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In-depth reviews

Renault ZOE review - Engines, performance and drive

It’s quick off the mark, and now has added range – although the Zoe runs out of puff on motorways

While the Zoe has a choice of motors, both models deliver their power in the same way and share the same dynamic characteristics. You get 87bhp from the Q90 model and 108bhp for the R110, and it's the latter we'd choose for its extra power.

There's 225Nm of torque that's developed as soon as the motor turns, giving very sprightly acceleration off the mark – 0-30mph takes 3.9 seconds. However, push on and you’ll notice the Zoe runs out of puff, as it struggles at higher speeds and on steep inclines. It sprints from 0-62mph in 11.4 seconds, which is a lot faster than the old R90's time of 13.5 seconds, but a Nissan Leaf provides better acceleration past 40mph.

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Just like in the Volkswagen e-up!, the Zoe’s conventional gear selector and handbrake mean the initial driving experience is refreshingly normal. You simply power up, select drive and accelerate away.

On the move, the Zoe’s steering feels more artificial than the VW e-up’s and with 290kg of batteries to lug around, it’s a little inert compared with the e-up! (which is 254kg lighter). Body control isn’t dreadful, but it rolls a bit with those batteries mounted beneath the floorpan, and the Renault seems a tad nose-heavy.

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The ride is generally well composed, although the firm suspension can send a thump through the cabin over larger potholes. Road noise is reasonable, but wind noise is intrusive at higher speeds. The grabby brakes make it hard to slow down progressively; a heavy regenerative braking system kicks in when you back off the throttle.

Around town, the light steering and silent running make the Zoe a relaxing drive, and while the light trim reflected in the windscreen of early cars, this was fixed from 2015 models onwards. It’s just a shame the issue of nasty blindspots created by those thick, sweeping A-pillars hasn’t also been addressed.

Engines

Being electric, the Zoe has no engine, but is offered with two charging options - R110 and Q90. The R110 is more powerful and it  features increased range efficiency and faster charging times when plugged into a 7kW wall charger (which is supplied free to UK customers, and largely funded by a Government grant), its inverter/charger can’t handle the 43kW so-called ‘rapid chargers’ available at some public charging stations.

That leaves buyers with a choice. Pick the R1100 motor for faster recharges at home – the ‘flat’ to fully recharged time is seven and a half hours from the supplied wallbox (it'll be 15 hours from a 3-pin plug, by the way). With the Q90 models it's an extra hour, at 8h 25m.

Other buyers may be better with the Q90 motor for its ability to ‘rapid charge’ at public charge stations – taking around one hour (compared with 1h 40m for the R90 cars) to go from flat to 80 per cent battery capacity.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    80KW i Play R110 50KWh 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £28,470

Most Economical

  • Name
    80KW i Play R110 50KWh 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £28,470

Fastest

  • Name
    100KW i Iconic R135 50KWh 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £30,420
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