20 Nov 18

Quick test: Renault Zoé Z.E. 40 R90

The latest improvements to Europe’s best-selling electric car mainly pertain to the battery capacity. With 41 kWh, you can get up to 403 km of range if you believe in NEDC, and between 250 and 300 km in real life.

Street cred

The problem with the first-gen Renault Zoé, which was launched in 2012, was that people were not reassured by a range of 200 km on paper and 120 km in reality. By changing the electric motor and nearly doubling the battery capacity, the French OEM counters this criticism while also enhancing the Zoé’s connectivity and infotainment features.

The revamped Zoé drives as you expect from a compact EV: swiftly and comfortably, thanks to the progressive torque build-up and the lack of a gearbox. You can feel that the car weighs over 1.5 tonnes, but most of the weight is situated down below, resulting in a low centre of gravity and contained body roll. It is not as fast as a BMW i3, but it feels more at ease on motorways and winding roads than its German competitor.

Compared to the latter, the materials used and the fit and finish are of a lesser quality. The personalisation options are also very limited, but then again, this Zoé also costs a lot less. It has a bigger boot, too, but we keep wondering why Renault sticks to certain ergonomically questionable choices, such as the speed control switch on the centre console.

Fleet cred

On average we ‘burnt’ 17.4 kWh of electricity per 100 km. Indeed, that translates into a range of 235 km - a far cry from the promised 400 km (NEDC). Part of the explanation lies in the fact that the weather was very hot during our test; the air conditioning did not get much of a break. The real culprit, however, is the motorway – or rather, the fact that we drove most of our kilometres on it.

The battery pack can either be rented or purchased. At roughly 60 to 100 euro per month, depending on your mileage, the rental rates are disappointingly high. We would invest the 7,000 euro up front and recover part of it at resale. Today, the R90 version can be charged at a maximum rate of 22 kW per hour. That means you need about an hour and a half to charge from 0 to 80 per cent and another hour if you need the full 100 per cent. As from 2019, it should be available with a CCS Combo (AC + DC) system, which could reduce the charging time to just 15-20 minutes.

As to the safety features: nothing has been added since 2012. AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring: it’s not in the Zoé’s dictionary. Comfort-wise, you have to content yourself with heated seats, which aren’t even height-adjustable. On the bright side: the seating position is quite high, meaning you benefit from a good view and are less prone to get back pains.


  • Enhanced range
  • CCS fast charging available in 2019
  • High seating position, large boot


  • Mediocre overall quality impression, ergonomics
  • Expensive battery rental rates
  • Limited equipment, especially in the safety area


Main competitors

BMW i3, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia e-Niro

Authored by: Dieter Quartier