Renault Zoe Electric Car: First Drive Of Europe's Leaf Alternative

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You might think that Europe, with its congested cities and relatively short distances between cities, would be the perfect environment for electric cars.

Whether or not that's the case, the choice of electric cars there isn't nearly as wide as it is in the U.S. But with the Renault Zoe you see here, it's just got wider, and a lot more affordable.

Renault's Zoe is the latest in a line of electric vehicles stemming from the Renault-Nissan partnership.

It's a subcompact electric car, based loosely on the platform used under a huge range of Renault-Nissan products, from the Renault Clio found in Europe, to Nissan's Cube, Versa, Juke and of course, the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

The basics

The Zoe's electric drivetrain isn't dissimilar to that in the Leaf either, though at 65 kW (87 horsepower) and 162 pounds-feet of torque, it's less potent than the Nissan's 80 kW (110 hp) and 210 lb-ft statistics.

It's also smaller and lighter though, helping to reach its European-rated 130 miles of range (on a 22 kWh lithium-ion pack) to the Leaf's European 120 miles from 24 kWh.

Given the 2013 Leaf achieves an EPA-rated 75 miles (84 miles from a full charge), Renault's own estimates of 93 miles in temperate conditions and 63 miles in cold weather seem accurate.

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

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Look and feel

Styling is a subjective issue, but furnished with neat details, finished in a pearlescent shade and basking under unusually clement British weather, we were quite taken with the Zoe's looks.

Its slim headlamps and striking curves would be quite demur in a darker shade, but the light paint and contrasting lights, badging and wheels look sophisticated even so. The lights themselves are as intricate as any we've seen on a production car, particularly at the back where the colors evoke images of the abalone in mollusc shells.

The interior is equally well-judged. A light color scheme dominates, with gloss white and chrome blue details to draw the eye.

Information is handed to the driver via a slim display screen through the wheel and a larger central screen, which also handles the car's infotainment features.

Importantly, everything feels nicely made. It's comfortable too. The seats have a slightly rustic canvas appearance to them (albeit softer--think summer trousers rather than sacks of potatoes) and would be more than up to the task of cossetting you during 100-mile stints between charges.


 
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