Road Test: Renault ZOE Dynamique Intens
Range isn’t much of an issue in this segment. Superminis typically cover mostly local, short routes where the claimed 130-mile NEDC range on offer from the ZOE is plenty. We tested the car in cold weather where the range dropped to around 80 miles, not helped by the constant need to heat the cabin, and even this is more than adequate.
But, should you wish to take it out of its comfort zone, you can. Renault and Alliance partner Nissan have helped fund an ever-growing network of rapid chargers at service stations along the UK’s major routes, working with Ecotricity. This means the ZOE can be topped up to 80% charge in less than half an hour, for free, using 100% renewably-sourced energy.
Yes, this adds a little time to the journey but while motorways are where EVs are least efficient and range drops off quickly, the network is now so tightly spaced that you can comfortably hop between them without feather-footed driving and with the heaters turned on. If you can tolerate the 60mph speed cap, blunt throttle responses and less effective demisters, Eco mode will take you further.
Even better, while there’s a drop-off in charging speeds after it passes 80% capacity, the battery still soaks up power at an impressive rate. During our time with the car, it charged from 7% to 96% in 39 minutes.
The thorn in the side of this flexibility is that ZOE’s unique Chameleon charging system, which is designed to work with dedicated chargers, is no longer compatible with a conventional three-pin socket, so unusually the car isn’t supplied with a cable to plug into a standard home supply.
With wallboxes now subsidised by the Government, Renault believes most drivers will have bespoke charging equipment at home, the office or both. But it does mean impromptu trips to locations without charging equipment are trickier. It’s also worth taking extra care with the charging port, which is tilted backwards, isn’t sheltered from the rain as in a LEAF, and is very sensitive to dirt and water contamination.
Otherwise, though, it’s a familiar Clio-esque car to live with. The battery, located under the cabin, lifts the driving position noticeably higher than its conventionally powered sibling but the interior is spacious and the familiar R-Link infotainment system is as easy to use as it is elsewhere. Performance is brisk, but a simulated engine braking mode would be helpful on steep hills.
Looks are in its favour, too. It’s perhaps a little high-sided compared to the almost coupe-like Clio, but it has a good street presence and looks futuristic with its blue-highlighted lights. The downside is the light-coloured interior. Finished in an off-beige colour, the plastics and floor mats are prone to showing dirt and the dashboard top reflects onto the windscreen in bright sunlight.
Battery leasing costs also complicate things. It’s like a monthly mobile phone contract, in that you need to be replacing a car which used the same value of petrol or diesel each month to make the costs weigh up. But for a 9,000-mile per year, 36-month lease, the £77 monthly battery lease cost equates to around 700 miles in a 60mpg diesel car, not factoring in the electricity.
However, with the infrastructure in place to support it, the ZOE has just become one of the most usable electric cars on the market compared to a conventionally-powered model – provided you can make the leasing costs add up.
Electric power make a lot of sense in this sector, where the cars are big and usable enough to cover the mileage needed to offset the technology costs, but small enough for a mostly urban life not to be a struggle. For most supermini drivers, there wouldn’t be too much effort required when making the switch to a ZOE.
Type: Battery-electric vehicle
Price: £13,995 (including government grant and excluding battery cost)
Electric range: 130 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging Port: Type 2