THE RE­NAULT RE­NEWAL

The cheap­est elec­tric ve­hi­cle on sale in Aus­tralia, the Zoe makes a power of sense for so­lar house­holds AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - CRAIG DUFF

Price and how far you can drive be­tween charges are two key is­sues for those con­sid­er­ing an elec­tric ve­hi­cle. Re­nault reck­ons a re­cent range-ex­tend­ing up­date ad­dresses both, which is why the Aus­tralian divi­sion has switched from fleet-only sales to pri­vate buy­ers for its small Zoe hatch.

The Zoe is the cheap­est EV on sale in Aus­tralia, backed by a re­al­is­tic driv­ing range of 200km-300km de­pend­ing on how own­ers use the air­con.

Re­nault Aus­tralia boss An­drew Moore says the Zoe will ap­peal to a sub­ur­ban or city buyer with enough roof area for so­lar pan­els and bat­tery stor­age.

Stored en­ergy can be chan­nelled into the Zoe at night or it can tap into any sur­plus gen­er­ated on the week­ends.

“Zoe isn’t for ev­ery­one,” Moore says. “While there are no gov­ern­ment in­cen­tives to buy and not ev­ery­one has stor­age ca­pac­ity for re­new­able en­ergy, the Zoe isn’t go­ing to be on ev­ery­one’s shop­ping list.

“What most peo­ple don’t re­alise is how good the value is once you’ve bought it — it’s cheaper to ser­vice and even on base-load power should only cost $8-$10 to re­fuel.

“Tap into the so­lar on your roof and it’s ef­fec­tively free.”

The Zoe kicks off at $51,990 drive-away for the Life, fit­ted with a seven-inch touch­screen, cruise con­trol and a “pedes­trian warn­ing” emit­ted at up to 30km/h that sounds like white­goods singing har­mony.

Opt for the more ex­pen­sive (though bet­ter­value) In­tens. At $54,540 drive-away it adds larger di­am­e­ter al­loy wheels, power rear win­dows, auto lights and wipers, re­vers­ing cam­era, rear park­ing sen­sors and more up­mar­ket in­te­rior and ex­te­rior trim.

The Zoe may be ush­er­ing in the semi­af­ford­able EV but it lacks ac­tive safety found in ve­hi­cles half the price.

Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, adap­tive cruise con­trol and blind-spot and lanede­par­ture warn­ing can’t be had on this car.

De­spite the soft­ware omis­sions, the Zoe (over­seas model pic­tured) gained a five-star EuroNCAP rat­ing when it was tested in 2013.

An­other neg­a­tive is the war­ranty: at three years, it isn’t good enough for a brand that’s aiming to bol­ster its pres­ence.

The bat­tery is cov­ered for five years/ 100,000km.

A wall-mounted power box is prob­a­bly a worth­while ad­di­tion for the house at about $1600 plus in­stal­la­tion. The Zoe comes with an adap­tive cable that will han­dle ev­ery­thing from do­mes­tic to three-phase power. Ex­pect to take about 15 hours to fully recharge from a house­hold plug.

ON THE ROAD

Don’t ex­pect mir­a­cles and the Zoe won’t dis­ap­point. The elec­tric surge off the line makes it com­pe­tent through round­abouts and in­ter­sec­tions but the ac­cel­er­a­tion drops off as the pace in­creases.

That’s why it is aimed at ur­ban­ites who aren’t likely to get much past 80km/h on the work­day com­mute. As­sum­ing they’re trav­el­ling 25km each way, the Zoe should need charg­ing only once a week at about $10 if you’re draw­ing on mains elec­tric­ity.

The in­te­rior is bland for the price, look­ing and feel­ing too much like a $20,000 Re­nault Clio. The low-mounted bat­tery pack en­sures it

han­dles well, even if the eco-friendly tyres squeal when cor­ner­ing, sig­ni­fy­ing lack of grip.

The brakes have a more re­laxed and pro­gres­sive feel than those on such ri­vals as the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf. That prob­a­bly means they aren’t re­cov­er­ing as much en­ergy dur­ing de­cel­er­a­tion but they’ve a bet­ter pedal re­sponse for it.

The seats aren’t par­tic­u­larly well bol­stered and the dash dis­play start­ing to look dated.

VER­DICT

As the cheap­est main­stream elec­tric ve­hi­cle, the Zoe makes sense for those us­ing re­new­able en­ergy. And that num­ber will keep grow­ing…

FIRST DRIVE

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