Went too fast? Final drive in the groundbreaking Renault Zoe

By | March 30, 2024

Renault Zoe has a three-quarter lead

After 12 years of production, the Zoe still looks fresh

Cars die quietly. Their ‘look’ lasts six or seven years, with mid-life changes, while their underbits generally last twice as long, as they are by far the most expensive components to change.

Sales typically peak a few years before the end, and by the time the Grim Reaper arrives, the manufacturing company has long since stopped talking about the outgoing model and is already well down the road with rumors of its replacement.

This is also the case with the Zoe, Renault’s groundbreaking electric volume car. Production officially stopped on March 30, 2024 (although it actually stopped well before Christmas), with approximately 400,000 copies sold across Europe.

Renault has been publicizing the Zoe’s replacement, officially called the Renault 5 E-Tech, since 2021, when it emerged as a concept to herald the sweeping ‘Renaulution’ plan devised by newly arrived CEO, Luca de Meo. We now know that closely related, fully electric Renault 4 and Twingo models are waiting in the wings.

But in some ways the Zoe, for all its rule-breaking twelve years of production, doesn’t warrant replacement nearly as urgently as most outgoing models. Several minor style adjustments have maintained a modern look; they have been almost too successful. The Clio-related interior package remains generous in modern terms. And the Zoe is still one of the lighter and more compact small EVs on the market.

It’s true that its 1500kg curb weight doesn’t exactly make it a featherweight against today’s petrol and diesel superminis (they weigh upwards of 1100-1200kg), but it is a clear ton lighter than the EV giants that much of the European car industry has encouraged us to buy .

At more than twice as high a price, they are much more profitable to sell, even though they are too expensive for many, less agile and unnecessarily large. And they leave room for the dreaded cheap Asian imports.

However, this is where logic ends and emotion comes into play. I’ve admired the Zoe since I first saw it as a concept in 2009, and especially after I started driving it three or four years later.

For me, the Zoe has been a pioneer in bringing simplicity and functionality to driving and owning electric vehicles – and it has combined these things with the unique design appeal that Renault has brought to virtually all of its cheap, large cars that I can recommend. remember.

Those who devise comparison tests for the ‘best EV’ – in circles other than Autocar – have tended to regard the Zoe as a car because it lasts so long. But as its demise loomed I became convinced that a proper separation was needed, so I arranged to borrow one from Renault UK, who put around 30,000 of them on British roads and for a few years around 2015 made them the best has made of the country. -selling EV, despite the best efforts of the British-built, all-electric Nissan Leaf.

The car I borrowed was an R110, where the numbers indicate power in metric horsepower (actually 109 horsepower). It didn’t have the most powerful engine – that goes for the post-2019 R135 – nor the largest 52 kWh battery, but I quickly discovered that such details hardly mattered for the use our household would make of the car. to make.

The Zoe taught us a family lesson about electric cars that I think will last for the next three to five years. For people like us, who live in a semi-rural situation 100 miles from London but have strong connections there, the best electric car is undoubtedly a compact runabout.

It can handle 90% of our driving – especially if you have a 7kW wall charger – but for now you’ll need a backstop ICE car. This gas burner may only drive 3,000 miles a year, but the costs can be offset by savings on your home-charged EV and it offers protection against the lingering uncertainties and delays of EV charging in places you don’t know. That remain real.

As many EV early adopters will tell you, electric cars are often brought into the family as the second car and quickly become the first.

That’s what happened to our Zoe. It zipped back and forth to the station and the local shops. People were delivered and picked up. It once went to the local recycling center with a huge load of post-Christmas cardboard. It easily fit in the nearest supermarket parking lot. Without fuss it carried out the 50 to 70 mile round trip journeys through the Cotswolds that are part of life for me and my family.

Our wall charger and the Zoe’s six kilometers per kWh (about double that of my Audi SQ8 E-tron long-term test car) made the costs seem negligible. And most of our driving was emission-free.

There is more. Although the essential design has been in production for twelve years, a recent Zoe feels thoroughly modern with its LED lighting, auto dimming, auto wipers, auto locking and very decent audio and navigation systems connected to the phone.

Best of all, it’s fun to drive. The ride is quite soft and nicely cushioned in a way that gives a touch of nostalgia to someone who used to drive a lot of blancmange-style Renaults, but nowadays you can put your Zoe on roundabouts without the body roll or the screeching understeer.

As with other electric cars, despite the modest peak power, there is surprising torque that will shoot you off the track, without all that nonsense about clutching and shifting. It’s simple, clean, efficient, fast and quiet.

Cars leave my place all the time. Even if a car has a high price and a big name, you quickly get used to any sense of loss. Sometimes you’re secretly happy when you see a big name car take off, when you’ve avoided curbing the wheels and no one has put it on your watch and put it in a container bound for Africa.

But with the Zoe we were all so sorry to see it disappear. We practically stood on the doorstep and waved goodbye to him.

As he rolled down the street, I had this crazy thought: Was it really too late to say, “Are you sure about this, Luca?” email CEO de Meo, asking for a stay of execution for a Renault of rare excellence? Of course it was nonsense. It’s years too late.

Renault’s detailed model succession plans have been in place for three years, perhaps longer. But I still choose to think that having such a volatile and bratty Zoe plan, even for a second, shows the courage of the model.

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