By Guillaume Séguin, November 3rd, 2020.

The highly anticipated Renault Zoé ZE50 is now available in Ireland, despite landing at the same time as Covid, which affected its Irish sales launch momentum. Now we can finally see what it has to give.

The Zoé is no less than 8 years old now, and went through transformations over the years. It started in 2012 (2014 in Ireland) with a 22kWh battery and a battery lease that did not seduce a large number of customers here. In 2017 the ZE40, that we tested last year in its van form, arrived with a very respectable 41kWh battery and this time, the battery was included with the car. Till 2018, the Zoé was in the shadows of its alliance cousin the Nissan Leaf, so aggressively priced in our market that it was difficult for other manufacturers to compete. But since the Leaf 2, that became less competitive, the market opened up and the Zoé, like other EVs, started to be more attractive and became more visible on our roads. A year ago, Renault decided to present a deeply refreshed version of its supermini, with a class leading battery size (52kWh) while keeping the status of most affordable EV on the market. Battery size and affordability are 2 key elements for an EV, and you don’t need to look any further to explain why the Zoé is Europe’s favorite EV so far this year.

So what is the Renault Zoé ZE50 ?

Compared to the previous version, the Renault Zoé has progressed on many key aspects: Of course, the battery is larger, but the motors are more powerful too: a choice of 110hp or 135hp versions (90hp or 110hp previously), and the replacement of the Zoé1’s unique 43kW Fast AC by the more ubiquitous 50kW CCS fast-charging capability, while also remaining the only EV able to offer 22kW AC as standard (the only other EV offering it being the Porsche Taycan… for a €1,605 extra). The interior, previously criticized for feeling cheap and plasticky has also improved with a very nice and serious dashboard covered with soft materials and best-in-class, fully-digital center and driver display.

The dashboard is nicely designed and no longer feels cheap.

Range, Charging, and driving modes

The WLTP range is 385 to 395km (depending on the wheel size), which is pretty good: Much better than the e-208 (345km) Corsa-e (337km), Ioniq (312km) and not so very far from the Tesla 3 SR+ (409km). Not bad for a vehicle that you don’t necessarily expect to take on long journeys. But you can. This range is enough to give you 300 real-life kilometers (preserved in winter thanks to the standard heat pump), and you will be able to go from Dublin to Cork without stopping for a top-up. On a test-trip starting in Cork, I went to Killarney, did the ring of Kerry and back. After a long day, and a few bathroom/food breaks, but no recharge, I drove a total of 374km with 13km to spare. The 45.6km/h average speed told me I drove for almost 8 hours without recharging, pretty impressive performance.

The 50kW DC charging (standard with the 135hp motor, optional with the 110hp one) allows 5-80% charge in about an hour. Not the best in 2020 but considering the initial range, and assuming you start your trip with a full charge, this is one something you wouldn’t do too often, right ?

Type2 and CCS port are ideally located in the front of the vehicle

More than suffering from the lack of 50kW+ DC charging, you will for sure enjoy the 22kW AC capabilities, giving you a full charge in 2.5 hours at many charge points around the country. Something really valuable if you use the public infrastructure often and/or live in a place where DC chargers are not common.

New, compared to the previous version, there is a B mode (giving more regenerative braking), on top of the ECO mode (limiting the power). You won’t be able to do one pedal driving unfortunately. The driver display will give you lots of useful information, such as speed limits, navigation information, trip computer, with the range displayed both in % and kilometers (all EVs should have that!).

On all models, the high quality fully digital display gives all the info you need

The performance of the 135hp is more than adequate, perfect for a supermini and you will never lack for power, even with 4 passengers on board.

How is it as an everyday car?

If the Zoé has improved on many aspects, but there are still some elements of the old version that couldn’t be fixed: The driver seat isn’t height-adjustable, as it’s literally positioned on top of the battery pack (that has the same physical space as the previous less powerful ones). The interior space is not huge in the back (seats haven’t changed structurally, just the materials) and adults could struggle (headspace is good but legroom is limited). Thankfully the huge boot remains, so it’s actually perfect if you have 1 or 2 children. Just be careful if you want to take the optional Bose sound system, as the subwoofer spoils that nice square cargo space (or just get a boot organizer in the accessories catalogue).

The boot is really large with handy hooks for your grocery bags

The Zoé drives just like the previous model, very well around town and on the open road with a good ride thanks to comfortable suspensions, more adapted to our country roads than the stiff setup we see on too many other cars. It has its limits on the motorway of course compared to larger cars as the seats aren’t as comfortable or as large as a Model 3 for example.

The Easy Link infotainment (available with 7” landscape or 9.3” portrait screens) is one of the best around (the user interface is just as intuitive as on a Model 3 though processing power is unsurprisingly behind Tesla’s). I would really recommend going for the larger screen (optional on Iconic, standard on GT Line). The native connected navigation (standard on all but the base trim) is so good you probably won’t use Android Auto or Apple Carplay (standard on all versions).

Not using the multimedia system? Attention to detail with this fancy screensaver on the large center display

3 trims are offered: Play (only with the 110hp motor), Iconic (110hp with or without CCS, and 135hp) and GT Line (135hp). The Play comes with a decent kit : fog lights, automatic (full-LED) headlights and wipers, 10” driver display, 7” center display with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, air conditioning, all come as standard. The Iconic will add rear parking sensors, navigation, traffic sign recognition, lane-keep assist, 16” alloys, induction charger for your mobile phone and climate control. The model you see here is the range-topping GT Line and has front parking sensors, rear-view camera, larger 9.3” screen, auto full-beams, blind-spot warning, and can be optioned with larger wheels, self-parking, heated front seats and steering wheel or the upgraded Bose sound system.

2 extra USB ports are there for your passengers on top of the 2 front ones.

Not much is missing from the long list of features besides the height-adjustable driver seat, maybe Adaptive Cruise control with active steering, a nice leather upholstery or a tow hitch option.

Underneath the electronic shifter is where you’ll charge your phone wirelessly.

Should I buy one?

There is a reason why this Zoé has been so popular since its launch: it does everything well to service the average driver, has a best-in-class range, and is the most affordable EV on the market in its base trim. There are 2 alternatives to the Zoé, the Corsa-e, and Peugeot e-208 but offering less range and only a 7kW onboard charger. If you’re relying on the public infrastructure, the Zoé is still the best vehicle around and you should seriously consider it.

Prices :

Renault Zoé Z.E.50 R110 Play: €26,469
Renault Zoé Z.E.50 R110 Iconic: €28,416
Renault Zoé Z.E.50 R110 Iconic CCS: €29,094
Renault Zoé Z.E.50 R135 Iconic CCS: €30,324
Renault Zoé Z.E.50 R135 GT Line CCS : €31,307

Version tested : Zoé R135 GT Line with optional Celadon Blue metallic paint

Prices exclude delivery charges, include 21% VAT, VRT, VRT rebate and SEAI grant.

Many thanks to Kearys Renault in Cork, for lending us the car.