Renault Kangoo Z E review (2011 onwards) MSN Cars UK

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Renault Electric Cars

Renault Kangoo Z.E. review (2011 onwards)

What: Renault Kangoo Z.E. Maxi Crew

Where: Lisbon, Portugal

Date: October 2011

Price: £21,038 — £23,078 (including VAT and OTR costs)

Available: November


Key rivals: Ford Transit Connect Azure Dynamics, Fiat Doblo Micro-Vett, Citroen Berlingo Venturi (all independent conversions)

Summary: The first Renault electric vehicle to hit the UK will be the Kangoo Z.E. van, arriving on these shores in November — but could it also prove the people carrier of the future?

Renault

If the Renault Fluence Z.E. electric car left us a little underwhelmed, the Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric van is the perfect antidote. This is an electric vehicle (EV) that makes so much sense the internal combustion equivalents start to seem like the fossils that fuel them.

Available in standard two-seater form, a larger Maxi variant and the version tested here, the five-seater, five-door Maxi Crew Van, the Kangoo Z.E. combines instant torque with zero emissions in motion to deliver ultra modern short-range practicality.

But this is MSN Cars; you might be wondering why we’re fawning over a van. It’s hard not to notice the Maxi Crew is offered extensive amount of windows — meaning that the Kangoo Z.E. could quite easily function as a no-nonsense people carrier.

With a spacious passenger compartment and vast, utilitarian load area is this mere semantics away from being an MPV for the EV age? Could it be the future of the school run? Don’t be too dismissive.

Performance

Renault

The Kangoo Z.E. is powered by a 60hp version of the electric motor that drives the Fluence Z.E. It delivers the same, instant 166lb ft of torque, giving it a very immediate initial throttle response, but the reduced power (and significantly less efficient aerodynamics) lessens the pep at higher speeds.

All electric cars — and many current conventional ones — use brake energy regeneration to improve efficiency. Electric motors are particularly handy for this, though, since when momentum causes them to rotate they effectively turn into a generator, feeding energy back into the battery.

Renault

This process causes drag, and in the Kangoo Z.E. this is used to the maximum in order to help the vehicle slow down — lifting your foot off the accelerator is like leaning on the brakes. In fact, it’s such a powerful force it will actually bring a lightly loaded Maxi to a total halt even if it is travelling downhill.

And with the electric motor acting through a reducer to provide just a single gear, smooth is very much in the nature of this machine; the motor whine seems less pronounced here than in the Fluence, too, but perhaps that’s due to the added wind noise caused by the van’s bluff shape.

Ride and handling

Renault

One of our main criticisms of the Fluence Z.E. is the way it feels to drive — with a large battery pack standing upright behind the rear seats it always was going to seem a little unusual. With the Kangoo Z.E. however, Renault has stashed the battery pack below the floor.

This gives the Kangoo a very low centre of gravity — a positive change, rather than an unfortunate one. It feels much more natural from behind the steering wheel, and with no unusual weight transfer as you progress through a corner it gives you a much greater sensation of control.

The ride is well able to absorb bumpy tarmac — though we were travelling only two-up, there was some luggage and a large tree holder in the load area — and while it does roll a little through the corners this is far from excessive, and with the battery acting as a massive counterweight there is plenty of grip.

With light, easy to judge steering, excellent visibility thanks to all that glass and the box-like shape, not too mention the natural refinement of an electric drivetrain it hardly seems like a commercial vehicle at all. That people carrier idea really isn’t very far fetched.

Renault

Renault Electric Cars

Even the passenger compartment seems well up to the job. The plastics aren’t exactly soft-touch, but since the Kangoo has been designed for a heavy working life everything about the cabin certainly feels solid, and there are plenty of places to store stuff.

Legroom is generous in the rear seats, too, which are accessed via useful sliding doors. But you will have to pay extra for the little luxuries we take for granted on almost every car now — including air conditioning (£738) and even a front passenger airbag (£222).

There’s no bulkhead behind the rear seats, so you can easily fold these flat to expand the load area from the merely huge (2,400 litres) to the truly massive (3,600 litres) — the batteries doing absolutely no damage to the usual Kangoo Maxi carrying volume.

However, there’s also no headlining in the boot — which again betrays the Kangoo’s commercial vehicle origins. A small price to pay, we reckon, but also an easy fix if Renault really was to go down the MPV route with this machine.

Economy and safety

Renault

Safety considerations are more problematic. Stability control isn’t even an option and there’s just the one standard airbag. But the electric drive system will automatically shut down in the event of an accident, and full documentation for safe handling is being distributed to rescue crews.

The Kangoo Z.E. has an official range of 106 miles, based on the same European testing procedure as regular vehicles — though driving style, conditions and environment all make a big difference to EV range, the argument goes that this should be more than enough to cover an urban delivery round.

Vans used in this way often return to a depot every night, where it would theoretically be easy to install the charging systems needed to power them. A charge takes 6-8 hours using a dedicated device — and while the installation costs will vary, the per mile running costs should significantly improve over petrol or diesel.

Private buyers or smaller businesses could have a home charging station fitted or rely on the public charging infrastructure that is slowly gaining momentum. Charging via a regular three-pin socket of suitable robustness is also possible — but will take closer to 12 hours and the cable for that costs an extra £414.

The MSN Cars verdict

The Renault Kangoo Z.E. makes a lot of sense. With such vans typically restricted to low daily mileages, the torquey electric performance and sheer driveability of these vehicles means you almost need an excuse to not buy one over a petrol or diesel equivalent.

One such excuse may well be the cost, of course. The Kangoo Z.E. starts at £21,038 on the road (including VAT; an ordinary Kangoo costs from a little over £10,000 excluding VAT), while the fully glazed Maxi Crew version we tested tops the range at £23,078. Sadly commercial vehicles don’t currently qualify for the £5,000 electric car grant.

And in keeping with Renault’s current strategy, the purchase price does not include the battery — which is subject to a separate leasing contract. This costs between £60 and £105 (plus VAT), depending on length and mileage.

Still, no available rival even comes close to the combined price — so if you want an electric van the Kangoo is the presently the only way to go. Those looking for a true electric people carrier may have a little while longer to wait, but the promise is certainly there.

Renault Electric Cars
Renault Electric Cars
Renault Electric Cars
Renault Electric Cars
Renault Electric Cars
Renault Electric Cars

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