Car review: Renault Zoe is poised to be first affordable electric car

Renault's battery-run hatch poised to be first affordable electric car

Zoe has sashayed into town, and you can meet her at the Renault showroom in Leng Kee Road.

The Renault Zoe is a battery-powered supermini unveiled in Europe three years ago.

Renault agent Wearnes Automotive has just brought in a unit to bid for an electric car-sharing scheme that the Government hopes to launch next year.

It may also offer the car for normal showroom retail sale at $130,000 at current COE levels.

If that happens, the Zoe will be the first "affordable" electric model here. The only other electric car on sale here is the BMW i3, which sells for $236,800.

But unlike the BMW i3, the Zoe does not have a range extender (a small petrol engine that acts as a generator to juice up depleted batteries).

Wearnes says the price tag is achievable because the car will enjoy a $30,000 carbon rebate from July.

The electric car-sharing scheme is an ambitious project. The Government is planning for up to 1,000 electric cars zipping around from as early as next year. The exercise, which will last up to 10 years, also involves setting aside parking spaces for the cars and installing more charging stations.

It is still too early to say which car will make the cut, but the shortlist is unlikely to be a long one. Zoe's keenest competitor is likely to be the Nissan Leaf, another supermini.

The Glacier White Zoe that Wearnes has brought in cuts an attractive figure. At just a little over 4m long (4,084mm) and barely 2m wide (1,945mm), the hatchback which comes with 17-inch rims has a cute face, but not to the point of looking silly.

The rear door handles are flush with the C-pillars, giving the Zoe the appearance of a three-door hatch when viewed from a distance.

The boot, at 338 litres, is on a par with the Mercedes-Benz A-class' 341 litres. And unlike the BMW i3 which can carry only two passengers at the rear, the Zoe has seatbelts for three in the second row. Both boot space and passenger count make the Zoe ideal for a small family.

The dashboard is minimalist but modern, with a colourful 7-inch touchscreen monitor offering functions such as navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.

Under the bonnet, the Zoe is powered by an electric motor with an output of 65kW or 88bhp. While that is not exactly sizzling, consider this: Its 220Nm of torque is instantly accessible.

On paper, the Zoe has a range of 225km on a full charge. Charging duration, using a cable plugged to the nose of the car, is between one and nine hours, depending on the type of charger.

Housing Board and condo dwellers eyeing the Zoe will have one more hurdle to cross - finding a spot to install a charger which costs about $3,000.

The Zoe is not yet available for test drives because of red tape. But if it is anywhere as pleasing on the go as it is on the eye, it will be a winner.

tohyc@sph.com.sg