turning circle – gives the driver little feedback, unfortunately.

Design and Practicality

The ZOE has always looked like a small car in photos, but the reality is surprisingly different, with very good rear headroom and decent space for knees – even if there’s a lanky person driving.

The ‘hidden’ rear door handles are a little awkward to use at first, but an owner would soon get used to them.

A restyled exterior includes LED headlamps for all models and a range of new colours.

Technology and Equipment

And the interior is more luxurious than the previous models, with premium quality plastics and fabrics plus a 10-inch digital instrument display that includes Renault’s Easylink multimedia system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

There is also an ‘always on’ 4G internet connection that includes automatic software updates when they’re needed.


Over the years, electric powertrain technology has seen rapid developments, and the Renault ZOE is at the forefront of the small electric car charge. The latest generation offers an impressive driving range, as well as a high-quality interior that's a pleasant place to spend time.

With improved practicality compared to previous models, the new Renault ZOE is now a top match for a variety of lifestyles.