Review: Renault Zoe (2013)

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Sensibly priced compact four-seater electric car. Cute and funky styling. Punchy and smooth to drive around town

Has not been 100% reliable.

Renault Zoe (2013): At A Glance

The Renault Zoe followed on from the introduction of the electric Fluence ZE and Twizy, but unlike the former, the Zoe was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle. Indeed 60 patents have been filed during the development of the Zoe, with innovations to improve range and comfort. 

The original Zoe's electric motor produces 89PS and 219Nm, with a maximum range of 130 miles between charges. Most people won’t manage quite such a distance before needing to plug in with a realistic range of 90 miles in good conditions.

From 2020, the official range of the Zoe increased to 247 miles thanks to a new 52kWh battery, while Renault estimated a real-world range of 234 miles in the summer.

Energy saving technology includes regenerative braking and a heater system that has no effect on the vehicle's range. Michelin Energy Saver EV tyres designed specifically for electric vehicles reduce rolling resistance and withstand the immediate torque delivery unique to electric motors

A new charger, called Chameleon, reduces battery damage and can, dependant on the power output it's connected to, charge the car in just an hour. However you can't charge the Zoe from a standard household three-pin socket, so you really need a wallbox, although these are currently free to have installed.

On the plus side, neat technology fitted to the Zoe includes a 'voice' system that allows the otherwise silent car to be heard by pedestrians and R-Link, which allows drivers to access data and operate certain functions remotely from their phone. For example, charging can be turned on and off remotely. 

If you like the idea of an electric vehicle and it fits in with your lifestyle - you live in a house with an available area for charging, your commute isn't that long, and you have a petrol or diesel car at your disposal for longer trips at the weekend - then the Zoe is pretty much the best game in town at the moment. It's a stylish, chic and well detailed supermini, that drives very nicely between charges. 

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What does a Renault Zoe (2013) cost?

Contract hire from £200.72 per month

Renault Zoe (2013): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4084 mm
Width 1945 mm
Height 1562 mm
Wheelbase 2588 mm

Full specifications

At first glance the Zoe looks quite conventional and must be commended for its light, airy and really quite inviting interior. In this era of dour and dark seats and trim combinations, it's hard not to like the way it looks. And for the money - expensive compared with conventional hatchbacks - you can't complain too much about the level of equipment on offer.

Even the lowest-priced Expression model comes with climate and cruise control, as well as Bluetooth, a USB socket for all of your media needs and a touchscreen infotainment and navigation system. It's in the latter that the Zoe must be commended - the infotainment and sat nav system really does look good, has excellent functionality, and is simple to use.

For those Zoe drivers who are part of the smartphone generation, it's spot on. The Tom-Tom based navigation also works very well indeed. The fully electronic instrumentation is simple, legible and makes it very clear just how well - or badly - you're making use of the available charge.

The controls are simple and it all looks nicely minimalist inside. The centre console in our test Zoe was in glossy white, which looks classy, additing to the ultra-modern appeal. The gear lever is familar to anyone who drives an auto of any description but despite the ultra-modern feel of the dashboard and interior, it was interesting to see that Renault has retained a traditional handbrake.

You do sit high in the Zoe. This is a necessity as the battery pack is under the seats - good for boot space, less so for those who like to sit low. In town, all-round visibility is good and what rearward blindspots you end up struggling with during parking, the rear facing camera covers. However, the light coloured dash-top can cause windscreen reflections in bright sunlight.

Rear seat room is good, as long as the front seat passenger is prepared to compromise their own legroom, while headroom is more than generous, despite the high seating position. The boot is also very generous, offering 338 litres with the rear seat in the upright posiiton and 1225 litres when folded.

Standard equipment

Expression models feature:

  • R-Link – voice controlled TomTom satellite navigation with 7-inch touchscreen and voice control
  • 4x20W radio
  • USB port and SD Multimedia
  • Bluetooth
  • Range OptimeZEr - new-generation regenerative braking, a heat pump and MICHELIN Energy E-V tyres
  • Chameleon charger
  • Z.E. Connect – remote monitoring of battery charge and range
  • Z.E. Voice – pedestrian warning
  • Climate control
  • Cruise control
  • LED DRLs
  • ESC
  • ASR Traction control
  • CSV Understeer control
  • HSA Hill Start Assist
  • Renault keycard
  • ISOFIX mountings on front passenger seat and outer rear seats
  • TFT instrument display
  • Height and reach adjustable steering wheel
  • Privacy glass to rear side and tailgate windows
  • RAID automatic door locking

Additional equipment on Dynamique Intens and Dynamique Zen

  • 16-inch Aerotronic alloy wheels
  • Renault keycard with hands free functionality
  • 4x35W radio with Arkamys digital sound
  • Z.E. Interactive – remote battery charging and air conditioning/heating activation
  • Z.E. Digital – remote access to R-Link store e.g. email access)
  • Automatic headlight activation
  • Automatic wiper activation
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Electric rear windows
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Rear parking camera (Dynamique Intens only)
  • Intens’ dark interior ambiance (Dynamique Intens only)
  • Zen’ light interior ambiance with Teflon seat protection (Dynamique Zen only)
  • Zen Take Care by Renault – active scent diffuser, ioniser, toxicity sensor - (Dynamique Zen only)

Optional equipment on Expression

  • 16-inch Aerotronic alloy wheels £310
  • Renault i.d. paint £300
  • Metallic paint £460
  • Renault i.d. metallic paint £600
  • Automatic headlight and wiper activation £165
  • Renault keycard with hands free functionality £300
  • Rear parking sensors £350
  • 4x35W radio with Arkamys digital sound £250
  • Z.E. Interactive – remote battery charging and air conditioning/heating activation £150
  • Z.E. Digital – remote access to R-Link store e.g. email access) £25
  • Western Europe map for TomTom £110
  • TomTom Live services 3 year subscription £125
  • Easy Pack – rear parking sensors and automatic headlight and wiper activation £275
  • Comfort Pack - Renault keycard with hands free functionality and electric rear windows £245

Optional equipment on Dynamique Intens

  • 17-inch Tech Run alloy wheels (not available with MICHELIN Energy E-V tyres) £400
  • Renault i.d. paint £300
  • Metallic paint £460
  • Renault i.d. metallic paint £600
  • Western Europe map for TomTom £110
  • TomTom Live services 3 year subscription £125

Optional equipment on Dynamique Zen:

  • 17-inch Tech Run alloy wheels (not available with MICHELIN Energy E-V tyres) £400
  • Rear parking camera £310
  • Renault i.d. paint £300
  • Metallic paint £460
  • Renault i.d. metallic paint £600
  • Western Europe map for TomTom £110
  • TomTom Live services 3 year subscription £125

Child seats that fit a Renault Zoe (2013)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Renault Zoe (2013) like to drive?

The Renault Zoe's original list price was eye-opening, if you had not been too closely following the electric car market. For those who still thought of them as £30k follies, the Zoe's sticker price of £17,983 looked more palatable. Even more so, once the Government's electric car grant brought it down to £13,995. Of course, you needed to factor in the minimum cost of £70 per month to lease the Zoe's lithium-ion batteries in addition to the overall price to get the true picture.

Of course, for those urban dwellers and inter city commuters who rack up a reasonable mileage, that £70 equates to less than a tank of petrol or diesel. Even when combined with charging costs it's significantly lower than your monthly fuel bill. The £70 lease equates to 36 months and up to 7500 miles per year - more miles equals a higher monthly lease. But what it does mean is that Renault will replace the battery for free if it breaks or drops to less than 75 per cent of its as-new performance during the lease period.

So what's it like running a Zoe on a day-to-day basis? Well you get a Fiesta-sized and shaped hatchback, with a five-star Euro NCAP rating and a realistic 90-mile cruising range - with a claimed 130-mile maximum for hyper-milers. We're still a little way from the battery breakthrough that will give drivers a petrol-matching range, so the way you use your car clearly dictates whether a Zoe is for you.

When you buy your Zoe, Renault will come to your house (or other place you choose) and install a wall-mounted charger, which will fully charge your battery in around four hours. But more impressively, you can add a useful dose of charge at many public charging points. Consider that they're currently free on the motorway and 30 minutes' top-up will draw you at least an additional 50 miles of range and the economics start to play back in your favour. 

To drive, it's both easy and surprisingly sprightly. Once you've got over the lack of any noise from an internal combustion engine you'll realise it's all ridiculously easy. Acceleration is strong and linear, even uphill, plus it can leave traffic behind. The throttle is smooth and you just get a nice, clean and uninterrupted wave of power when you need it. Even in Eco mode, with a nominal 60PS, the Zoe feels sprightly from lights. With zero engine noise, the driver is more aware of other sources of noise, but road and wind noise are both kept in check, meaning it's a very refined little car.

We tested the 2017 41kWh Zoe on the motorway and although most owners probably won't go there, it's good to know that it's capable - even if you'll see your available charge drop alarmingly quickly if you venture above 60mph. It rides well and feels very stable indeed. In Eco mode, higher speeds are positively discouraged, with the cruise always dropping you back to 60mph regardless of the speed entered - which is a bit of a shame. But either take it out of Eco, or just slow down to HGV speed for an easier life.

The latest 2020 Renault Zoe is improved in almost every respect. It gained a 52kWh battery, enough for a WLTP range of 241-247 miles depending on engine power output, now up to 107PS or 134PS. We averaged 245 miles range mainly on level roads, dropping to 179 miles range driving harder on steep and twisting mountain roads.

We like the ride and handling, so even if it's not as soft as you might hope given Renault's heritage, it's still very good indeed, with only the sharpest ridges and ruts upsetting the overall balance. It rolls more in bends than most of its hatchback rivals, but never enough to upset passengers of a nervous disposition. The steering is sharp and accurate, while in corners it feels very stable and only when you're on the roughest of roads does it feel skittish. 

The brakes are over sensitive thanks to regeneration, but most drivers should soon readjust quickly and make smooth progress. It still requires some care because at the end of the brake you lose regeneration so the car does not stop as pregressively as you first expect.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
Zoe - 11.9–13.5 s -

What have we been asked about the Renault Zoe (2013)?

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What's the best electric city car?

What's the best small electric car for driving around town?
We'd recommend the new Skoda Citigo-e iV or SEAT Mii Electric. They represent very good value for money. Also consider the Renault Zoe or Peugeot e-208.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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