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Renault Zoe engines, drive and performance

2012 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 3.5 out of 53.5

Written by Keith Adams Published: 30 January 2023 Updated: 30 January 2023

  • Very quick to get off the mark
  • Single motor and battery option now
  • Impressive driving range

Electric motor power

All versions of the Renault Zoe are now fitted with the R135 electric motor and a 52kWh battery pack, and are capable of a 90mph top speed; previously a less powerful R110 motor was also offered, but as with some rivals, this cheaper model has been discontinued from the UK.

The R135 has always been the pick of the range anyway, for while more expensive it’s also useful more powerful, producing 135hp in combination with 245Nm of torque. The R110 made do with 108hp and 225Nm.

2019 Renault Zoe gearshift
2019 Renault Zoe gearshift

That’s enough of a difference to knock nearly two seconds off the 0-62mph time, with the R135 taking 9.5 seconds, the R110 11.4 seconds. Regardless of total output, every version of the Zoe is quick off the line, thanks to the instant thrust of electric drive, which also uses a single-speed transmission in place of a conventional gearbox.

A B (for braking) drive mode bumps up the regenerative braking effect – essentially dragging the motor to slow the car instead of using the regular ‘friction’ brakes. This process also sends more charge back into the battery pack, helping to extend the driving range; it’s not as pronounced as the ‘one-pedal’ driving modes of cars such as the Nissan Leaf, but does mean you can drive without using the brake pedal much of the time.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Light, feedback-free steering
  • Easy to drive but not sporty
  • Great in-town agility

On the road the Zoe is very easy to drive. It has light steering, which although absolutely devoid of feedback, is sharp and responsive. The car is very easy to drive in tight spaces thanks to its small turning circle, while parking isn’t difficult thanks to excellent visibility helped further by the reversing camera.

Although grip levels are high, it’s not a performance car, and there’s a fair bit of bodyroll exhibited when cornering. It doesn’t become unruly, but repeated enthusiastic turns are likely to have rear seat passengers asking you to slow down.

2020 Renault Zoe driving front three quarters
2020 Renault Zoe driving front three quarters

Cars with larger wheels, can scrabble a bit at the front when asked to move quickly; the Zoe makes most sense with smaller wheels and the accompanying squashy tyres, which help take the edge off the occasionally brittle ride quality.

R135 models have enough punch to be capable motorway chariots, but as we’ve already noted, sustained high speeds will drain the battery rather quickly. The now discontinued R110 variants are less convincing when travelling on faster roads, with their acceleration tailing off more noticeably.