Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Very quick to get off the mark
  • R110 is slower to accelerate out of town
  • Only one gear – similar to driving an auto

All cars following the 2019 update use a 52kWh battery (the same 4,727 iPhones, fact fans) which is what we’ll focus on here, but there’s a bit of info below about pre-facelift cars too.

You do get a choice of power outputs now, however – with the mainstay R110 and a new R135 for a bit more poke. In addition there’s a new B driving setting for both, which is essentially a stronger regenerative braking mode.

R110

Carried over from the pre-facelifted car is this 108hp unit with 225Nm of torque, which accelerates from 0-62mph in 11.4 seconds and tops out at 84mph.

Effectively it only has one gear, so it works just like an automatic. You simply pull the gear lever into D and away you go.

This drivetrain is very much at home in the city where its punchy performance off the line means you’ll easily keep up with (and will quite often be faster than) other cars.

Where the performance starts to tail off a bit is on slip roads or the motorway, where the power delivery is a bit more leisurely. It’s not slow, just not quite as stimulating as when pulling away from a standstill.

R135

New from 2019, this 135hp motor has 245Nm of torque for a 9.5 second 0-62mph time and 87mph top speed. This version is much more confident on faster roads.

Not least because it’s 2.2 seconds faster than the R110 from 50-75mph, so gets up to dual carriageway or motorway speeds with much less of a delay.

It responds strongly to prods of the throttle while on the move too, which makes it much more flexible on country roads, and able to overtake slower traffic with ease.

What is the Zoe’s range?

Renault says the 52kWh Z.E. 50 battery can delivery between 245/240 miles for the R110 and R135, dropping to something more like 149 miles in the winter. That’s a useful 32% increase over the previous 41kWh battery and puts the Zoe at the top of its class for range.

If you're tempted to consider the Zoe for longer-distance commuting, it's worth bearing in mind that the range drops markedly with sustained high speeds. Renault claim 69mph will bring the effective range below 150 miles - in real-world testing, with B-mode for regeneration on downhills, a 130-mile motorway round trip gives a 163 mile range - and that's in deserted conditions that make sticking to a constant speed easy.

It points to a different future, though. If more autonomous driving is allowed, with a fall in maximum speeds and a rise in average speed, the Zoe shows that a deceptively simple electric car can easily cover long distances.

B mode one pedal driving

One thing that will jolt if you’re used to driving combustion-engined cars is the regenerative braking. When you take your foot off the accelerator the Zoe automatically starts to slow down as a way to charge the battery.

From 2019 a new driving mode called “B” was added to the Zoe, offering much strong regeneration when you release the throttle pedal. This is activated by pulling the gearshifter downwards twice.

In reality it’s not as strong as the one-pedal mode on the Nissan Leaf, but slows the car more ferociously than in normal D mode. It’s useful around town where, with practise, you can avoid using the brake pedal in most situations.

Engines previously available

Previous to the R135 and R110 models was an electric motor with 92hp and 220Nm of torque, or a quick charge version with 88hp.

This accelerated from 0-62mph in a relaxed 13.5 seconds and could achieve 84mph – not figures to set the world ablaze but nippy enough in town centres.

Range figures for this car were split between the 41kWh and 21kWh battery options – with 250/149 miles offered. This range was pre-WLTP so would have been harder to achieve than the 245/240 miles range of the post-2019 cars, confusingly.

Handling

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

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 restringing 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. GT-Line R135s, with 16-inch wheels, can scrabble a bit at the front when asked to move quickly; the Zoe makes most sense with smaller wheels, squashy tyres and less power.

Pre-2019 facelift cars used a conventional hand brake but this was then replaced by an electronic item. Not only does this free up space in the centre console, it’ll also automatically pop on when you come to a stop. In partnership with the electronic gear shifter (also post-2019), this means you can simply turn the car off when you come to a stop and be sure that it won’t have rolled away when you come back