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Renault Zoe: Small chic EV

Among best selling electric vehicles, Zoe sits on opposite price spectrum of Tesla

By Ghaith Madadha - Dec 31,2018 - Last updated at Dec 31,2018

Photo courtesy of Renault

AMMAN — First launched as a 2013 model and discretely improved since then, the Renault Zoe is among the world’s best-selling plug-in electric vehicles (EV). A regular sight on Jordanian roads where EVs benefit from substantial duty exemptions, the Zoe is fashionably designed, practical, user-friendly and conveniently compact city car, whichsits at the opposite end of the EV market compared to Tesla’s large, luxurious and expensive offerings. The Zoe sits somewhere between other electric hatchbacks like Fiat’s 500e and Volkswagen’s e-Golf, which have all gained recent popularity in Jordan.


Modern and minimalist


Though a technologically modern EV under its skin, both the Zoe’s driving interface, as well as its interior and exterior designs, are uncomplicated and minimalist in spirit. With a uniquely chic French styling ethos, the Zoe features smooth and uncluttered surfaces with more gentle curves and flowing character lines. Meanwhile its adornment is also minimalist, with a large and bold diamond-like Renault emblem taking centre stage, reflected in similarly high-set diamond-shaped rear light clusters with clear casing and a subtle blue background. 

Smooth and rounded in the front, the Zoe’s low air intake is framed by slim arcing running lights, while thin high-set headlights extend to almost a third of the fascia’s width on each side. A 5-door hatchback with a discreet rear tailgate spoiler and slim 195/55R16 tyres, the Zoe’s clean surfaces also benefit from blacked out pillars and rear door handles that are integrated into the door frame. Short, narrow and tall, the Zoe’s shape makes it maneuverable in the city and allows for terrific visibility, but this to an extent is also determined by its heavy 290kg batteries being situated under the floor.


Near silent and smooth


Powered by a forward-mounted electric motor driving the front wheels and a 22kWh positioned for a low centre of gravity and balanced with-wheelbase weight distribution, the Zoe’s ZE20 battery is the the French manufacturer’s entry-level variant EV. Producing 87BHP at 3,000-11,300rpm in one vast and high revving band and a more sizeable 162/lb/ft torque throughout 250-2,500rpm, the Zoe ZE20, like most EVs uses a single-speed automatic gearbox and is more torque-biased in its delivery. The result is an eager off the line response and initial acceleration, as well as confident pulling power from lower cruising speeds and on inclines.

Near silent, but for a distant whine, the Zoe ZE20 is quick enough to achieve town driving speeds, but with a weight of 1,468kg, takes 13.5-seconds to reach 100km/h from standstill. Capable of a 135km/h maximum, the Zoe’s rate of acceleration does however trail off slightly by around 110km/h. Quick enough to keep up with similar combustion engine cars, the Zoe does, however, feature an Eco mode for enhanced efficiency, in which power is reduced. The result is a marked improvement of driving range, but at the cost in acceleration, power and responsiveness.

Settled and balanced


Capable of fully recharging its batteries in eight-nine hours or three-four hours on a single phase domestic charger at 3kW, 16a or 7kW, 32a, the Zoe’s 80 per cent recharge time is however reduced to 60-minutes when using a public 22kW, 32a charger and 30-minutes with a much rarer 43kW, 63a high capacity charger. Driving range is rated at 210km in the more generous NEDC cycle. In the real world, faster speed, quicker acceleration and steeper inclines reduce range somewhat, but when driving at very low speeds and with a light load, the Zoe’s range improves considerably. 

It also recuperates some electricity from its regenerative brakes. Regenerative brakes help slow the Zoe down and reduce stress on its front disc and rear drum brakes, but are not set to be too aggressive when they operate on lift-off, to ensure more fluent and intuitive driving. Its accelerator pedal is, however, not as pinpoint precise or intuitive as similar petrol engine cars. Settled and reassuring at speed, the Zoe’s low centre of gravity lends it a buttoned down feel through corners as well, where it benefits from balanced and centralised weighting, good body control and tidy handling. 


Agile EV


A tighter handling car when driven at the edge of its grip and handling abilities than some other small and heavy EVs, the Zoe feels eager and sharp into a corner and agile and nimble throughout. Zipping through switchbacks with fluency and maneuverability, the Zoe’s somewhat thin tyres communicate grip limits well, while hints of understeer when entering a corner too hard are more progressive and intuitive than its rival, Chevrolet Bolt. The Zoe’s steering meanwhile is very light and quite quick, but more importantly has some feel for the road while remaining refined and effortless. 

Small and easy to maneuver in small confined parking garages, through busy traffic and when making three-point turns, the Zoe also offers good visibility and a reversing camera for added help. Somewhat minimalist and modern in its interior design, the Zoe’s controls, trim and console seem to take inspiration from smartphone aesthetics, colours and textures, and retain a fresh look despite the use of hard plastics. Front seating is high, alert and comfortable with generous headroom, but slightly narrow and could benefit from improved lumbar support for long journeys. Rear space is fine for most, but not particularly suited for larger and taller adults, while its 338-litre luggage room is well-packaged, and expands to 1,225-litres.

Renault Zoe


Engine: Front-mounted synchronous electric motor

Gearbox: single-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]:87 (88) [65] @3,000-11,300rpm

Power-to-weight: 59.2BHP/tonne

Torque lb/ft (Nm): 162 (220) @250-2,500rpm

Torque-to-weight: 149.8Nm/tonne 

0-48km/h: 4-seconds

0-100km/h: under 13.5-seconds

Top speed: 135km/h (estimate)

Driving range, NEDC: 210km 

Charging time, 3kw / 7kW / 22kW / 43kW: 8-9-hr / 3-4- hr / 60-min (80%) / 30-min (80%)

Battery: Lithium-ion, 22kWh

Battery weight: 290kg

Length: 4,084mm

Width: 1,730mm 

Height: 1,562mm

Wheelbase: 2,588mm

Track, F/R: 1,511/1,510mm

Overhang, F/R: 839/657mm

Unladen weight: 1,468kg

Headroom, F/R: 904/826mm

Shoulder room, F/R: 1,365/1,320mm

Cargo volume, min/max: 338-/1,225-litres

Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion

Lock-to-lock: 2.73-turns

Turning circle: 10.56-meters

Suspension F/R: MacPherson struts / torsion beam

Brake, F/R: Ventilated discs 258mm / drums 228mm

Tyres: 195/55R16

Price, on-the-road: JD27,500 (2018 model)

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