4th September 2019 – by Guillaume Séguin

The Renault Zoé was launched in 2014 in Ireland, a year after the rest of Europe. It wasn’t so popular at first : the Irish buyer did not fancy the pricing structure that made you buy the car at an affordable price (from €17,490 in 2014) but then lease the battery.
Sales were sluggish during the first years with just a few dozen vehicles moved… and then about 2 years ago, the battery was integrated into the – now €25,000 – price and the battery was then upgraded from 22kwh to 41kwh, meaning a much improved range, while still remaining the most affortable EV in the market (if you exclude the 2-seater Twizy sibbling!). The 2019 range now has 4 trims, 3 motors, and if most models are the regular 5-seater passenger version, we have here a rare 2-seat van variant, transformed locally by Renault Ireland.

So what is the Zoé ZE40 ?

The Zoé ZE40 has been a great step forward when it was launched in 2017, not only it was (and still is) the cheapest EV on the market, but the range was also one of the best around, if not the best at the time, if you except the Teslas. It was rated 400km in the old NEDC cycle, which is converted today in 317km WLTP (if you get a Zoé with 15” wheels) and 300km for the more common Zoés in 16” alloys like the one photographed here. This very Zoé is the ZE40 Dynamique Nav R110, in its commercial form. This van conversion is made from the regular Zoé, so besides what’s happening in the back seat of the car, everything you read here about this Zoé applies to the 5-seater ones you will commonly find for sale.

Range, Charging and driving modes

The “40” of ZE40 refers to the battery capacity, which is … 41kwh usable (44 raw).
The R90 or R110 motors are the Renault motors whilst the Q90 is the Continental motor, that equipped the first Zoé (yet remained an option after the introduction of the R motors). The Q90 has the benefit to be able to be coupled to the 43kw charger (22kw for the R90/110 motors) but is not as efficient (shorter range) and its charger is knows to be quite innefficient at low charging speeds. A thing to be aware of if yo intend on charging regularly with a granny (3-pin household) cable. The 90 and 110 refer simply to the power of the car.
If you’re on the lookout for a used Zoé, be aware that the Q90 was previously refered as Q210 and the R90 was also called R240. The number in that case simply refered to the NEDC range in kilometers. I hope I haven’t lost you just yet :)

Renault R motor, traditionally implemented under the bonnet

Back to the R110 motor we have here today, it has only slightly more torque than the R90 (225Nm vs 220Nm) so it’s not at low speeds in the city that you will notice the difference but rather on the road, when you want to overtake someone. Like for all EVs the Renault Zoé top speed is limited, to 135kph (for all motors). It also has a faster acceleration than the equivalent Clio petrol or diesel, and is more than sufficient on any road.

Charging is done at up to 22kw. It might sound limited but we’re not talking about DC power, only available at fast charging stations, but AC, available in 1000+ charging stations across the country. This is the single best feature the Zoé has. This allows this car to charge from empty to full in about 2 hours. 22kw onboard chargers are only present on the Zoé : most EVs offer between 7 and 11kw (16.5kw for Tesla Model S and X). This should make the Zoé at the top of your shortlist if you tend to go to more remote places where fast chargers are inexistant (check for these green dots on the ESB Ecars map). On a drive to Connemara, I was happy to enjoy these AC charge points as no Fast chargers are a available west of Galway. This allowed me to very quickly top up the Zoé in Westport and then Clifden, something which would have been much more challenging with other EVs.
There is no DC charging for the Zoé (this will come soon) but it can still use the fast chargers at 22kw (or even 43kw if you have the Q90 motor).

Range can vary between 200 and 300km, depending on your driving style, and the season. There is an Eco mode, but it only limits the acceleration by numbing the right pedal. Regenerative brakes are not very strong and cannot be adjusted, when you lift off the accelerator pedal it slows down like a manual car, way less than on the Kangoo or ‘one pedal’ EVs like the Leaf (40/62kwh), or the BMW i3. It is appealing when you come from an ICE car but you would like it to be stronger (and/or adjustable) when you’re already used to EV driving. All Zoé have a heat pump, which helps the winter range and is unfortunately too often absent or optional in current EVs.

How is it as an everyday car ?

When you start driving the Zoé, you will immediately feel like you’re driving a small Renault. It has in my opinion the best compromise between comfort, handling, manoeuvrability and driving pleasure among EVs and does everything well, without any major flaw. If you like driving small French cars, you will like that Zoé. The only small difference is that the car is heavier and you can feel a bit that weight in the corners. But you always feel safe, with just enough understeering to tell you when you’re being a bit too brave.

Interior feels a bit cheap and dated but ergonomics are good

When stepping inside of a Zoé, you might not like the abundance of hard plastics, even if it has progressed over the year with some nicer materials on the dashboard and doors. The seating position is a bit high, like for most EVs, but be aware that you will not be able to adjust your driver seat in height, as the batteries are just below !
The Zoé is roomy enough for a small car and seats are comfortable… In the 5 seats version the boot is really large for the segment, 338 liters, that’s more than a Clio or than a Kona. In the commercial version, a storage compatment (handy for cables!) has been created at the bottom, so the loading surface can be completely flat.

Large flat boot for the commercial variant of the Renault Zoé

The other storage bins and pockets aren’t very roomy so be organized ! Tiny glove-box and tiny cup holders too. 2 of these will host a regular size 33cl or 50cl can, the 3rd just a narrow energy drink one!
The standard equipment is pretty good despite the affordable sticker price: The Expression offers GPS, cruise control with speed limiter, climate control, front electric windows. For an extra €2,400 our Dynamique Nav version adds the R110 motor, rear electric windows, hands-free acess card, automatic lights and rain sensor, rear parking sensors, electrically folding door mirrors, and 16” diamond cut alloy wheels. For another €1,000 you can get the S-Edition, recent addition to the range. It adds a reversing camera, a half-leather upholstery and a Bose sound system. Finally an extra €1,300 will get you the Signature Nav trim, with a really nice bronze/brown interior and leather heated seats.

Seat are simple, but comfortable, a handy small pocket is located at the front of the passenger seat

Should I buy one ?

You’re probably aware that the updated Zoé is going to be launched soon, so purchasing this outgoing Zoé now means you might be able get a better deal. Be aware that the production has now stopped so you’ll be looking at stock version. If you’re looking at a used one, be careful as older versions were sold with a battery lease which explains why they appear so cheap. But do not believe newer Zoés are all battery-owned as many come from the UK and these could be ordered with or without the battery leased (sometimes named “i”), regardless of the year!

The Zoé is for sure a great choice if you don’t need something bigger. And the European consumer knows it, as it is the best selling EV with the Tesla Model 3, leading the market just the way the Clio leads its segment in Europe. If you have one, it might be time to switch your Clio for a Zoé !

The powerful on-board charger allows the Zoé to fully charge in just 2 hours on one of the 800 standard ESB Ecars AC chargers in the country

Passenger versions –
Zoé ZE40 R90 Expression Nav – €25,590
Zoé ZE40 R110 Dynamique Nav – €27,990
Zoé ZE40 Q90 Dynamique Nav – €29,490
Zoé ZE40 R110 S-Edition – €28,990
Zoé ZE40 R110 Signature Nav – €30,290
Zoé ZE40 Q90 Signature Nav – €31,790

Commercial versions –
Zoé ZE40 R90 Expression – €27,995
Zoé ZE40 R110 Dynamique Nav – €30,390

These prices include VAT, VRT, VRT relief and SEAI grant, and exclude delivery charges. You may claim the VAT back on the commercial version.

Thanks to Kearys Renault Pro+, Sarsfield Rd, Cork for the loan of this Zoé.

Photo credit : Guillaume Séguin, Inge Davidsen