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Renault Fluence ZE

The Fluence ZE is yet another electric car from the Renault line as it remains keen to stay ahead in the EV race. This particular offering has been available for a while now but received a facelift in 2012. Read on to find out how it compares to the latest electric cars on the market.

renault fluence ze exterior

Renault Fluence ZE. Image: Google UK

Design

The Fluence is relatively new to the UK but it has been available in Europe for a considerable period of time. The aforementioned facelift has given a futuristic look to the car with exterior trim, blue tinted badges, projector style headlights and the new Renault corporate grille along with other minor changes. Nonetheless, it is not a design to set the pulse racing.

The Renault Fluence possesses a very large battery; so large in fact that the car’s body has been stretched to accommodate it. The interior provides you with a well-built cabin and the dashboard is covered in soft touch plastic. There is Z.E badging on the dashboard and dials showing energy usage and battery charge as per usual in electric cars.

It’s a large car and the interior feels extremely spacious. You can fit three adults at the back and the boot’s capacity is 317 litres which is very large for an electric car.

renault fluence ze interior

renault fluence ze interior

Renault Fluence ZE. Image: Google UK

Performance

Like most EVs, the Fluence moves away silently and rapidly from a standstill and gets to 30mph in 4.1 seconds. The acceleration process feels so smooth you’ll think it won’t stop but ultimately, the car’s top speed is 84mph and travelling at high speeds will only drain your juice rapidly.

With 166lb ft of torque at your disposal immediately, the Fluence is a great car for the city as you can quickly move away at traffic lights and junctions. However, at 1605kg, the Fluence is not a sporty car and you can feel the weight as you try to speed up. Renault claim the range is 115 miles but this varies on weather conditions and how you drive the car.

Verdict

With every full charge costing you just £3 ($5), you can see the appeal of the Renault Fluence or any electric car for that matter. It is a good option for those looking to drive a second car for shorter commutes in urban areas and at £22,000 ($37,000); it isn’t as expensive as some of its rivals.

The problem is that you have to lease the battery system and that can prove expensive unless you agree to a longer term lease. Ultimately, the Fluence ticks most of the boxes for high quality EVs for city and town use and represents a good purchase.

  • Rating: 4/5
  • Cost: £22,195 ($37,000)
  • Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPG): estimated at 149mpg
  • Official Driving Range (Miles): 115 miles
  • Standard Charging Time (Hours): 8 hours
  • Practicality (Seats & Doors): 4 doors, 5 seats
  • Engine Size: 70kW
  • Engine Power: 70bhp
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
  • Acceleration (0-62mph): 13.4 seconds
  • Top Speed (mph): 84mph
  • NCAP Safety Rating: 4 stars

Renault Kangoo ZE

It was only a matter of time before Renault created a zero emissions version of its Kangoo van; mainly because it’s a lot cheaper than coming up with a new design! We were disappointed to learn that because it is a commercial vehicle, it is not eligible for the £5,000 Government grant (UK only) which is likely to hamper sales of this electric vehicle.

reanult kangoo ze interior

Renault Kangoo ZE. Image: Google UK

Design

You can purchase a five-seat maxi or two-seater van version of this model and we found it to be very good when it comes to hauling large loads. It was also surprisingly relaxing to drive because it is very quiet both on start up and when on the move; this is a pleasant contrast to vans that normally make a lot of noise.

On first glance, it isn’t easy to distinguish it from the internal combustion engine model as even little details such as the fuel filler cap on the side are the same. The main changes are stickers on the bodywork and a charging socket on the nose of the Kangoo ZE.

The cabin is again similar to the original model but there are of course new dials showing energy usage and battery charge which replace the old rev counter and fuel gauge. There are also features such as climate and cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and parking sensors. In the Maxi version, you get up to 2,600 litres of boot space when you fold the rear seats.

renault kangoo ze interior

Renault Kangoo ZE. Image: Google UK

Performance

All versions of the Kangoo ZE have a 59bhp electric motor and the vehicle produces 226lbNm of torque which is very impressive and means it can haul large loads. There is a slight whine when the van accelerates but it is barely noticeable after a while and we found that it handled well overall.

Renault claim the Kangoo ZE has a range of 106 miles but this is dramatically reduced if you are carrying passengers or cargo. You can reduce the impressive torque output by pressing the eco button which should add 10% to your range. Renault states that 70% of van drivers drive less than 62 miles a day so the range shouldn’t be an issue for most.

Verdict

As is the case with many electric vehicles, you purchase the Kangoo ZE vehicle but rent the batteries so the result is a starting price of £22,000 and leases beginning at £60 a month. The ineligibility of the vehicle for the grant is a pain but it is a good solid van overall and well worth looking into if you want a larger electric vehicle.

  • Rating: 4/5
  • Cost: £22,000 ($36,000) + £60 ($99) a month lease for batteries
  • Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPG): 42.8mpg
  • Official Driving Range (Miles): 106 miles
  • Standard Charging Time (Hours): 6-8 hours
  • Practicality (Seats & Doors): 5 doors, 5 seats in the Maxi
  • Engine Size: 44kW electric motor
  • Engine Power: 59bhp
  • Transmission: Single-speed, front-wheel drive
  • Acceleration (0-62mph): 13 seconds
  • Top Speed (mph): 81mph
  • NCAP Safety Rating: 5 stars

Renault Twizy

The Renault Twizy was first seen as the Twizy ZE concept in Frankfurt in 2009. It was a huge hit at the time and was deemed to be superior to company’s Zoe model. Yet Renault waited until the time was right to unleash their innovative machine which is one of the cheapest on the market.

renault twizy exterior

Renault Twizy. Image: Google UK

Design

The Twizy is a ground up vehicle and is more like a heavy quadricycle than a traditional car. Despite the small size and unusual appearance of the Twizy, this type of design is expected to be extremely popular in the next decade or so. This electric car is 12 inches shorter than the tiny Smart ForTwo vehicle and is made with a steel structure wrapped with plastic panels.

Renault claim the Twizy is safer than the ForTwo and it has a four-point seatbelt for the driver, who is situated centrally, while the passenger sits directly behind. It also has proper crumple zones and performs well in crash testing. The 100kg lithium-ion battery pack (6.1kWh) sits beneath the seats while the 17bhp electric induction motor can be found ahead of the rear axle; it produces 42lb ft of torque. The chassis has MacPherson style struts on the back and front, there are anti-roll bars and a wheel on each corner.

Interior

The interior of the Twizy is certainly unusual looking with the driver sat centrally but you do enjoy a high driving position which improves visibility. However, most testers feel as if they are riding in the car as opposed to driving it. The controls are simple to use and the battery meter, digital speedometer and trip computer are clear and easy to see.

renault twizy interior

Renault Twizy. Image: Google UK

The plastic on the interior seems tough and can be cleaned with a wipe but it still feels cheap. There is a 31 litre box behind the passenger seat which is hard to access and can barely fit the contents of what you would buy on a small shopping trip. There is no cabin heating so driving on cold days can be uncomfortable to say the least.

Performance

The top speed of the Twizy is just 50mph and it takes 8.4 seconds to go from 0-30mph so it is certainly only a vehicle worth considering in urban areas. The range of this electric car is 43 miles so don’t plan any lengthy journeys! You will find that you use throttle travel much of the time so the Twizy feels like a scooter in that regard. It does reasonably well if you drive sensibly in the city but testing showed its range was just 27 miles when pushed to its limits so beware!

Verdict

Although it offers something unique on the market, you have the right to expect more. The Twizy hardly seems to be any more practical than a large scooter. Sure, you have the ‘fun’ aspect and if that appeals to you, perhaps the Twizy will be a good purchase. It also has extremely low running costs which is a plus. Yet you can get a decent town car for almost the same price as a vehicle with a 43 mile range and 50mph top speed which is worth bearing in mind.

  • Rating: 2.5/5
  • Cost: £6,590 ($9,000)
  • Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPG): Estimated at 211mpg
  • Official Driving Range (Miles): 43 miles
  • Standard Charging Time (Hours): 3.5 hours
  • Practicality (Seats & Doors): 2 seated
  • Engine Size: 6.1 kWh lithium-ion battery
  • Engine Power: 17bhp
  • Transmission: Single gear
  • Acceleration (0-30mph): 8.4 seconds
  • Top Speed (mph): 50mph
  • NCAP Safety Rating: Not classified as a car

Renault Zoe

Renault has really invested heavily in the electric car market so it has a lot riding on its Zoe model. It is comparable to the Nissan Leaf in terms of range and performance but it is available via a battery rental scheme which means it will be part-sold and part-leased. Thanks the UK Government grant, it is possible to get the Renault Zoe for a reasonable price but is it worth it?

renault zoe exterior

Renault Zoe. Image: Google UK

Design

Originally, the Renault Zoe was supposed to have a radical design but now it looks a lot like the latest version of the Clio. It has a steel structure and plenty of space beneath the bonnet and car seats while the battery is located under the floor near the rear of the vehicle. It is a heavy car and tips the scales at more than 1450kg with weight biased towards the car’s nose due to the 87bhp motor.

Interior

While there is no base height adjustment on the seat, the steering column offers some adjustment along with a decent amount of legroom and headroom and some cushioning for your derriere. Its 7-inch touchscreen controls the vehicle’s functions and resembles the Clio as do other interior design touches such as the air vents and steering wheel.

The boot is extremely deep as one might expect with 338 litres of room and this can be further enlarged by putting down the one-piece rear seatback. Signs of cost cutting can be seen in the thin and loose boot lining along with the odd noise made by the doors as you close them.

renault zoe interior

Renault Zoe. Image: Google UK

Performance

You will speed up quickly as far as 40mph but it begins to feel somewhat underpowered once you go beyond the 50mph mark and by the time it hits 60mph, the electric motor’s 40lb/ft of torque production simply doesn’t cut it. While the Nissan Leaf is more expensive than the Renault Zoe, it goes 10+ miles more per charge and performs better at higher speeds. Nonetheless, the 80 mile range of the Zoe is acceptable by the standards of electric cars.

Verdict

You can get the Renault Zoe for less than £14,000 after receiving the Government grant so it is a low-cost option for those who want to try out an electric car. However, the battery rental scheme is not cheap so it is something you need to consider. As an electric car, the Renault Zoe is a pleasant vehicle to drive and is stylish looking. However, its relative lack of power may be an issue for some and you can find more powerful models if you’re happy to pay extra.

  • Rating 3.5/5
  • Cost: £18,995 ($31,000)
  • Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPG): 169 MPG
  • Official Driving Range (Miles): 130 miles
  • Standard Charging Time (Hours): 30 minutes to 9 hours depending on charger used
  • Practicality (Seats & Doors): 5 door hatchback
  • Engine Size: 65kW electric motor
  • Engine Power: 88bhp
  • Transmission: N/A
  • Acceleration (0-60mph): 13.5 seconds
  • Top Speed (mph): 62-93 mph depending on weather conditions
  • NCAP Safety Rating: 5/5
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