We drove the 135 HP Renault ZOE 50: a bestseller with more punch and range…

The facelifted ZOE now has a more inviting front end too… and got LED headlamps standard.

Did you know that almost one out of five E-cars sold in Europe is a ZOE? Not surprisingly, as since its introduction back in 2012, the cute ZOE had the small EV market almost completely for itself. Now the competition is growing, with the Opel e-Corsa and the Peugeot e-208 coming to our markets. But Renault has revamped its ZOE on just the right points to make its baby still score very well in its segment: a bigger battery, a stronger engine, and a revamped interior indeed make the ZOE as attractive as ever… just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The bigger 52kWh battery gives the ZOE an interesting range… The Z.E. symbol lights up blue when the car is charged…

Let’s start with the most interesting point: the bigger battery. Instead of the former 41 kW unit, the ZOE now has a 52 kWh battery, putting 326 kg on the scale, but more importantly, pushing the effective driving range just beyond the 400 km mark. Given of course the appropriate driving style.

Energy efficient…

When you set the cruise at 95 km/h or thereabouts, just to be a bit faster that the heavy trucks and lorries, the ZOE will consume 7 to 10 kW/h with the ZOE at these speeds, and yes, you can enjoy quite useful ranges, close to 400 km indeed.

This meant also using the clever “B” function by slipping the nicely designed gear-lever in this position, which lets the car regenerate the kinetic energy more intensely, effectively slowing the car more markedly when one lifts the throttle. Soon, one has learns to drive with more anticipation,  and soon you drive this ZOE as a one-pedal car. A delight in dense urban traffic.

We also clicked on the “ECO” driving mode, but this severely reduces the car’s liveliness, and in our opinion should only be used when “getting home” is crucial.

Of course, this nice range is markedly shortened when you use any airco/heating function, fans and windscreen wipers and other accessories. The effective range soon drops closer to maximum 300 km or thereabouts.

Lively performance

Having said this, the 100 kW or 136 HP motor, having also a healthy 245 Nm of torque, transforms the 1502 kg ZOE in a very lively performer. Low speed acceleration is excellent, going from 0 to 100 km/h costs merely 9,5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 140 km/h.

Given the still disastrous charging infrastructure in our country, a wallbox at your house is therefore a must for every (Belgian) EV owner, if he wants to use the dynamic qualities of your EV to the full without any further worries.

Renault’s 7 kW wallbox will charge the ZOE from empty to 100 pct in some 9,5 hours. The ZOE also supports 50 kW charging provided you choose this extra option. Then it costs only 1 hour and 15 minutes to charge up to 80 pct.

The rear lamp clusters are also neatly redesigned…

The joys of EV driving…

Let it be said here already: this ZOE is an absolute delight to drive in town. The electric motor is powerful and absolutely silent (up to 30 km/h an audible signal is sent for pedestrians, but this can be shut off). The “B” function lets you drive efficiently and smoothly, you can enjoy your favored tracks through the excellent Bose sound system, which was installed in our top-of-the-line ZOE.

On the open road, the 135 HP motor certainly gives the ZOE more than enough zest, and you can enjoy the silence of the car, as the ZOE sports besides the inaudible electric motor also a very good sound insulation.

Soothing comfort…

On top of all this comes also a very comfortable suspension, which is further enhanced by the soft sprung seats. All this guarantees relaxed, stress-free driving for hours on end, and indeed, the compact, barely 4 meters long ZOE is an excellent Gran Turismo, the only thing to watch out for are range and charging points…

The light steering is sufficiently precise to enjoy also spirited driving on winding roads, and indeed the ZOE is a perfectly balanced companion on winding and undulating “Nationales”, as not surprisingly, this Renault seems born for them.

Our test car was also equipped with the usual driving aids, lane assist, blind spot warning, etc, which makes the ZOE quite “grown up” on the motorway and multi-lane ring roads or urban “périferiques.”

A much-improved interior and infotainment…

The ZOE has inherited much of the instrumentation and screens from the latest Clio, and this seriously uplifts the car. In front of the driver sits now a digital 10-inch display, which is standard even in the basic version. The upright/portrait 9.3-inch touchscreen stems from the Clio, is standard on the top equipment line but can be had as an option in the other equipment levels. The screen sits relatively high, which makes it easy to reach and more pleasant to use.

The climate controls are neatly placed below the screen, a wise choice to put them indeed separately. Via the large round knobs, they are a breeze to use.

The quality of materials is also improved, and we liked the fabric covering of the dashboard panels. Of course, we drove the top equipment version, things might look different going down the line(s)…

The quality of the materials used in the interior has vastly improved…

The ZOE is practical too, with USB slots, phone charging, plenty of storage space in the front doors, foldable backrests, etc. Boot space is quite sufficient for a compact EV, the large and wide sill might be a drawback, but then passive safety has also its needs and necessities…

Conclusion

The ZOE has with its recent improvements grown out into a quite formidable contender, witch provides comfortable, “ZEN” transportation both in town as well as on open roads and Autoroutes. Eminently comfortable and silent for its size, it is a very “grown up” car, and holds very well its own in terms of range, performance, finish and cabin ambiance.

We expect this ZOE to be one of the absolute stars in its segment, and this for quite some time to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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