SMMT TEST DAY: Zoe to be the new Nicole?

RENAULT‘S latest electric offering, ZOE, is set to bring all the advantages of quietness, responsiveness and refinement to a bigger audience when it goes on sale in June – but is she the new ‘Nicole’?
The chic little city car took its UK bow at the SMMT’s annual test day for motoring writers at Millbrook, and proved a popular addition to the list of cars available to drive. In fact one scribe was so captivated he proved reluctant to bring it back for others to try out…..
We used to have a ZOE in the office years ago. But while the human version suffered from a faulty volume control, electric ZOE doesn’t need one in the first place, because she doesn’t make any noise.
Start her up and while there’s the odd click here and there, there’s nothing to disturb your concentration. Select drive, press the pedal and she’s off, the power instantly available and displaying a high level of responsiveness around the tight city course at Millbrook.
Well equipped and certainly well finished, she’ll have a lot going for her when the infrastructure is fully in place around the UK to properly cater for cars like these that need a charge up now and again. ZOE can be charged to 80 per cent capacity in around half an hour, if you can find a 43Kw rapid charger, so a leisurely coffee stop and you’re off again. For another 70 miles or so.
She’s certainly stylish and comes in at what Renault claim is an affordable pricetag of £13,995. Battery hire will set you back from £70 a month upwards depending on usage, and they all come with a free domestic wall box to allow you to charge up overnight.
The price is actually comparable to a diesel engined new Clio, but with ZOE you’ll never see a petrol station again.

As the flagship vehicle of the French brand’s four-strong 100 per cent electric vehicle range she’s perfect for commuting, supermarket and school runs, and for households who want to downsize their engine and carbon footprint. ZOE is the first affordable car for everyday use to have been designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

ZOE is available in three trim levels – Expression, Dynamique Zen and Dynamique Intens – and is packed with a raft of innovations for a new form of motoring. The sleek supermini is the first vehicle to be equipped with ‘Range OptimiZEr’ which combines three major innovations, bi-modal regenerative braking, a heat pump and MICHELIN EnergyTM E-V tyres. With these tyres, in the NEDC cycle, ZOE is homologated with a range of 130 miles, but in real conditions and in suburban use, you can expect around 60 miles in cold weather and 90 miles in temperate conditions.

ZOE is the only electric vehicle to feature the Chameleon charger. Patented by Renault, it’s compatible with all power levels from 3kW up to 43kW. Charging batteries at a charging station can take between 30 minutes and nine hours, with 80 per cent of full battery power able to be achieved within 30 minutes using a Rapid Charger 43 kW AC power source.

The electric motor has a power output of 65kW, equivalent to 88hp, and instantly delivers maximum torque of 220Nm. Acceleration and pull-away are responsive from low speeds, while its top speed is limited to 84mph.

So you can’t accused of creeping up on unsuspecting pedestrians, ZOE is fitted with ‘Z.E. Voice’, a sound which warns them the vehicle is approaching. ‘Z.E. Voice’ can be heard from 1 to 18mph and was the subject of special design work to create a bespoke sound identity for ZOE. The driver can choose between three different sounds, while it is possible to turn off the warning system by simply pressing a button.

>> Others sampled at Millbrook, and worth you having a serious look at, included Skoda‘s Citigo Sport – a Citigo with attitude at just £10,290, and Nissan‘s Juke Nismo, a Juke with a bit more style and attitude – more of which anon.

Volkswagen‘s Golf R Cabriolet, with its 265ps 2.0 TSI engine, proved just the ticket on a hot sunny day, but its £38,770 price tag could prove a bridge too far for some. Blistering performance without a doubt, but a hefty price for the people’s car….

© wheelwrite 2013



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