BY BRIAN BYRNE
ELECTRIC cars are definitely here. What was a relative rarity for me to review is now getting common.
On Monday, I left back the Renault Zoe which is the subject of this review, and picked up an Audi e-tron. I have an electric Corsa soon, and there’s an electric Peugeot on my upcoming list. At least twice a month now I get an advance notification of a new electric model to debut over the next year.
And our local parish priest, who is 78, confirmed his order a week or so ago for a new Volkswagen ID.3. The hum is indeed replacing the internal combustion thrmmm.
The latest Zoe is a sweet car. I’ve driven the model over the different stages of its development and liked it.
There are reasons why it is the biggest selling electric model in Europe. But, like all electrics, the early range was a little short. The interior style and finish was decent but a little too much trying to show it was ... electric.
This latest one is essentially the same size, with external detail restyling that gives it a much stronger presence on the road. It’s almost as if it no longer looks like an electric car, the blue cues that do that now more subtle.
Inside, the new dashboard and instrumentation are now mainstream Renault. Much like you’d be getting in a Clio or a Captur. Which is all to the good, especially the piano-style switch-gear.
The car isn’t cheap, of course. But you’re getting top of any car’s range of comforts and driver assist tech, and ‘automatic’ as standard. All worth considering when making the comparisons against standard competition.
It’s only when you get back into one again that you realise how roomy Zoe is, even though officially a supermini. OK, I still had a little headroom issue while getting in, but once seated there’s more than enough space for a big man.
And the room behind me too, if someone like me had to sit in the back. Indeed, there was one trip to the takeaway in which Zoe easily accommodated two adults and my two granddaughters, pre-teen and teen, respectively.
The full load made no difference to the zippiness of the car, either. Anyone who has driven electric gets used to the better than normal acceleration that is a characteristic of an electric motor. My younger GD said she was definitely going to have an electric car when she is older. I said it is likely most will be anyway, by then.
By default, a low-level warbling tone comes into play while driving at slow speeds. The teen said it sounded like whales. The GDs are Australian, so would know. I’m not convinced that those it is designed to warn would hear anyway, as most of them are plugged into ear-pieces all the time.
On the power source, there were two things that interested me: One, the battery range in Zoe is now a rated 340km.
You can get more if most of your driving is urban, as the coast-brake regeneration is quite effective. And the car now has the enhanced regeneration mode where the engine braking effect is much stronger, meaning you rarely have to use the actual brakes. The second thing is that Zoe now comes with a high-capacity charging capability, so hanging around at a service area with one of the latest systems is not a thing any more.
For my purposes, not having a charger at home, I used the wall box at my local Kia dealership (thank you again!) when I needed to top up. It’s not high-speed, but a couple of hours filled it from 10pc to full the one time I needed it.
The driving was effortless, worry-free, and even fun. I left it back with a regretful smile, looking at the bulk of the e-tron replacement. Sweet, Zoe was. Probably not the epithet for the Audi, but we’ll see.
What I like: The future has been here for a while and has just gotten better.
Price: From €26,990.