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Renault ZOE Zen

Verdict on the battery-powered Renault ZOE, which promises to shake up the electric car market

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The ZOE is the most sensible electric car yet. Keen pricing and decent kit make it a viable alternative to a standard Clio – especially as the £70 battery lease is probably less than most people spend on fuel in a month. The car feels great in town, but buyers wanting to make longer cross-country journeys may be better off looking elsewhere.

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The all-electric Renault ZOE has arrived in the UK, and it’s promising something completely new in the supermini class. This zero-emissions car has a price to match conventionally powered rivals – so can it draw buyers in?

First impressions are good, with a cute yet futuristic look thanks to sharp lines and stylish wraparound lights. The oversized Renault badge lifts neatly to reveal the ZOE’s charging socket, while at the rear, blue-tinted light clusters and ZE badging are the only hints to its emission-free power.

From behind the wheel, it’s like any other supermini. The controls are logically laid-out, and if it wasn’t for the funky graphics and electric dials, you could be in a new Clio.

The car feels sure-footed on the move, with light but responsive steering and comfy suspension. The driving position is elevated as the battery pack is under the floor, but provides great visibility to make the ZOE easy to drive. It’s in its element in town, with the electric motor’s instant hit of torque giving a responsive feel.

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Take the ZOE on to faster roads, and it doesn’t feel quite as punchy. It’s hampered by a heavy kerbweight, and struggles on steep inclines. And while 0-30mph takes just four seconds, the next 30 takes a lengthy 9.5 seconds.

There’s plenty of space for passengers in the front and back, and a generous 338 litres of boot space, too. The long kit list on our Dynamique Zen model includes 16-inch Aerotronic alloys, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and climate control.

Touchscreen sat-nav, electric rear windows and keyless entry are also standard, with prices for this model from £15,195 after the £5,000 Government grant.

You’ll pay £70 a month to rent the batteries, and the car has a 130-mile range. Renault will fit a domestic wall box for ZOE buyers, too, cutting charge time from eight hours to three-and-a-half.

As it’s so easy to use and cheap to run, the ZOE’s a plausible everyday electric car – if you can live with its limited range and flawed high-speed performance.

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