Renault Zoe (2013) Review

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Renault Zoe (2013) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
If you like the idea of an EV - and have access to a petrol or diesel car for longer trips - then the Zoe is pretty much the best game in town at the moment. It's a stylish, chic and well detailed hatchback.

+Fun and easy-going driving experience, good ride quality, low running costs.

-Limited range in early cars, looks won’t appeal to everyone, still expensive to buy.

New prices start from £18,443
Insurance Groups are between 14–22

The Renault Zoe is the first electric car from the French brand to be sold all across Europe designed from the ground-up as an EV, and was created to compete with pure electric rivals like Nissan’s Leaf, the Smart EQ Forfour and a slew of new EVs like the Vauxhall Corsa-e and Peugeot e-208. The first generation was one of the first mass-produced EVs and is still a viable choice today, but the pace of battery tech moves quickly and the current generation model offers considerably better range and performance. As a first step into electric motoring however, the Zoe is a sensible and appealing choice.

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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. That partly explains the unusual looks of the original car; a small footprint makes it easy to drive and park in the city, but the slightly tall and bulbous body means plenty of space inside for people as well as making room for the electrical gubbins.

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, which was pretty typical at the time but has since been exceeded by more modern designs. 

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.

The increased range doesn’t come for free, but it does make it a much more viable proposition for a wider range of buyers. Add into that the significant increase in public charging points and in a few short years the Zoe has become a genuine alternative to petrol or diesel power in a way that it was not before.

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, depending 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. 

Ask Honest John

Is the Renault Zoe a safe car?
"Two weeks ago I ordered a Renault Zoe but today read it got zero stars in the Euro NCAP safety tests. After speaking to Renault UK they say the airbags and the braking system modification/omission is due to the lack of computer chips. I am very reluctant to buy a car that doesn’t have five-star safely in a crash and feel I should cancel this order. What do you think? Is there another small electric car with a high safety spec?"
There's an element of truth to what Renault's saying. The Zoe scored badly under the Safety Assist category – with Euro NCAP criticising its lack of features like automatic emergency braking and lane assist. Some of these will be introduced next year –which suggests it could be the chip shortage that is preventing them from being included now. Not having these features doesn't mean the Renault Zoe is fundamentally an unsafe car (structurally, it's no worse than the old model which scored five stars in less stringent Euro NCAP tests in 2013). If you want to consider an alternative, we'd recommend a Peugeot e-208 or Fiat 500 Electric. Both have been awarded four stars by NCAP but bear in mind that their standard specifications may have changed too.
Answered by Andrew Brady
What's the best second-hand electric car - Leaf or Zoe?
"I am thinking of buying a used electric vehicle. This will be my first electric car. Would you recommend a Nissan Leaf or a Renault Zoe?"
The answer will depend on which generation of Leaf and Zoe you are thinking of buying. There are two versions of the Nissan Leaf and multiple models of the Renault Zoe (all with varying range). The latest Leaf is very good and much better than the latest Zoe: If you are looking at the older end of the used EV market then I'd suggest buying a 2017 or newer Zoe with the Z.E.40 battery that has a 250-mile range.
Answered by Dan Powell
Is electric car insurance affordable?
"With more and more electric cars coming on the market with power much higher than some supercars. How is this going to going to reflect on insurance costs? I remember in my younger days, to buy a Ford RS Cosworth or Ford Escort Cosworth, you would find the insurance would be almost the cost of the car itself. These electric cars are becoming more affordable to buy but produce more power than cars costing thousands of pounds more. Surely this will cause insurance premiums to rise to the levels of some supercars?"
High-performance EVs will attract the powered up premiums, just like their petrol counterparts. But I haven't seen any evidence that suggests everyday electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe, are more expensive to insure than their petrol rivals. Our partner site heycar did some research into this topic and found that Nissan Leaf owners paid £156 less on average than Ford Fiesta drivers:
Answered by Dan Powell
Can you give me some advice on buying a secondhand electric car?
"I always used to ask my dad these questions but sadly he passed away last year. I'm looking at possibly buying a secondhand Renault Zoe and wondered if the battery life would be affected with age. I don't know enough about them and would just appreciate any advice you can give me. I have always had Nissan Micras and love them, but I feel I should move towards the electric car. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me. Many thanks."
Early Renault Zoes had an official range of up to 130 miles. This is under the old NEDC tests, though, which means the real-world figure is likely to be considerably less. EV batteries do degrade over time, although not as much as initially expected. In reality, you're probably going to be able to travel 60-80 miles from a charge – fine for town use, but not ideal for longer journeys. Tread carefully, too, as many early Zoes were offered with battery lease deals. That means you don't actually own the battery. That could be a good thing as you can have the battery replaced if it's faulty, but equally, you could be lumbered with a monthly bill. When looking at secondhand Renault Zoes, you'll need to ask the question about whether the battery is included. If it's not, you might be able to buy the battery by contacting Renault Finance. If you don't feel ready for an electric car, don't feel pressured into it! We'd only recommend them for people who cover lots of short journeys and have the ability to charge a car at home. If you're not confident that it's the right move, a small petrol car will still make a lot of sense.
Answered by Andrew Brady

What does a Renault Zoe (2013) cost?