Review Date: 28th November 2020
Current Mileage: 45,000 miles
Reviewed by Nina Flower
We have had our ’65 plate Zoe for 3 years now, and have done approx. 33,000 miles in her. Initially, it was an experiment to see if we could manage as a family of 4 with our second car being electric. It was brought by my husband to commute to and from work, a 50 mile round trip.
At the time (early 2017), the Zoe was a very affordable option, the prices of Zoe’s at that time was lower as the battery is rented rather than owned. We brought the Zoe second hand from a private dealer in Grimsby and it was definitely a bit of a gamble! None of the dealers locally at this point even had a Zoe in to test drive, and we were met with a lot of blank looks when we went in to ask about them. However, the private dealer was very helpful and reassuring.
Our thoughts about wanting an electric car were mainly to decrease our carbon footprint and reduce our impact on climate change as much as possible. My husband works in power generation and feels strongly that electric vehicles are the future.
We also test drove a Nissan Leaf but much preferred the Zoe, our reasons were liking the Zoe’s aesthetics more, and also finding it more intuitive to drive. We had a Renault Grand Scenic as our main family car, and we liked having similar controls on both cars. It seemed to make the switch to electric a little less daunting! At the time, the only two cars in our price range were the Leaf and the Zoe. The Zoe won hands down both in terms of cost and aesthetics.
Initially it felt like a bit of a gamble, and before we had a home charger installed, there was definitely a degree of range anxiety, particularly as the weather got colder, however, my husband’s work installed some destination chargers, we got a home charger and it suddenly became very easy to make the Zoe work for us. As the infrastructure has improved, we have got more confident in taking her for family days out. We have tended to do longer drives and holidays in our bigger Scenic, but as a second car, the Zoe has been fantastic.
The only downsides to the Zoe are the frankly bonkers shaped doors, which means they have really sharp corners, an issue when you are attempting to wrestle a stroppy toddler into a car seat! Also, we have had a few issues with the tracking due to it being a heavy car on normal suspension but this issue has been resolved with the newer cars. Also, the range occasionally limits us, but the newer Zoe’s have much larger batteries, and hasn’t been an issue for us as a second car.
In summary, the Zoe has been a fantastic introduction into electric vehicles, and now, we are a 2 EV family. The Zoe was only slightly more expensive than a similarly sized nearly new second car. She has introduced us into a much cleaner, quieter and cheaper form of transport. Our Zoe has been very reliable and cheap to run as well as a really fun little car to drive.
For a 5 year old car, our Zoe has stood up well to family life. I had initially thought that the black fabric interior would show up every spill and stain, but it hasn’t and it does clean up well. The white edges to the seats also clean up well.
It feels very light and airy due to the presence of lighter coloured interior plastics. It doesn’t feel premium, but it doesn’t feel bargain basement. The lighter coloured plastics scrub up ok and our car has survived family life better than the scenic!
The Zoe is pretty comfortable, but the front seat backs are fixed and not adjustable. This hasn’t been an issue for us, but could be for some. It is comfortable for the journeys that we do, which are limited by the lower range.
The only issue we have noticed is the reflection off the dash onto the windscreen but it is less marked than in some cars.
Interior Rating: 3/5
I would never have chosen a white car, but it was the only Zoe in our price range that we could find locally! Despite this, she has stood up to 3 years of family life, supermarket car parks, back roads and bikes being propped up against her! The paint work seems to be very robust and she has no chips or dents.
We have standard wheels, and not fancy alloys and they have been fine with not issues.
She is a good car to look at, despite now being 5 years old, and the build quality seems good with no major panel gaps.
The only gripe my husband has with the exterior is that you cannot lift the windscreen wipers up off the screen when you’re washing it.
Exterior Rating: 4/5
Any Issues with the Car?
The only issue we have had with the car is the tracking needing to be regularly re-aligned. The Renault dealership have been unable to offer any reason as to why this is and have thoroughly checked the car over.
We use the dealership for services, and our local garage for MOTs. It has become much easier to get work done on the car outside of the main dealer network as more and more local garages get appropriately trained mechanics. The dealership was efficient and we had a good service from them.
Our Zoe has been so much more reliable than the scenic, and has only needed new tyres in the time we have owned her. The battery, which was one of our initial concerns, is still as good as it was new. We do pay a monthly sum for battery hire to Renault, but on our next EV, we will go for battery owned.
Our Zoe is a pleasure to drive, and there are often battles about who gets to drive it! Its compact, handles well and is very quick off the mark.
The seamless acceleration will beat most boy racers effortlessly off the mark, and it allows you to zip effortlessly through traffic. It feels much faster and sportier than its numbers suggest.
The quietness and comfort mean that it makes driving a lot less stressful. You do have to be mindful that there is a lot of torque initially when pulling away and I have definitely managed to ‘burn rubber’ pulling away!
It does run out of puff at about 70mph, and acceleration after that point is much slower, but with smart motorways and speed cameras, this isn’t a big issue for us. It feels more than powerful enough at city speeds, and this is where I feel brisk acceleration is much more useful.
The only minor issue is the suspension, for such a heavy car, it doesn’t really have the set up that it needs. It judders badly over speed bumps and can struggle with pot holes. This issue has been addressed with subsequent models I believe.
Driving Pleasure Rating: 4/5
We have completed 33,000 miles in the Zoe, and she has cost us very little, probably being the cheapest car we have ever run by some margin.
The major expense is the electricity but we attempt to charge for free where we can, we also have the octopus agile energy tariff and try to time our charging with the cheapest prices. During the first lock down, this often meant we were being paid to charge our car. Also, windy weekends are an idea time to charge!
My spreadsheet loving husband has kept a spread sheet since we brought the Zoe. We pay an additional £14 in electricity (based on approx. 1000 miles per month) , but we do often charge it for free at his work. If we didn’t have this option we estimate approx. £26 per month. On a standard tariff, more like £45/month
We run our Zoe on different tyres to those recommended, we found the (very expensive) green Michelin tyres were very slippery, our local independent tyre specialist fitted different tyres and it has made a big difference to handling and costs. Servicing, even at the dealership is cheaper than what we pay for our scenic and we haven’t been hit with any major repair bills.
Insurance with LV is on a par with our other cars, but you do have to ensure that they are happy to cover the battery too.
Overall Running Cost Rating: 5/5
Our Zoe has more than fitted the brief of what we really wanted in a second car, to the extent that we replaced our beloved scenic with a second EV, a Kia E-Niro.
There is very little that would tempt us back into the world of internal combustion engines. EVs are the future.
Initially, when my husband raised the idea of buying an EV, I was very cynical. I was worried about being stranded in the middle of nowhere, having run out of power with 2 small children. Range anxiety is definitely a ‘thing’ I struggled with initially, but you adapt your way of thinking around this. All cars will do less miles in the cold, but this is more noticeable in an electric car, you just have to plan your journeys with slightly more care.
There is a degree of knowledge and education it is very useful to gain in the early days of having an EV, and it would have been good if this was more easily available in the dealerships, but this situation is improving and was noticeably different when we brought our second EV three years later.
The charging infrastructure is gradually improving, our older Zoe is slightly hampered by not having the CCS rapid charging capability but we haven’t found this to be an issue. There are fewer and fewer rapid AC chargers about but the newer Zoe’s have CCS which does increase the number of rapid chargers you have available to you. On a rapid AC charger, we can manage 20-80% charge in approximately 45 mins, just enough time to get the kids in and out of a service station!