Roadtest: Renault Zoe

01 Jul 2019 | 10.05 pm

Roadtest: Renault Zoe

Spend your money on the superior Leaf

01 Jul 2019 | 10.05 pm

Renault’s Zoe Expression is popular in France, less so in Ireland. Mark Gallivan puts this EV through its paces

Renault-Nissan was ahead of the game with their ZE (zero emissions) programme. The all-electric Nissan Leaf has done well in Ireland in the electric vehicle category, though the Renault Zoe hasn’t proved as popular. The Zoe sold 115 units in Ireland through the first four months of 2019, well behind the Leaf’s total of 717.

As you’d expect, it’s a different story in France, where Renault has a 57% share of the EV market in both passenger cars and vans. Across Europe, the Zoe had 40,000 registrations last year, of which 18,000 were in France. Renault recently topped the 200,000 mark in sales of electric vehicles in Europe since the marque introduced its range in 2011.

In France at any rate, where city parking space is at a premium, Zoe has gained traction as an urban runaround since the battery was improved in 2016. The real-world range of the Zoe Expression is up to 300km between charges, though less in winter conditions, when around 200km is a better estimate.

There are three models in the Zoe range, starting with the Expression, and two of them offer the option of different engines. Depending on the model and engine combo, performance varies from 88hp to 108hp. Prices range from €25,590 to €32,540, though that’s after the SEAI grant and VRT relief are factored in. 

The Zoe is engineered on the previous-generation Clio with steel monocoque, but in using the Megane’s front sub-frame the Zoe adds on the pounds, tipping the scales at 1,480kg across the range. With the charging unit and electric motor in the front of the car, there is a notable degree of understeer for a supermini. The sensation is progressive and not off-putting, as the Zoe keeps body roll in check and all the controls are light to operate. 

The seating position of the Zoe will suit shorter drivers, as the front seats are positioned high and there is good forward visibility. The only restriction when reversing is the broad c-pillars. The seats provide good comfort, though the lumbar support could offer more adjustment. 

While the Zoe’s controls are simple to operate, the seven-inch touchscreen that manages all functions of the infotainment and connectivity took time to navigate. The interface in the Nissan Leaf is better. If there is a failing in the Zoe’s cabin, it’s the quality of plastics used throughout. When the most expensive Zoe is costing €32,540, the small price walk to the more expensive and better finished Nissan Leaf starts to make sense. Luggage space in the Zoe is 388 litres or 1,225 litres when rear seats are folded.

For urbanites, the Zoe’s battery power should prove more than enough. I took the Zoe onto a congested motorway and found the battery’s 92hp power a concern. Immediate acceleration is always an important safety factor in avoiding potential incidents at motorway speeds. 0-100km/h acceleration is a sluggish 13.2 seconds and the car has a maximum speed of 135km per hour.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Zoe Expression NAV

Price: €25,590, after VRT rebate and SEAI grant. 

Range: WLTP 317km (summer 300km, winter 200km)

Engine: Electric 

CO2: 0g/km

Verdict: Takes getting used to.

Handsome SEAT Tarraco Adds Spanish Verve

You cannot approach SEAT’s new seven-seat flagship Tarraco SUV without mentioning the Skoda Kodiaq or the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace. All are Volkswagen Group cars sitting on the same underpinnings, but it’s the Tarraco that sets about adding a little extra Spanish verve, in the same way SEAT achieved with the small but outstanding Arona.

Available in front or four-wheel drive, the Tarraco can be bought as a 5- or 7-seater SUV in SE or Xcellence specification. There is a good choice of engines: 1.5 or 2.0-litre TSI petrol and a 2.0-litre TDI diesel, and the option of VW’s group DSG gearbox and configurable 4Drive for on or off-road driving. 

The Tarraco is a particularly handsome SUV and has all the interior space and quality that’s not far off the Kodiaq. I tested the 2.0TDI 190hp DSG 4Drive Xcellence 7-seater (€52,210) and was disappointed with the engine’s response. While it is fundamentally the same unit in the Skoda and Tiguan, it lacks the expected sparkle or elasticity through the gears. 

Reports suggest that the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre TDI version is better (€44,180).

Stylish Tesla Model 3 Taking Irish Orders

After a prolonged gestation, the promised 560km range Tesla Model 3 was unveiled to Irish journalists in April, ahead of deliveries in late summer. Tesla says the new car sits in the middle-rank saloon size, but in fact it is closer in length to a smaller Mercedes CLA. 

Unlike the Model S and X, the Model 3 is not a hatchback but a conventional saloon, and available in Standard Range Plus, Long Range Plus AWD and Model 3 Performance. Prices were unavailable at launch but the performance figures push the envelope of what’s on the market today. 

Fully-charged, the range skirts between 415km, 560km and 530km driving range respectively. It’s worth noting that the Model 3 Performance version claims an impressive 0-100km in 3.4 seconds. Built in Tesla’s factory in Fremont, the Model 3 does away with a traditional dashboard and instead uses a 15-inch centrally mounted screen for all primary functions. 

The layout and seating for five people, available in a white or black Vegan leather trim, is minimalist and unlike any other car on the market. A full panoramic glass roof is standard and, unusually, all of the five seats are heated. Fans can reserve a Model 3 through the website’s configuration portal. Note that Tesla owners are restricted to just four Tesla supercharging stations in Ireland.

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