Renault Zoe Review
The new Renault Zoe is an accomplished, affordable, all-round electric car.
Since its inception in 2012, the Renault Zoe has been ever-present on UK roads. Together with the Nissan Leaf, the Zoe has been the electric vehicle of choice for early adopters for years.
Nowadays, with electric vehicles sprouting up like mushrooms, the Renault Zoe 2020 has become a mainstream option for both EV enthusiasts and 'normal people' who just want a versatile, cheap-to-run car.
If you've never been in an electric car before, the Zoe is a great place to start. Take one out for a test drive and see what you think. In the meantime, our review below covers the key points.
Renault Zoe Review Sections
Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5
The Renault Zoe Z.E. 50 is an agile, 5-seat, 5-door, all-electric hatchback.
When you first gaze upon the Zoe, it looks like a 3-door car. The back row doors are cleverly disguised, with black door handles integrated into the window mountings. It has a bold, stylish exterior, with aero lines sweeping up from front to rear. An aggressive face combines with softer sides and beautifully sculpted lights at the back.
We run through all of the Zoe's options below, but first we outline the main configuration decisions you will need to make:
- Trims: There are three possible trims: Play, Iconic, and GT Line. As you go up the trim levels, you are upgraded in terms of technology, features, and comfort. See the 'Options' section below for a full run-down.
- Electric motor power: The Zoe is front wheel drive. There are two electric motors to choose from: R110 with 108 BHP, and the R135 with a more potent 135 BHP motor. The R110 is the only option on Play trim, can be configured with Iconic, and is not available on GT Line. On the other hand, the R135 motor is not available with Play trim, can be added to Iconic, and comes as standard on top of the range GT Line.
- Rapid charging: This is important. The standard versions of the Zoe come with a maximum charging speed of 22 kW. This is more than enough for home and workplace charging, but a little slow for so-called 'rapid' charging. When you're on a longer trip, you'll need to stop and charge, and want to get electricity into your vehicle as quickly as possible. We strongly recommend, therefore, you choose one of three variants of the Zoe that have 'Rapid Charge' in the name, giving you faster 50 kW (DC) charging.
|Model||Renault Zoe R110||Renault Zoe R135|
|Battery size (usable)||52 kWh||52 kWh|
|Official WLTP range||245 miles||238-239 miles|
|0-60 mph||11.4 seconds||9.5 seconds|
|Top speed||84 mph||87 mph|
|AC charging maximum||22 kW (AC)||22 kW (AC)|
|DC charging maximum||50 kW (DC) - option||50 kW (DC) - option|
In a way, the killer feature of the Zoe is the whole package, but let's pick out some highlights:
- Size: The Zoe is a highly manoeuvrable, compact car that is easy to drive in built-up areas.
- Range: It has very good range on a single charge of the battery.
- Design: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for many observers the Zoe is striking on the outside and inviting on the inside.
- Boot: It's surprisingly big and deals with a load of shopping bags with flying colours.
You won't beat the Nürburgring lap record in the Zoe, but Renault has struck a sensible balance between performance and range.
Let's consider the smaller R110 electric motor variants first. The 52 kWh battery pack, coupled with the 108 BHP (80 kW) output motor, delivers a 0-60 mph of 11.4 seconds and a top speed of 84 mph.
So acceleration is not particularly quick and the top speed is relatively low. On the other hand, the speed limit in the UK is 70 mph and you may not feel the need to burn everyone off at the lights.
By keeping a lid on performance characteristics, Renault cleverly ekes out more range from the battery. The official R110 Renault Zoe range of 245 miles is superb for a car in this segment, though official range for all EVs can fall well short of real-world range in certain circumstances. Read our Range Guide for more information.
With the more powerful R135 electric motor (135 BHP or 100 kW), range drops a little to 238-239 miles, but acceleration improves to 9.5 seconds for the 0-60 mph dash, and speed tops out at a marginally higher 87 mph. The R135 motor basically makes the Renault Zoe electric a bit more lively.
Just below the central touchscreen, there is a row of buttons including one saying 'Eco'. Press that and the throttle response is dulled considerably, plus air-con / heating is limited. It's a sensible setting to engage when you are running low on charge, or if you are going on a long trip and want the battery to last as long as possible. Eco mode also restricts you to a top speed of 60 mph.
Overall, the Zoe is fun, easy to drive and park. There's a convenient gear selector in the centre console by your seat – just push back for Drive or forward for Reverse – and you're off. The driving position is high, visibility is excellent, and steering is agile. A very good turning circle will get you out of tight spots in a flash. Around corners at speed there is noticeable roll, but it's not designed to be a sports car. Sometimes an issue with electric vehicles, braking is first class. There's no delay when you hit the brakes and that errant pheasant will be glad you're in a Zoe.
An odd quirk: as you set off, the Zoe car makes an electronic noise. This is a pedestrian warning system to alert people a (normally) silent electric car is approaching. The noise automatically turns off at about 20 mph.
Finally, there's a 'B' setting on the gear selector for increased regenerative braking or 'regen'. Regen is a feature of all EVs: lift your foot off the accelerator and, instead of coasting along, the car will slow more quickly than usual. The regen tech turns the kinetic energy of the car into chemical energy in your battery. In layman's terms: slowing down = more range.
Exceptionally fast 'AC' charging comes as standard, but pay attention if you require rapid 'DC' charging as well.
The Zoe comes with a Type 2 charging port, located right at the front of the car, underneath the logo. Renault call it a 'Chameleon' charger. It's rated at a very fast 22 kW for AC electricity (the kind you have at home).
However, the standard Zoes cannot charge on a rapid 'DC' charging point – the ones you find at motorway service stations. If you want to pump electricity into your Zoe quickly on a longer trip, choose a 'Rapid Charge' version. You will then have a larger, combined CCS/Type 2 port.
Read our Charging Guide for a complete overview of how electric vehicle charging works.
- Maximum charging rate: 7.4 kW
- Electricity supply type: AC
Every hour of charging on a dedicated home charging point adds roughly 35 miles of range. This table shows longer charging times:
|Battery state of charge||Time to charge|
|from 20% to 80%||4 hours 22 minutes|
|from 0% to 100%||7 hours 2 minutes|
- Maximum charging rate: 22 kW
- Electricity supply type: AC
The Zoe really shines if the charging conditions are favourable. If you have a 3-phase electricity supply at work, and the right type of charging point installed, it can be charged at 22 kW. This means you can add about 104 miles’ range in an hour; three times faster than at home.
Public rapid charging
- Maximum charging rate: 50 kW
- Electricity supply type: DC
With one of the three 'Rapid Charge' Zoes, you can typically add about 79 miles of range with 20 minutes of charging at a 50 kW charging station.
As the Zoe Rapid Charge variants are limited to 50 kW, you can never charge the vehicle more quickly, even on higher rated chargers, as this table shows:
|Rapid charger speed||Battery state of charge||Time to charge|
|50 kW||from 20% to 80%||37 minutes|
|150 kW||from 20% to 80%||37 minutes|
|350 kW||from 20% to 80%||37 minutes|
The beauty of a fully electric car is drastically lower running costs.
EVs have many fewer moving parts compared to a petrol or diesel car, and maintenance / servicing charges are generally lower as a consequence.
But the really big savings come from the fact that electricity is much cheaper than petrol or diesel. In fact, if you charge your Zoe on an EV-friendly low-cost electricity tariff, you can cut your monthly 'fuel' bill by as much 90%.
For example, let's say you drive your Zoe 8,000 miles a year and charge at home on a 5p overnight rate. Those 8,000 miles could cost you £85* for the whole year.
* based on 8,000 miles with a battery efficiency of 4.71 miles per kWh (245 miles range divided by 52 kWh usable battery capacity) and an off-peak charging rate of 5p per kWh.
The Renault Zoe is a 'zero-emissions' vehicle.
But what does that actually mean? When you drive it, as it doesn't even have a tailpipe, nothing nasty can be emitted. So no CO2, NOx gases, particulate matter, etc.
As electric cars runs on, yes, you guessed it – electricity – if you want to be totally environmentally friendly, you should charge your Zoe with electricity sourced from renewable technologies. There are now a number of UK energy companies that supply electricity to your home or workplace generated by solar panels, wind turbines, hydro electricity, and so on. Choose one of these renewable energy tariffs to go 100% green.
It's cosy and functional inside the Zoe.
When you first get in, you are greeted with a friendly chime. The front seats are simple, not overly sculpted, and quite upright. All seat adjustments are manual.
Behind the multi-function steering wheel is a 10-inch driver display. In the centre of the dash is a portrait touchscreen – either 7-inch or 9.3-inch (GT Line trim standard or upgrade for Iconic) – comprising sat nav and most other car functionality (see Technology below for more details). Below this central screen are various buttons and dials controlling heating, door locking, and the driving modes.
The decor is straightforward. The dashboard is soft on top, with fake leather on the front, and hard plastics towards the bottom. The doors are all hard plastics and leather, with chrome-effect on the three air-con dials and gear selector.
Visibility is good out of the windows both in the front and back, and reversing is easy with a fairly large rear window. There is no sunroof option, though.
Scroll down to 'Practicality & Boot Space' for more interior details.
Following the EV trend, many of the car's functions and infotainment settings are controlled via a central touchscreen.
The home screen gives you direct access to Navigation, Radio, Music, Phone, Applications, Car info, Settings, and Suggestions & notifications.
Once you have synchronised your mobile phone via Bluetooth, when driving the touchscreen conveniently shows the sat nav on the top half of the screen, with radio bottom left and phone data bottom right. You can also over-ride this view to, for example, make the phone info fill the whole screen.
The driver's display behind the steering wheel shows all the usual data like speed, remaining battery range in miles, trip distance, etc. The left half of the display can also be configured to show simplified navigation commands, radio station details, car data, and so on.
Full compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allows you to use smartphone apps directly on the touchscreen, including Spotify and Waze. The Zoe also has voice control functionality so you're not always fumbling around for buttons and buried settings.
From Iconic trim up, you gain a 3-year subscription to TomTom, enabling navigation with live traffic updates, weather reports, charging station availability and location. In addition, you can use Google address search which magically finds your destination address even when you only input basic data.
And the inevitable app? Yes, indeed. Download the MY Renault app and use it to:
- Find your Zoe if you can't remember where you parked it.
- See how much range you have left.
- Show charging stations.
- Plan journeys with charging stops and have the route sent to your car.
- Check how full your battery is when charging.
- Schedule charging times to fit in with off-peak tariffs to save money.
- Turn on the Zoe's heating or cooling remotely so you set off at just the right temperature.
For a small car, the Zoe is well-proportioned and practical.
First up, the car will fit five people. Driver and passenger space is ample, for both head and legroom.
Three adults in the back would be a real squeeze sideways, but three kids go in nicely. Legroom is fine for adults. Headroom is tight if you're tall. Actually, the rear seats are raised and noticeably higher than the front seats. It makes you feel important, even though you've been consigned to the back. You also get 2 x USB charging points (Iconic and GT Line trims).
The centre console between the front seats has a very convenient, grippy wireless charging pad for your smartphone (Iconic and GT Line trims), plus two nice-sized bottle holders. There's also another little open storage area in front of the gear selector, with 2 x USBs, an Aux-IN, and a 12V slot.
Door storage for bottles in the front is OK, but very restricted in the back. You can also use a ledge above the glove box to store small items like wallets, phones, pens, etc.
The boot is big for a car in this segment. It's 338 litres, and nice and deep. Shopping fits in easily. With the back seats down, cargo volume is 1,225 litres, though it's not flat.
Like most modern electric cars, the Zoe comes packed with safety features.
The previous version of the Zoe obtained a 5-star safety rating from the independent Euro NCAP organisation. We are waiting for the 2020 Zoe results, but fully expect them to be even better this time around.
Standard, built-in safety technology includes:
- Active emergency brake system
- Blind sport warning
- Traffic sign recognition with over-speed prevention
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keeping assist
In summary, the new Zoe hatchback is a safe environment for you and your family.
There are three trim levels available for the Zoe.
The entry level Zoe comes in Play trim. This is what you get:
- LED headlights
- Front fog lights
- 15-inch wheels
- Body-coloured door handles and black grain-effect door mirrors
- Black seat upholstery
- Hands-free keycard, with push button stop/start function
- Automatic headlights & rain-sensitive front wipers
- Cruise control/speed limiter
- Customisable 10-inch driver's display
- R110 electric motor
- Manual air-conditioning
- Driver and passenger front electric windows
- Heated, electrically adjustable door mirrors
- EasyLink radio with 7-inch touchscreen
- Smartphone integration with Android Auto & Apple CarPlay
- Z.E. Services via the MY Renault App, providing battery charging status, charge scheduling, and pre-conditioning
Iconic is the next level up and, in addition to Play, you can enjoy:
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Body-coloured door mirrors
- 100% recycled, fabric seat upholstery, and synthetic leather steering wheel
- Rear parking sensors
- Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
- Lane Keep Assist (LKA)
- Automatic High Low Beam (AHLB)
- Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR)
- Over Speed Protection (OSP)
- Split-folding rear bench
- Climate control
- Front & rear electric windows
- Wireless smartphone charging
- EasyLink radio and navigation with 7-inch touchscreen & 6 speaker audio
- 2 x USB sockets for rear seats
- Connected navigation services (3-year subscription), including Google search for places of interest, live traffic info, weather, location of charging stations
Finally, top of the range GT Line, upgrades you to:
- Tinted rear windows and rear screen
- 16-inch, diamond-cut alloy wheels
- Chrome stamped grille
- Part-recycled, part-synthetic leather seat upholstery
- R135 electric motor
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Rear-view reversing camera
- Blind Spot Warning (BSW)
- Auto dimming rear-view mirror
- Electrically folding door mirrors
- EasyLink radio and navigation with 9.3-inch touchscreen
Next up are colours. It comes as standard in Glacier White. Then for an extra £560 you can have Highland Grey, Titanium Grey or Diamond Black. Alternatively, for £660 more, you can choose from Celadon Blue, Zircon Blue, Quartz White, Flame Red or Aconite.
When you move up to Iconic trim, there are two packs available and an emergency braking option, namely:
- Technology Pack, £800: Front & rear parking sensors, Reverse parking camera, EasyLink 9.3-inch screen with navigation
- Winter Pack, £500: Heated steering wheel, Heated front seats in 3 levels, Leather steering wheel
- Active Emergency Braking System, £150
When you are configuring a GT Line Zoe, you can also add:
- BOSE sound system, £500
- Hands free parking, £300
This EV segment is getting busier and busier, but the Zoe holds up well.
The Renault Zoe price is pretty aggressive for what you get at £26,995, including the £3,000 government grant. However, there are alternatives you can consider (links take you to lease deal pages):
Peugeot e-208: The base model e-208 is a little cheaper than the Zoe, but has less range. Like the Zoe, it has a snazzy, dynamic exterior.
Vauxhall Corsa-e: Basically the same car underneath as the e-208, but more conventional looking and a slightly lower range. More expensive than the Zoe.
Mini Electric: Noticeably cheaper than the Zoe, but much less battery range. It's a 4-seater and comes with that unique Mini kudos.
MG ZS EV: A much larger car, cheaper than the Zoe, but much less range. SUV practicality.
Honda e: Beautiful, iconic styling inside and out, similarly priced to the Zoe, but, again, considerably less range.
VW ID.3: There is a now a version of the ID.3 available for just under £30k in the UK, so although it's pricier, it has very good range and is a terrific EV contender.
Renault launched the original Zoe at the Geneva Motor Show in 2012 and has been improving it ever since.
The latest iteration, the Renault Zoe Z.E. 50, is the culmination of eight years of real-world experience, testing and customer feedback. It's a terrific all-round package and a perfect introduction to the world of EV.
Where to next?
- Zoe car leasing available from just £199.25** per month.
- Looking for a great car lease deal? Check out our incredible range of Special Offers.
- Want to know more about leasing? Take a look at our comprehensive Leasing Guides.
- Interested in everything electric? Why not catch up on all the latest Electric News.
* Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top six leading independent car website reviews of the Renault Zoe.
** Correct as of 19/10/2020. GT Line R135 Rapid Charge trim, based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1,793.23. Ts & Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.