Driving an electric car requires a bit of forethought before you set off on a journey. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just different compared to a petrol or diesel-powered model.
Short hops aren’t really an issue, but longer runs can be trying and downright stressful if you’re running low on volts. You therefore need to factor in range considerations and what you’ll do with the time while you’re waiting for the battery to charge. The same goes for topping up at the other end if you plan on making it back home again. To be honest, it can be a bit of a pain if you’re not an organised type.
But Renault’s latest Zoe could help to put an end to range anxiety. The new and improved EV supermini comes with a more powerful 52kWh battery, which sees it enjoy a 32% increase over the older model’s 41kWh powerpack. It’s enough to do more than 200 miles. Getting the power to the road is done via a new 100 kW motor, although there's also a slightly tamer 80kw power unit on offer too.
Driving this particular battery-powered car is therefore a very relaxed affair. That air of calm begins with the welcoming interior, which features an array of plush new fittings, restyled areas including the centre console with its very cool drive selector and super comfy seats. The steering wheel is nicely trimmed too. It’s all a lot more upmarket than you might expect for a car that’s keenly priced from £18,670 (about $23,000, AU$34,000).
For the long run
However, the most soothing aspect is the aforementioned range of this great little car. Renault has done a fine job with the new battery, and as we found out on a lengthy, not to mention rather hilly journey recently, the Zoe is more than capable of taking you on a long run. Better still, it’ll get you back again with nothing to worry about.
Renault reckons the Zoe is good for 245 miles, and based on our experience of the car we’d say that’s probably pretty accurate. Before you get into the supermini though it’s immediately obvious where the car has been tweaked from an exterior perspective. The front end is perhaps the most noticeably different from the outgoing model. Well, not different as such, just carefully honed.
The changes are subtle but effective, with a more refined hood, cool embellishments to the grille insert and some funky looking LED headlights, which are complimented by slick new running lights. It’s enough to give the Zoe plenty of driver appeal, which is further complimented thanks to some tasty new colours, including Celadon Blue, the gorgeous Flame Red and a rather more restrained Quartz White.
Back to that fetching interior though and the trio of Renault Easy Life trim options – Play, Iconic and GT Line provide something for everyone. In a nod to environmental concerns Renault has used recycled plastics and sustainable materials for many of the internal components. In fact, the Iconic models even go so far as featuring upholstery that’s 100 percent recycled material.
We think the Zoe really benefits from the remodelled 10-inch TFT instrument cluster, which is simple but effective. You get a great real-time view of how the battery is faring while you drive. The 9.3-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash is worth exploring too, featuring as it does Renault’s Easy Link multimedia system. There’s also wireless smartphone charging on the Iconic and GT Line trim options via a pad down on the centre console.
We found the satellite navigation system OK, but it’s got a few quirks, which gradually evaporate the more you use it. Elsewhere though you’ll find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Easy Connect apps that point you in the direction of charging locations. That said; we find that a quick scan using Zap Map is still one of the best ways of finding out where and when you can carry out your next charge.
However, as we’ve already mentioned, you certainly find yourself less preoccupied with recharging the battery on the Zoe. In fact, range anxiety barely reared its head during our lengthy day out, which took us from the sea to the hills and back down again.
The supermini handles OK too, with disc brakes all round helping it to stop, while going around tight mountain corners is great fun thanks to its reasonably balanced feel. There are three different wheel designs and sizes; 15, 16 and 17-inch, so you can personalize the experience even more. Overall the trim options seem to cater well for most tastes and budgets.
Journeys can be further embellished thanks to the all-new driving mode selector. Located in the revamped centre console, this gives you access to the B mode, which lets you enjoy the regenerative braking aspect of the Zoe. This also puts some goodness back into the battery as you head down those inclines. It works OK but lacks the fun factor of something like the e-Pedal in the Nissan Leaf.
Interestingly, the new 52kWh battery, which weighs 325kg, is physically no bigger than its predecessor. More usefully though: the Zoe now has direct current or DC charging alongside AC, though you’ll need to pay extra for that privilege. And, on a practical note, the Renault logo on the nose of the car covers the charging point, which means it’s easily accessed, even if you’re parked at one of those locations that have annoyingly short connecting cables.
If you’ve got access to a more powerful DC outlet then you can get around 90 miles back on a charge in roughly 30 minutes, which is more than enough to get you out of trouble. However, with that impressive new range and the Zoe’s overall capabilities, it feels to us like the new model will get you there and back again no problem. You might even feel happy skipping a top-up altogether during the journey.
There’s an additional range anxiety-beating comfort blanket too: Renault is offering a free 7kWh home wallbox for domestic recharging. While it won't offer blisteringly fast recharges it’ll be more than adequate for getting your battery back up to 100% overnight. That’s a real bonus and perfect for what this car is designed to do.
Deliveries of the new long range Renault Zoe begin in January 2020.