Review: Renault Zoe - An electric Myvi

I’m back at my desk again after Hari Raya, but worry not, I didn’t stop working through the festivities. We have a few interesting cars lined up to be shared with all of you here. They are mostly old school cars with carburetors and standard manual transmissions, so I have to get this Renault Zoe out of the way first.

The Renault Zoe is an all electric car and I rented this with COMOS, which is Malaysia’s first EV car sharing program. It is a program and not so much of a business (at least that’s what I think). Why? Because nobody really rents these things. It’s more of an awareness thing. 

OK, electric cars. They’re not the most convenient mobility machines for the time being in Malaysia. There are not many charging points in around and by the time you find a shopping mall with charging points, they’re usually already taken up by plug-in hybrid BMWs. It will take time before electric cars become a common sight.

Let's Have a Look Around

The Zoe by Renault. 100% electric and the one I drove had a range of around 150km on a single charge. This was not meant for great distances. Range figures on the Renault Zoe Wikipedia page suggest numbers from 240km to 400km for later Renault Zoe models. My guess is the Zoe I drove has been out and about for a few years now and needs a new battery.

Size wise this is similar to a 2013 Perodua Myvi. You get 5 doors, 5 seats, and decent boot space. It’s a very docile looking hatchback with some hints of futuristic design. Design wise, the car dates back to 2012 so it’s not fresh and exciting. Ride height is similar to many other B-segment hatches like the Honda Jazz and the Toyota Yaris. This is a town car.

There is no engine. You get a 89hp electric motor and either a 22kWh or a 41kWh lithium ion battery. The motor is capable of 220Nm of torque. I don’t think it needs multiple gears. Only forward and reverse. It’s a quiet place under the hood unless you turn on the air conditioning.

Light colours are used on the inside, so it’s not great for a rental car. It is the future we imagined when we were in 2012. The design is very simple and the Zoe, in context of electric cars, is just an entry level car. It’s an electric 2nd gen Myvi. The gear shifter is similar to one that belongs in a car with a 4-speed automatic gearbox. It’s nothing spectacular, but it works.

Being the educational and awareness raising car that this is, you do get some interesting displays on the dashboard. The car does come equipped with GPS, a radio, and ‘Driving Eco’ Menu that tracks how economically you are driving. The most graphically interesting display would be the ‘Energy Flow’ 3D diagram which looks like it belongs in a university presentation for electric cars. It’s interesting to see at least. And perhaps in the future, we can see diagrams like this with some diagnostics for maintenance and repairs.

This is what you see in traffic jams. The battery is used to run the air-conditioning and the digital display.

The Charging Inconvenience

Why do we buy cars?

For mobility.

Why do we want mobility?

To save us time and to give us freedom.

Currently electric cars such as this Renault Zoe won’t be able to give you time and freedom. Charging takes time and the limited charging points and limited range won’t give you freedom.

There is a way around the charging time issue and Chinese electric buses have already implemented this - battery swapping. Instead of charging the car for at least 30 minutes, you just swap the battery like you would for a TV remote control.

Watch the Video:


There was a US company called Better Place  that tried implementing this in Israel but they went bankrupt in 2013. You can look it up to find out more.


About the limited charging stations, a realistic approach as a consumer (who wants something electric) for the time being is to get yourself a plug-in hybrid. You still get the benefit of free charging points but you don’t have to panic when your charge is low.

The good side of plug-in hybrids?
Free charging points, plausible torque, better fuel economy (not all conditions), and some tax incentives.

The bad side of plug-in hybrids?
When your battery runs flat, you’re just carrying dead weight around (the battery).

The Zoe does come with an electric cable. You have to take it out from the trunk or wherever you keep it in the car. In a user experience sense, it is a bit of a friction when compared to normal gasoline powered cars (you just open the filler). I didn’t have any luck charging the car since the charging point I tried at the Shah Alam Library was not working. There is an anti-theft feature for the cable. It can’t be removed from the car unless the charging unlock button is pressed form the inside of the car.

What is the Renault Zoe Like to Drive?

Nimble, quicker than your average B-segment hatch, and quiet. I still think it feels like your average 2nd gen Perodua Myvi minus the engine. I did try the BMW i3 during MAS 2018 (link to article) and it feels like the i3 had more torque than this Zoe. The Zoe is front-wheel-drive whereas the BMW i3 is rear wheel drive.

It wasn’t astonishingly quick but it is very handy for merging and overtaking maneuvers. There’s also less of an effect of regenerative braking on the Renault Zoe so you could still glide with your foot off the gas. That’s not something you could do in the i3. In the i3, the regenerative braking immediately kicks in as soon as you take your foot of the throttle. During city driving with the radio on, you can barely notice any difference between a standard Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) hatchback and the Renault Zoe. There’s less vibration but that is as much as I could recall. It can be a little fun to hoon with the Eco Mode off, but always keep in mind that the Zoe is meant to be a city car only. Instantaneous torque means you can do occasional wheel spins (very light) even without a standard manual transmission.


It’s an entry level compact electric car. The Renault Zoe is nothing spectacular. It’s just here to raise awareness and slowly introduce us to electric cars.

As for electric car sharing?

If you’re looking for a solution to your personal mobility, I don’t think this is it yet. Ride hailing apps and public transportation are dominating right now.

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