Best value small electric cars: Volkswagen e-up! vs Renault Zoe

Finding a cheap electric car isn't very easy, so we've done the hard work for you

Finding a cheap electric car is still very difficult, but look in the right places and there are bargains to be had. Nowhere is that more clear than with our first contender, the Volkswagen e-up!. At the time of writing, we found an offer for the VW Group’s smallest EV for just £167.99 per month on a two-year deal.

 Renault ZoeVolkswagen e-up!
Contract type:Personal Contract Hire (PCH)Personal Contract Hire (PCH)
Monthly cost:£206£168
Length of contract:36 months24 months
Initial payment:£1,853£1,513
Mileage allowance:5,000/year5,000/year

The dinky e-up! punches well above its weight when it comes to interior design. The finish is superb for such a small car, and the overall layout is well thought-out, right down to the neat smartphone cradle on top of the dash which, once an app has been installed, lets your own device act as the car’s infotainment system. A USB port hidden around the back of the mount keeps your phone charged on the move.

The fully-electric model first joined the up! range in 2013, but an update four years ago increased the battery capacity to 36.8kWh, which allows for a 159-mile range. The 80bhp output doesn’t sound like much, but at 1,235kg, the e-up! is much lighter than most EVs. As a result, accelerating to 30mph feels livelier than you might expect. The performance tails off at higher speeds – 0-62mph takes 11.9 seconds – but with a little forward planning it’ll get up to motorway speeds quite nicely.

It’s testament to just how right Volkswagen got things with the up! that a car that first made its debut in combustion form 12 years ago is still so accomplished to drive. Refinement and ride are great for such a small car – better than in some cars from the class above. 

It’s fitting then, that its rival here is from that larger supermini segment. The Renault Zoe’s most competitive deal comes in at slightly under £206 per month,  just missing out on the £200 limit, but still extremely cheap by electric standards. So what are the benefits of spending a little extra cash?

Well, the most obvious upside is that, with its larger footprint, there’s a little more space inside for people. At slightly more than four metres long, the Zoe is hardly a giant, but an extra half-metre over its rival has been put to good use when it comes to rear-seat space, and particularly the boot, where its 338-litre volume is 87 litres more than you get in the e-up!. 

The other advantage that the Zoe has is range. Renault has crammed a much larger 52kWh battery within the car’s floor, which means that the GT Line+ trim you get for that monthly rate officially covers 238 miles on a charge. 

While the WLTP figures can be a little optimistic, we found that in mild conditions, it’ll still be good for just under 200 miles, giving the versatility to cover the occasional long trip, too. 

Those credentials are backed up by a 134bhp motor that helps the Zoe achieve a 9.5-second 0-62mph time, which comfortably outperforms the e-up!. A ‘B’ mode allows the Zoe to deliver much stronger regenerative braking than in its standard setting, allowing for most town driving to be covered without really ever needing to go near the brake pedal. 

Diving into our deals here, the Zoe’s contract has a three-year term, while the e-up!’s is two. Both require the equivalent of nine months’ rental as an up-front payment, which translates into £1,512 for the Volkswagen and £1,853 for the Renault.

Verdict

First place: Renault Zoe

The Renault Zoe manages to get all of the basics for a cheap EV just right without shouting about it. The understated looks hide a car that’s spacious inside, has a smart, well finished cabin, is relaxing to drive and delivers decent performance. 

Most impressively, you’re not needing to scrimp on the battery capacity, so a near 200-mile real-world range makes it easy to live with every day.

Second place: Volkswagen e-up!

Second seems appropriate for the e-up!, because we can’t think of many cars today that’d make a more perfect second car. It’s small, easy to drive, feels more solid than a car of its size has any right to, yet it’s also cheap to lease and, if you can charge at home, cheap to run. 

However, the features that the Renault offers give it just enough versatility to be the only car that many families will need. 

Figures

 

Renault Zoe 100kW GT Line+

Volkswagen e-up!

Monthly lease/total lease cost

£206/£9,263

£168/£5,544

Powertrain

1x e-motor, 50kW charger

1x e-motor, 30kW charger

Peak power/torque

134bhp/245Nm

66bhp/96Nm

Transmission

Single speed/fwd

Single speed/fwd

Battery size

52kWh

36kWh

Length/wheelbase

4,087/2,588mm

3,600/2,407mm

Height/width

1,562/1,787mm

1,504/1,645mm

Boot capacity (seats up/down)

338/1,225 litres

251/923 litres

Kerbweight/towing weight

1,502kg

1,235kg

Turning circle

10.6 metres

9.7 metres

Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.

24th/N/A

18th/10th

NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars

43/52/41/14/0 (2021)

81/83/46/55/3 (2019)

0-62mph/top speed

9.5 secs/87mph

11.9 secs/97mph

WLTP mpg/CO2

238 miles

159 miles

   

Parking sensors/camera/LED lights

F&R/yes/yes

No/yes/no

Cruise control/lane keep/blindspot

Yes/yes/yes

Yes/yes/no

Climate ctrl/leather/heated seats

Yes/artificial/yes

Yes/no/yes

Sat-nav/digital dash

Yes/yes/yes

No/no

Wireless/CarPlay/Android Auto

Yes/yes/yes

No/no/no

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