Renault Zoe ZE 2016 new car review

The Renault Zoe ZE (zero emission) is one of many EVs spearheading the restoration of electric drive in passenger cars.

Robert Barry
Robert Barry
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

The Renault Zoe ZE (zero emission) is one of many EVs spearheading the restoration of electric drive in passenger vehicles as a manufacturers response to urban congestion, poor air quality, and energy security.

Exterior , 4 out of 5 Drive , 4 out of 5 Safety , 5 out of 5 Value , 3.5 out of 5

Overall score , 4.1 out of 5

The good
  • Fun, practical, stylish, thrifty
The not-so-good
  • High price tag

It is Renault NZ’s first all-electric passenger model and comes with a 3-year/100,000km warranty and 5-year warranty on the battery.

On the road

It will sit silently in a traffic jam, making no noise and emitting zero emissions, once on the move it has a sound generator that grows progressively louder between zero and 30kmh.

Depending on the way you use the car, a Zoe will provide a range of 115km to 170km which is more than enough for urban users where their daily commute is generally around 30 to 50km.

Recharging the Zoe from almost nil-charge using a standard three-pin plug takes around 10 hours, using a 7.4kW wall charger takes 3 to 4 hours, and a 22kW three-phase wall charger allows an 80% battery top-up in an hour.

Your Renault dealer will supply a 7.4kW wall charger for home use, and our Zoe review vehicle also came with a Type 2 cable and plug, as well as a Type 1 to Type 2 adapter plug and cable, and a three-pin plug cable and adaptor for standard domestic power sockets.

During our week with the Zoe, thanks to the three different cables supplied by Renault NZ, I never once had an issue with charging or range anxiety. I topped it up at home, by parking the car close to the kitchen window and running the cord outside. We went to Sunday lunch at a friend’s house in Riverhead and topped it up in their garage.

I topped it up at the charging station in the Auckland Council downtown car park; I topped it up at the Vector office in Newmarket while lunching and shopping, and I also used the charging station at the Renault dealership, while enjoying a cup of coffee inside.

It's also imperative when charging at a busy high volume public station such as the one at Sylvia Park shopping precinct not to leave the car sitting in the dedicated park for longer than necessary, the unspoken etiquette amongst EV owners is that you always move the car off as soon as it's charged up.

Because the Zoe has underfloor battery installation, not only does the car have a low centre of gravity which makes for excellent handling and fun driving, it also has a very decent boot space for a small city hatchback.

This useful feature allowed me to visit a friends storage locker, load a top-loader Fisher and Paykel washing machine in through the Renault Zoe's rear tailgate which has a decently wide aperture and silently whizz off to deliver it to its new home.

It's ironic that electric vehicles such as the Renault Zoe are becoming more popular today as an alternative to fossil fuelled cars because it was the introduction of cheaper mass produced petrol-powered internal combustion (IC) engines that killed off the electric drive as a vehicle propulsion system in the mid-1900s.

Driving range

The Zoe’s top speed is 135kmh, and with its 65kW wound rotor electric engine it can hit 50km/h in four seconds and the legal limit in 13.5s. Full torque 220Nm is on tap from just 250rpm.

Renault engineers have pushed hard to milk every last possible drop of the charge that it can to improve driving range.

A new, advanced regenerative braking system sucks up power under braking and deceleration; the heat pump maintains maximum range while in use, and Michelin’s Energy E-V tyres are just part of getting every last km out of the car on a single charge.

Much like an internal combustion engine, having a heavy right foot in the Zoe will see your potential driving range decrease rapidly, thus being gentle with the throttle and using your skills of anticipation will result in greater range and power savings while on the run.


Electric drive in passenger vehicles was very common in the early days of the 20th century, both the USA and the United Kingdom saw many electric cars take to the roads.

In 1900, around 28% of cars on the road in the USA were EVs, and the United Kingdom was the world's largest user of electric drive vehicles for most of the 20th century. However, road infrastructure outside urban areas improved as the 20th century matured and this combined with the development of quieter petrol engines thanks to the invention of the exhaust system, saw the popularity of the range-restricted EV diminish for their IC powered counterparts.

Now 100 years on the boot is on the other foot, as we strive to meet emissions protocols and preserve the planet from global warming.

New Zealand produces an enormous amount of electricity from renewable resources which would provide a secure and affordable energy source for road going vehicles such as the Zoe that would not be affected by the vagaries of the global oil market.

It's just a shame that the price tag for a Renault Zoe is out of reach of many urban-based people who would genuinely benefit from owning such a vehicle and enjoy the experience immensely as I did.

Price: $74,990

Note: this was reviewed as a new vehicle.

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