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Zoe, she (too) has all of a great

 The most widely distributed electric vehicle in Europe, the small Renault wants to extend its territory outside the cities thanks to its autonomy, which is now close to 400 km.

A pioneer in the democratization of the clean car, the Renault Zoé has always been considered with sympathy but also a form of condescension.  Too modest to claim the aura that suits ecological luxury, it collects all the preconceived ideas that stick to electric vehicles of which it is the most widely distributed representative in Europe with 163,000 units sold in seven years.  It would be a fundamentally urban model (while its owners mainly reside on the outskirts of cities), reserved for short distances (its users nevertheless display an average mileage higher than that of Clio drivers) and with limited performance, even  if it can leave beautiful people on the spot when the light turns green.  In short, the Zoé would be a benevolent mobility medium, not a real car.

 As history has belatedly given Renault reason to have invested very early (but not always wisely) in the electric vehicle, the Zoé can no longer be content to pass for an avant-garde but marginal automobile.  He must now be taken seriously.  To achieve this, Renault started from the beginning and tried to answer the angry question, that which all studies point to as the number one obstacle to buying an electric: autonomy.  The new generation can travel 395 kilometers according to the WLTP evaluation protocol, implemented after dieselgate to moralize consumption readings.  A jump of almost 100 km compared to the previous generation and 250 km compared to the first generation of 2012. In real life, it will rather be expected to have a real autonomy of just over 350 km but this result,  obtained with a battery whose capacity has been increased from 41 to 52 kWh, remains flattering.  To reassure the customer a little more, the manufacturer specifies that the GPS can program a route according to the terminals (and their availability in real time) present throughout the route.

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 By approaching the 400 km mark, the Zoé considers itself capable of responding to uses far wider than short and repetitive journeys.  Hit the highway for a weekend getaway, or even consider going on vacation?  In addition to the gain in autonomy, the diamond brand opposes skeptics the improvements made to the engine which now develops 100 kW (135 hp) on the most efficient version (the entry-level is content with 108 hp) and significantly improves its  times to go from 80 to 120 km / h.

 Always a little dry in suspension given the ballast of 326 kg imposed by the lithium-ion battery, this car of a ton and a half displays road handling as rigorous as a classic model of equivalent size.  On small winding roads, the new Zoé is a treat of fluidity and flexibility thanks to the presence of a meticulously calibrated steering and, above all, to the possibility of adjusting the engine brake effect.  This specificity reserved for electric cars makes it possible to adopt a driving which one could qualify as elastic, by using very little the brake pedal.

 An interior inspired by the Clio

 To plead the cause of the Zoé, made in Flins, in the Yvelines, the manufacturer also worked to improve its recharging capacity.  It is now possible (the option costs 1,000 euros, however) to connect to direct current with a maximum power of 50 kW in order to recover 150 km of autonomy in half an hour.  On conventional public terminals (11 kW) in alternating current, it will take two hours to accumulate the equivalent of 125 km while on a standard wall recharge (7 kW), a night of nine hours will be necessary to reconstitute the entirety of  load.  Some will see crippling constraints.  This is discussed.  In addition to the fact that 80% of recharges are carried out at the owners' homes, it appears that the network of French public charging stations (27,660 on September 1) is nothing short of famine.  It corresponds to a ratio of a charging point for 7.2 electric vehicles while the European Union recommends a ratio of 1 to 10. A shadow, however, on the table: the effective availability of public terminals, victims more often than  '' in turn of breakdowns or maintenance faults.

 With the new Zoé, Renault targets less a clientele of city dwellers and “mono-motorized” families than extra-urban consumers or those living in private homes looking for a second car… whose experience shows that, despite the inherent servitudes  electrically, it often becomes the most used in the home.

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 Last year, and not the least, to strengthen the automotive credibility of the Zoé: its new attires.  Externally, the lines are slightly stretched.  The hood is ribbed, the rims more sophisticated and new colors, more showy, have appeared.  As for the interior, hitherto minimalist, it has been completely redesigned, inspired by that of the new Clio.  The screens get bigger, the flexible materials replace the rigid plastics and the dashboard accommodates digital instrumentation finally worthy of a modern car.

 The Zoé is available from 169 euros per month all inclusive in rental with purchase option (formula chosen by the vast majority of customers).  It can also be negotiated between 23,900 euros and 31,500 euros (ecological bonus of 6,000 euros not deducted), excluding battery rental (from 74 euros monthly).  Like all new clean vehicles, this car is a gamble whose outcome is difficult to predict but, for Renault, it is not a test drive.  In the medium term, the automaker plans to convert the Twingo to electric, import K-ZE, a small battery-powered urban model from China, and launch a zero-emission SUV too.