Renault ZOE (2012 – 2019)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

5dr supermini (EV) [Expression, Dynamique, Dynamique Zen, Dynamique Nav, Signature, Signature Nav])


Imagine roads free of engine noise and pollution. And a car that travels them silently, frugally and stylishly, yet one you can afford that’s practical enough for family use. A distant dream? Or an actual reality in the form of this car, Renault’s pure electric model, the clever little ZOE, first launched in 2012. Does it make sense as a used buy? Let’s find out.

The History

At the turn of the century, Renault bet all its chips on the battery-powered sector and made a €4 billion investment in new models – to remarkably little effect. There was the crazy Twizy city scoot, the boring mid-size Fluence Z.E. and also pricey Z.E. versions of the Kangoo and Master vans. All of which generated about as much popular interest as Brighton Beach on a wet weekend. The only Renault EV we thought showed some promise was this ZOE, a handsomely styled supermini launched in 2012. High pricing and low driving range from the little 22kWh battery initially held the car back, but the French maker persevered, continually improving it as battery technology developed through a series of incremental updates. A more efficient R90 electric motor was introduced in 2015, a gutsier Z.E.40 battery arrived in 2016 and an even more powerful 80kW R110 electric motor arrived to drive it in 2018. A further update with a Z.E. 50 52kWh batter arrived in 2019, but it’s the earlier models we look at here.

What You Get

Choosing all-electric motoring is radical enough, without having to be faced with wild and wacky styling that marks you out on the High Street as an extravagant early adopter. With this ZOE though, the company got the look just about right, rejecting futuristic early design sketches in favour of a smart but very stylish look penned by Spanish designer Jean Sémériva.

So it looks the part outside. What's it like indoors? Whatever your interior colour preference, the cabin emphasis remains the same, focused on two areas. First there’s the floating centre dash panel that houses the R-Link multimedia system’s 7” colour touchscreen. And second, there’s a trendy sliver of an instrument binnacle in front of the driver, a TFT screen that replaces the traditional analogue dials with a digital speedo, along with state-of-charge and range indicators, plus an econometer which shows if the vehicle is using or recovering energy at any given time.

Inevitably, because the battery pack is mounted beneath front and rear seats, you have to sit fairly high up in the car, which is why, unfortunately, it’s not possible to have a height-adjustable driver’s seat. As for back seat space, well it seems as if it might be a bit restricted at first glance, for the rear doors feel a bit short from the outside, a by-product of this car’s relatively compact 2,588mm wheelbase. Once inside though, there’s more room than most superminis can offer. There’s also a 338-litre boot.

What To Look For

Most ZOE owners we came across were pretty satisfied, but inevitably, some issues were thrown up by our survey. Let’s start with the usual things – check for minor bodywork scratches and the usual city scuffs. Most of the other issues we came across related to electrical problems like broken heaters and issues with the air conditioning. We’ve come across issues with the front wheel arch liners rubbing against front brake hoses which in a few instances have caused leaks. Your Renault dealer can tell you whether the appropriate remedial work to correct this was carried out. Find out whether the previous owner bought themselves a regular 13 amp charging cable for use with a 3-pin plug – Renault didn’t supply these from new and this lead is really useful to have, even though charging using it takes ages.

On The Road

So what’s it like behind the wheel? As ordinary as a pure electric car can ever be is the answer, which certainly was Renault’s aim. Buyers must feel comfortable in making the seismic step into this new electric world and in a ZOE, you will be. ‘How far will it go between charges?’ is certainly the first question anyone will ask you when you tell them you’ve switched to pure electric motoring. Initially with this car in 22kWh form, Renault quoted a ‘real world’ range that they said could be anywhere between 62 and 93 miles, depending upon time of year, the type of roads you’re using and of course most of all, the way that you drive. We’d suggest that you try and stretch to a post-2015-era model fitted with the gutsier Z.E. 40 40kWh battery, which boosted achievable driving range to around 150 miles. As for charging, well using the 7kW Wall-Box that will need to be installed at your home as a purchaser, you’ll be able to charge a 22kWh ZOE up from empty in 3-4 hours – though longer may be required depending on the kind of supply you have. The later Z.E. 40kWh version will take a little longer.

To maximise range, you’ll need to make good use of the driving aids Renault has provided to help maximise the distance you can travel between plug-in sessions. A lovely Energy flow meter shows you how the car is powering itself – and also recharging itself during the regenerative cruising and braking phases. There’s an ‘Eco’ button down by the handbrake that offers a restriction in engine power and a slightly sluggish throttle response in return for a 10% range increase. And you can analyse your driving performance and gets tips to improve it via an ‘eco2’ function in an R-Link infotainment system that can produce efficiency ‘Trip reports’ on each journey.


Electric vehicles tend to promise much but deliver precious little. Here's one that's very different. The ZOE feels as if it was designed to excel at city and suburban driving and it does exactly that. Relaxing and refreshingly clever, it doesn't promise anything it can't deliver – and the look and feel it offers is arguably more special than some cars costing twice as much. We’d suggest that you limited you perusals to the post-2015-era Z.E. 40 40kWh model with its greater range. And if you can, you’ll find much to like here.