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Renault Zoe (2017) long-term test: the final report

Published: 22 February 2017

► Renault Zoe long-term test review
► Eight months with the EV hatchback
► Read Steve Moody's test diary here 

Month 8 running a Renault Zoe: the conclusion to our long-term test

So after eight months our trial of the Zoe comes to an end. I’ve seen the future, and the future is looking pretty bloody bright, and powered by electricity.

Plenty of people have had variable experiences with EVs, but I can report that hasn’t been the case with our Zoe. It has run like clockwork. Or should that be a digital watch…

From the mileage it might look like the Zoe has spent a lot of time not doing much. In fact, it has been in almost constant employment, excelling at lightning raids round town for errands, and that can be seen in the trip computer’s average speed, which is 17.9mph.

In that time, and roughly 2300 miles, it has used between £85 and £47 of the sparky stuff. I say between, because peak is 13p per kWh and off-peak 7.5p. Generally, we charge the car at night so it’s more likely to be nearer the lower figure. In comparison, a petrol supermini doing that mileage at an average of 50mpg (good luck, at the Zoe’s average speed) at an average cost of 110p-per-litre would use £230 of fuel. Wow.

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The driving experience is ethereal. The steering is light and floaty, the tyres have a nebulous grasp of the road, especially in the wet, and the only noise inside is a distant hum, which sounds like angels minding their own business. 

On the outside and below speeds of 20mph, the Zoe makes a noise like Metal Mickey with constipation to warn pedestrians of your approach, but all they think is ‘Oooh that sound is like Metal Mickey with constipation’ and fail to move out of the way. Having never heard a car sound like this before, unsurprisingly their brains don’t scream ‘Car!’ and shift them out of the road. I can report no actual pedestrians were damaged during this test, however, thanks to the Zoe’s excellent brakes (regenerating as they go too). In fact, the regenerative brakes are one of its most impressive aspects. If you go slow enough, or are stuck in slow-moving traffic, you can create more miles in range than you actually travelled. 

This is not the case if you floor it, especially from low speed, whereupon the surge of torque flings the car forward. At the same time it uses more power than Air Force One when President Trump has his hairdryer going. We kept the Zoe in Eco mode almost all the time, which limits such silliness and power, although you need to switch it off if you want to go faster than 60mph.

Renault Zoe interior

Thanks to the batteries stowed neatly under the seats and its snub nose, the Zoe has excellent cabin space for a supermini, although those swept-back rear doors hold a small danger. On a number of occasions passengers have hit their heads on the pointy bit at the top of the frame. Space-age Jetsons swoopy styling doesn’t always work in the more practical world of trying to extricate kids in a crowded multi-storey car park in Peterborough.

But the Zoe has one principle problem as I see it, and it’s not of its own making. The charging infrastructure is just a bit shoddy. Certainly the Zoe, with its smart cabling and 22kWh charging is very dismissive of poorly maintained and badly earthed charging points, which could be a problem if you go further afield than we often do. 

Simply, you have companies like Renault spending billions developing these cars, but many (not all) of the businesses running networks are ambitious start-ups with wonky tech and shonky service. It’s no surprise BMW, Mercedes, Ford and VW Group are clubbing together to create their own roadside charging network.

That said, our Chargemaster home station has worked perfectly and I still delight at being able to completely defrost the car when it is plugged in by activating its heat pump from the house using the key fob.

So here’s the thing: the test Zoe is leaving, but me and the Mrs are in advanced discussions about buying/leasing one for her (lease I think, with uncertainties over batteries and residuals still). She’s utterly sold on it, it’s perfect for her needs, working locally as she does and not ever needing to drive far, and her and the kids love the space, light and quiet of it. As do I.

We’ve never before bought a car after having one as a longtermer, which goes to show just how good I think the little Renault Zoe is. 

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav 

Engine 86bhp @ 3000-11,300rpm, 160lb ft @ 250-2100rpm
Gearbox Single-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Stats 13.5sec 0-62mph, 84mph, 0g/km  
Price £20,545 (after £4500 grant)  
As tested £21,350  
Miles this month 223  
Total miles 2245
Total electricity consumption 659 KWh  
Total electricity cost £85-£47 
Extra costs £0

Count the cost

  • Cost new £21,350 (including £4500 grant and £805 of options)
  • Dealer sale price £9777
  • Private sale price £8632
  • Part-exchange price £8327
  • Cost per mile 0.03p
  • Cost per mile including depreciation £5.83


Month 7 running a Renault Zoe electric car: traction troubles

I’ve encountered a couple of problems cars with considerably more performance than the Zoe have: speeding and traction. Maximum torque kicks in like a mule at only 250rpm. On greasy winter roads, the skinny tyres spin up on take-off easily, while you have to keep an eye on the speedo because the silence and rapid low-end acceleration get you past 30mph in a blink.

Who knew you could be eco-conscious and a hooligan, without breaking the bank, at the same time?

Logbook: Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav 

Engine 86bhp @ 3000-11,300rpm, 160lb ft @ 250-2100rpm  
Gearbox Single-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Stats 13.5sec 0-62mph, 84mph, 0g/km  
Price £20,545 (after £4500 grant)  
As tested £21,350  
Miles this month 438  
Total miles 2022  
Total electricity consumption 578 KWh  
Electricity cost this month £16.10  
Extra costs this month £0

By Steve Moody


 

2017 Renault Zoe long-term test

Month 6 running a Renault Zoe electric car: a lukewarm fuzzy feeling

Now in the grip of winter, I’ve discovered the Zoe has a heater so weak it wouldn’t warm Barbie’s Dream House. I suppose it’s part of the ‘put another jumper on’ energy parsimony.

However, the pre-heating system helps: from inside my home I can use my iPhone to heat the Zoe up in the morning, as long as it is plugged in. But even then, mostly what you get is mildly less chilly than outside. Being an eco warrior toughens you up. Time for a knitted organic yak jumper, I think.

By Steve Moody


Month 5 running a Renault Zoe EV: can we make it to Hatfield on one charge?

I’ve been lucky to do some great drives for CAR which had a squeaky bum element: up a Scottish mountain, in the middle of the night in a snowstorm, in a Vanquish, being stalked by drug dealers in Detroit slums and having a Prius almost run a Wraith off an Alp particularly sticking in the mind. Driving to Hatfield in the Zoe is the latest.

I had to go to a meeting and it felt like time to extend the Zoe’s wings up to, and beyond, its comfort zone. First thing to do when you climb in, as any experienced EV-er will tell you, is stick the sat-nav on and the air-con off. Generally the range indicator offers up more than 80 miles, but today it reckons I have 77. I need to go 77 miles. Bugger. I blame my wife – she’s obviously been driving like Ken Block over the weekend. But then I get a grip – this is theoretical range only.

I start off up the road. I haven’t even got to the A1, less than a mile away, and already the range is down to 75 miles. One real mile gone, two virtual miles burned. At that rate, I will grind to a halt at Sandy. Five miles later, and range is pouring out of the car. Every few yards, a frantic glance at the indicator. Touch the accelerator. A mile vanishes. A slight incline. Another mile vanishes. Think about what you’re having for tea. Yet another mile goes. Tortuous.

Huntingdon. 46 miles to go, 45 miles of range. Better, thanks to the flatlands of the fen edges and a steady 60mph tucked in the slipstream of lorries. Perhaps I could park and walk the last bit?

The approaches to the infamous Black Cat roundabout – 36 miles, 36 miles and rush-hour queues for three miles. Crawling through traffic. Lots of braking. I emerge the other side of the jam – 33 miles. 36 miles. 

The regenerative braking has gained me three precious miles, and so, lesson learned, I brake my way down the A1. Throttle, brake, throttle, brake. It’s not smooth, but it is effective. The range just isn’t dropping.

The A1 M: not your typical Renault Zoe milieu

And then I hit Stevenage. Glorious, concreted, sprawling Stevenage, depositing its commuting citizens in waves onto the A1. Six miles of crawling, frustrating traffic. Except for me. The finest of jams, spread over Hertfordshire. I emerge the other side, with 11 miles to go, with 24 magical miles of range. This is proper space travel: I’ve entered another dimension where the brilliantly effective regenerative braking means I am going, without going at all.

Elated, I blast past Welwyn Garden City, foot to the floor, without a care in the world. Miles in my back pocket. I swish under the tunnel, 14 spare miles to use with abandon. 

My meeting is near Glyn Hopkins Renault, and thanks to my Chargemaster card, I can use its fast charger for free. I pull in with 12 miles left and start gabbling excitedly to the chap in the dealership about what a brilliant journey I’ve had, how rubbish the traffic was, and how I still have range. 

Once, we beat the Blue Train from Cannes in a Bentley to Pall Mall by a matter of minutes. At the time, I wanted to dance down the street. This result, in this wonderful little car, feels even better.

The Renault Zoe range meter

Logbook: Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav 

Engine 65kW, 87hp @ 3000-11,300rpm, 160lb ft @ 250-2100rpm
Gearbox Single-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Stats 13.5sec 0-62mph, 84mph, 0g/km
Price £20,545 (after £4500 grant)
As tested £21,350
Miles this month 412
Total miles 1481
Total electricity consumption 447KWh
Electricity cost this month £15.50  
Extra costs £0

By Steve Moody


2016 Renault Zoe long-term test

Month 4 running a Renault Zoe: charging network woes

The Zoe is performing faultlessly. The only problem is the network. Have you tried charging an EV away from home? It’s very stressful: often the chargers aren’t working properly, or somebody has gone off to do their Christmas shopping and left a bloody Leaf in the charging bay for hours.

Or, you used to be part of the Ecotricity network, which is in most services, for a quick splash and dash. Except now they want £6 for a 30min charge, completely negating the cost advantage of having an EV. Bizarre.

Logbook: Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav

Engine 65kW, 87hp @ 3000-11,300rpm, 160lb ft @ 250-2100rpm  
Gearbox Single-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Stats 13.5sec 0-62mph, 84mph, 0g/km  
Price £20,545 (after £4500 grant)  
As tested £21,350  
Miles this month 201  
Total miles 1069  
Total consumption 318KWh  
Electricity cost £7.12  
Extra costs £0

By Steve Moody


2016 Renault Zoe long-term test

Month 3 running a Renault Zoe: the cure for range anxiety

It’s funny how your perceptions of things change through necessity. In a car burning dead dinosaurs I get a bit nervy when the fuel gauge reports that there’s less than 50 miles in the tank.

Now that I’m motoring like the Jetsons, if the Zoe’s range is anywhere above 20 I’m cruising along with barely a care in the world. Range anxiety? Not a chance. It shows that when you only have about 80 or so miles to play with, you soon recalibrate your idea of what is acceptable, not least because mileage in an electric car seems a much more precise figure. If there’s six miles left, you’ve got six miles and it seems to click down at a regular rate, whereas in a dinosaur car you might have six, or three suddenly, or 56.

Some of this certainty is down to Renault’s excellent range predictor, which learns the more you drive. So when I started it didn’t reckon much above 70 miles was possible, but the more time I spend in Eco mode, which limits the power of the air-con (which I switch off a lot anyway), slows the throttle response and doesn’t let you go above 60mph, the more optimistic it has become. My range is now up to 87 miles with a full charge.

My relaxed attitude to motoring with the Zoe has certainly been helped by the fact that like a young cub leaving its mother’s side the first few times, I don’t stray far from home and the safety of my socket. But soon I shall embark on an adventure that marks my progression over the threshold of EV manhood and the realms of public charging. Perhaps next month on to Northampton, or Lincoln, or somewhere else exotic...

The other perceptions that I’ve found changed by the Zoe are those of build quality. The car is built with all the structural rigidity of a tin can. The lightweight doors clang shut and the bootlid boings, while the cabin is pretty but made of thin plastic. Yet for once I don’t mind this: the lightweight structure of the Zoe is compensating for the hefty batteries. Needs must, after all in the new age. 

Logbook: Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav  

Engine 65kW, 87hp @ 3000-11,300rpm, 160lb ft @ 250-2100rpm  
Gearbox Single-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive  
Stats 13.5sec 0-62mph, 84mph, 0g/km  
Price £20,545 (after £4500 grant)  
As tested £21,350  
Miles this month 234
Total miles 868  
Total electricity consumption 249 kWh  
Electricity cost this month £7.56  
Extra costs £0

By Steve Moody


2016 Renault Zoe long-term test

Month 2 running a Renault Zoe: ditching the diesel

Research found that people who have an EV as a second car, rather than a traditionally powered one, use it far more. If there’s any trip of less than 30 miles to do, I instinctively hop in the Zoe.

The thing is in constant use, alongside other electrical household items like the kettle and dishwasher, and if I have to power up a diesel engine to take kids to ballet or golf, or to nip to the shops, I feel dirty and profligate. The Zoe is proving a brilliant family runabout.

Logbook: Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav  

Engine 65kW electric motor, 87hp @ 3000-11,300rpm, 160lb ft @ 250-2100rpm  
Transmission Single-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive 
Stats 13.5sec 0-62mph, 84mph, 0g/km  
Price £20,545 (after £4500 grant)  
As tested £21,350  
Miles this month 376  
Total miles 478
Amount charged 220kW
Electricity cost £25
Extra costs £0

By Steve Moody


2016 Renault Zoe long-term test

Month 1 running a Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav: the introduction

So the past is now indeed in the past, for our Defender is no more. It’s time to look to the future, and it is a shock to the system. We have had to turn our house into a smart charging station, I’ve had to download apps, and learn about networks. For I am now a green, a convert to the electrical vehicle revolution in a Renault Zoe. I’m thinking of buying shoes made of paper as well.

I’ve always thought the Zoe was the best EV, because it is one of the cheapest and simplest, which to my mind should be a pre-requisite for this kind of car. Straightforward, light and costing as little to run as possible, too. Over the period of our loan, I hope it will prove to be the case.

To start with though, ours is not especially cheap. The entry level car costs £18,445 on the road, before you get £4500 from the government to help you out, but ours is the i Dynamique Nav model, which comes with the new longer-range battery (although fast charging to 80% takes an hour now rather than 30 minutes) and is a heftier £24,045. Fortunately that grant softens the blow a bit but it is still a lot of money for what is effectively a second car.

And that’s what the Zoe’s role should be ideally suited to. Range, depending on factors such as weather, geography and how badly I drive it should be anywhere between 70-100 miles.Which could be ideal as the car is for running the kids to ballet, football, golf, horse-riding and school without ever leaving the county. Renault has seen a trend with Zoe owners who often do higher mileages in it than those who have a petrol or diesel powered supermini as a second car.

To aid me in my role as the ultimate low-emission runabout taxi driver our Zoe has a surprisingly long list of kit as standard: rear parking sensors with rear parking camera, R-Link 7in touchscreen multimedia system, climate control and cruise control. It’s like a real car!

2016 Renault Zoe long-term test

There are a couple options fitted too: 17in ‘Tech Run’ alloy wheels (£310) and a rather nice sea-blue metallic paint job (£495). It also has Z.E. Interactive, which should allow me to remotely charge the battery, warm or cool the car up from the house and schedule when it feeds on electricity, all from the comfort of my iPhone.

The result is a second car costing £21,350 after government handout, but the first job, even before it turns a wheel in silent anger, is to get a charging point installed at the house. Renault offers all Zoe customers a free one of these (again with a Government grant to help), to allow them to charge the car fully in about four hours, rather than using a plug off the mains, which would take a day.

This a not-inconsequential commitment by Renault, because the Chargemaster 7kw Wallbox, after installation costs, is the best part of £1200. So I’ve been on the phone to Chargemaster taking pictures of our junction box and discussing stuff about ring mains and power supplies ahead of an installer coming to power us up. The world has indeed changed.

Logbook: Renault Zoe i Dynamique Nav  

Engine 65kW electric motor, 87hp @ 3000-11,300rpm, 160lb ft @ 250-2100rpm  
Transmission Single-speed gearbox  
Stats 13.5sec 0-62mph, 84mph, 0g/km  
Price £20,545 (after £4500 grant)  
As tested £21,350  
Miles this month n/a  
Total miles n/a  
Extra costs £0

By Steve Moody

Read more long-term tests

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

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