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2019 Renault Zoe ZE40 Intens review: EV Megatest

By Byron Mathioudakis, 23 Feb 2019 Reviews

2019 Renault Zoe ZE40 Intens review: EV Megatest

Lack of DC charging capability limits usefulness and tests patience

WELCOME to Australia’s oldest yet cutest electric vehicle, as well as Europe’s EV bestseller, the Renault Zoe.

Launched in 2012, and based on the, ahem, current Clio IV supermini, the electric Frenchie five-seater city hatch has been systematically improved since then, so don’t worry; you’ll still manage an easy 200km-plus range, even when driven with gay abandon.

Read next: Renault Zoe now available to private buyers from $51,990

Have no doubt. That’s precisely how things could end up, given those Clio underpinnings and a low centre of gravity provide such a solid and enjoyable dynamic base. Quick, responsive steering, nippy handling, excellent grip and an isolating ride make the Zoe more than just the keen driver’s choice. 

With an instantaneous 68kW and 220Nm on tap, the ZE40 (denoting the larger 41kWh battery pack) is also sprightly off the mark in that typical, dodgem-car EV way; there’s also a fairly hefty shove if you mash the throttle out on the open road, though watching your available remaining charge tumble as a consequence isn’t as much fun. We’d love to see even stronger regenerative braking resistance for single-pedal driving, though the anchors aren’t as touchy as some, thankfully.

Read next: 2018 Renault Zoe Intens quick review

For a four-metre city car, the Zoe’s pleasingly accommodating, with supportive front seats, sufficient space and comfort out back, and a reasonably sized boot at 338 litres (though note there’s no spare – just a tyre-inflation kit). There’s also a decent wedge of kit, including a reverse camera, sat-nav, EV-specific climate control (to minimise consumption), keyless entry/start, up-spec audio and DAB+ digital radio.

But then you digest the $50K (before on-roads) pricing and realise that the dated dash, hard plastics and missing kit like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be an embarrassment in a $25K Clio; dig deeper and AEB and other active driver-assist tech isn’t even available; and why aren’t Renault’s EVs subject to a five-year warranty, instead relegated to just three years’ cover?

However, value-for-money concerns would soon be eclipsed by the almost total unavailability of fast-charging infrastructure for the plucky Zoe. That’s because it uses an AC rather than the DC system of more modern EVs, which means that while it’s fine to replenish those batteries from a regular 10A 240V household plug (albeit slowly, at over 20 hours!), that’s your lot. The ZE40 is essentially limited to city and ’burbs.

Read next: EVs by the numbers: do they make financial sense?

That’s a shame, but then the Renault is getting on for seven years old, and as its diminutive proportions clearly imply, this is an urban commuter EV; the company’s demographic profiling reveals that most owners own two vehicles and drive no more than 40km daily.

If that sounds like you, and you dig its unique, youthful, playful chic, then Zoe may be the one.