The new Zoe has real girl power as Renault& s most convincing …

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Lexus IS Electric Cars

The new Zoe has real girl power as Renault s most convincing electric car to date

The Mirror’s motoring columnist believes Renault’s new electric car has potential as a city car — but lacks the range to go much further

She s electric: The Renault Zoe

Meet Zoe, Renault’s most convincing electric car so far. There’s a bloke at Top Gear ­magazine who’s so brainy that he’s burnt all the hair off the top of his head because his grey matter is so powerful that it’s like a little power station.

This is what he says about electric cars: “If you bought a Lamborghini Aventador, you wouldn’t ring the company up the next day saying, ‘Oi, this Aventador you sold me, I can’t get all my family in it’.

“It’s the same with electric cars. Their manufacturers tell you they’re for commuting short distances and not for touring holidays around ­Scotland, so you shouldn’t complain about the limited range.’

Clearly, if you live in Gloucestershire then a vehicle with a range of less than 100 miles is out of the question. But if you live in the city it’s a different matter, so that’s where we’ve been testing this Zoe. Ours is a Dynamique Zen version – on-the-road price £15,195.

Yes, that’s a remarkably low price for an electric car when we’re used to manufacturers charging sports car money for them. That price includes deducting the five grand grant that the Government offers, but there’s some more small print. Renault has decided that the sensible way to go is to sell customers the car and lease them the batteries.

This makes a lot of sense because anyone who owns a laptop knows that batteries don’t hold their maximum charge for ever.

It’s a lot like a mobile phone contract in that there are a couple of schemes to choose from. A 36-month contract allowing an annual mileage of 7,500 miles costs £70 per month, while 12,000 miles a year costs £93.

So to the Zoe. The Zen comes with a white interior rather than the grey of the other versions. White looks more like the inside of a space station and therefore suits the Zoe’s futuristic character. Cleaning it might not be so good, but it looks great when it’s new. The outside of the Zoe looks attractive too.

But we must crack on because there’s much to say about this car.

Space-age: The Renault Zoe

You get the normal Renault key card in the Zoe, which slots into the ­dashboard. Press the start button, the instrument panel comes to life and you’re ready to go.

Move into D with the gear selector, off with the conventional handbrake, squeeze the right pedal and you’re off – fairly briskly if you prod it hard. But you won’t be thrashing an electric car because it uses a lot of battery.

The brake pedal needs a soft touch as the brakes are harsh and you could end up catapulting your ­passengers forwards.

The thing I like most about electric cars is the peace and quiet. The Zoe is almost silent, which is why Renault has fitted a gizmo that makes a strange noise to warn pedestrians you are sneaking up on them. You can turn it off it you want to.

Apart from the ­sensitive brakes, the Zoe is blissfully easy to drive. The ride is a bit disappointing, even if the car has the sporting pretensions of a couch potato. It’s no harsher than the average motor, but in ­something as peaceful as the Zoe, you’d have thought the ride would have been a priority.

When the time comes to recharge, you either go home, where Renault will have installed a domestic charging unit, or you will have found a street-side charging station. Or, in our case, one in a Waitrose car park.

You remove a fat charging cable from a bag in the back (you’d have thought there would be a special cubbyhole for it to go in) and then plug one end into the car and the other into the charging unit, having first waved your charging card over a sensor on the charging unit. It takes a few goes to get this right.

What you can’t do is recharge the Zoe using a 13amp socket. That’s a bit daft as it means you couldn’t recharge from the plug in a friend’s garage, for example. Renault quotes a maximum range of 130 miles, but also says that if you drive the Zoe around town in winter, that’ll drop to around 60 miles, which is exactly what we managed in our test car.

If one day electric cars have a range of 300 miles, I’ll consider buying one. Or if I moved to the city. But both scenarios are highly unlikely in the near future.

The Facts

Price . £15,195 (including government grant)

Engine . Electric motor, 88bhp

0-62mph . 13.5secs

The Rivals

Nissan LEAF: Like the Zoe, this is also a purpose-made electric car. Now available with battery-leasing deals. £15,990

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