Renault Zoe

Denied: a flash of junior EV greatness

TONY OíKANE

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Renault Zoe Life Synchronous electric motor 68kW 220Nm Fixed single-speed 1480kg 12.0sec (estimated) 13.6kWh/100km $44,470 November

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

ALTERNATIVE energy may still be kryptonite to Aussie pollies, but as photovoltaic panels have crept across our rooftops, crept across our rooftops, so too has awareness of the virtues of fully electric motoring.

However, awareness is one thing; access to product is entirely another. While Europe, Japan and the USAís most progressive state, California, have embraced electric cars of all kinds, our EV segment isnít even in its infancy yet. Itís still gestating.

But thereís an occasional kick from within the womb. Five years after its European debut, Renault has finally introduced its allelectric Zoe hatch to Australia, giving the French automakerís local operation its first electrically powered passenger car. But you wonít be able to buy one from your local Renault dealer. Rather than retail the Zoe, Renault Oz is only interested in direct supply to business and government fleets.

Looks like the idea of mainstream EVs is staying in utero for a little while longer.

Thatís a tremendous shame because no matter which side you stand on the climate-change debate, thereís no denying the Zoe is one of the best urban conveyances you could aspire to park in your driveway.

In the cut and thrust madness of Parisian traffic, the Zoe is superb. Seamless torque from standstill, nimble handling and compact dimensions serve it well in such an environment. Itís obvious that Renault has crafted the Zoe for urban excellence.

Renault claims it can travel up to 300km in real-world conditions on a single charge. And thatís a believable figure because a half-day of urban and extraurban driving saw the battery range read-out match our actual distance travelled. Yet the Zoe has virtues beyond the mere fact that itís battery-powered.

True to French small-car heritage, it practically floats over brutal cobblestone streets, yet despite being softly sprung it doesnít flop into corners. Body control is good, and some highspeed country stretches revealed the Zoe isnít exactly shabby around a bend either.

Its steering may not be the sharpest around dead-centre, but once youíve twirled on some lock, its pizza-cutter eco tyres hang on surprisingly well before transitioning into understeer.

Spongy brake-pedal feel spoils the fun though Ė a typical EV complaint Ė and this isnít helped dersteer. eel pical snít by weak regenerative braking But the biggest negative is Zoeís price. Starting at $44,470 for the base Life, itís mega-expensive for a B-segment hatch. Little wonder Renault Australia doesnít see regular Joes as the target buyer. braking. ative t ife, or le ralia es

PLUS & MINUS

Perfect as a city runabout; guilt-free ownership; plush ride; quiet Expensive ... if youíre able to buy one; soggy brake-pedal feel

Not current

Zoe might be Europeís most popular electric car with 76,000 sold across the continent to date, but itís a five-year-old car now and its interior shows it.

Hard plastics abound in its Clio-esque cabin and the infotainment fit-out is basic, but there are some endearing touches like embroidered circuitry patterns in the upholstery and a chunky leather-wrapped wheel.