Renault Zoe Electric Car: First Drive Of Europe's Leaf Alternative Page 2

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2013 Renault Zoe electric car

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

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On the move

You sit conspicuously higher in the Zoe than you would in a Leaf--partly due to a lower side window line, partly as the best use of space in a small car is to go upwards.

For this reason, the Zoe doesn't feel as planted as some other electric vehicles, and those squashy seats don't hold you very well in quicker cornering--though you might say that this is academic in slow city driving.

Likewise the limited grip from the eco tires is more than sufficient for day-to-day use, but you won't be setting any skid-pad g-force records. The steering is pleasant enough though--relatively feedback-free, but smooth and consistent.

The drivetrain itself is as pleasant as any other electric car.

There's some creep built into the transmission making low-speed work easy, the accelerator pedal is responsive, and there's suitable performance for most driving. A 14-percent gradient taxed the 65 kW motor a little, but push the pedal to the floor (past a small kickdown-style stopper) and it summons extra urge for really tricky climbs.

Retardation from regenerative braking isn't overly strong, and we found the brake pedal a little grabby when pulling to a halt. This may partly be the fault of the test car's very low mileage.

Other details

While our drive was only brief, it was enough to discover that the Zoe would be a thoroughly pleasant city companion.

Renault has really thought about the small details. It's as quiet as most electric cars, but the noises you do hear are somehow soothing, low-pitch tones rather than the whine of a motor at high revolutions.

The Zoe's displays are simple and the light interior ambience relaxing. We were also fond of the unique turn signal noise, which had a reverb-style echo to it. And while some electric car drivers now prefer small joystick-style gear selection controls, the regular lever found in the Zoe will ease the transition for drivers moving to their first electric vehicle.

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

Enlarge Photo

As always, Renault's absence from the U.S. precludes any useful verdict on where the Zoe sits next to other electric vehicles, but in Europe, where pricing matches that of an equivalent gasoline or diesel car (not including $100/month battery rental, that is), it could really be the vehicle that turns people on to electric driving.

Handily, we've also driven Renault's Clio subcompact before for comparison, and we'd have no hesitation picking the Zoe if city driving was a priority.

All the virtues of electric cars really do shine through in the Zoe--and unlike Nissan's ungainly Leaf, Renault has even managed to make it an attractive car, too.


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