By Mike Torpey on 2017-02-27 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
ZOE switches up
THERE are some compelling reasons why drivers should flick the switch on electric vehicles.
They are quiet and relaxing to drive, don't belch out any toxic fumes, are more reliable than regular vehicles courtesy of having fewer moving parts and, traditionally at least, will cover around 60 miles before limping to a halt.
That said, I have a garage stuffed to the roof with junk so secure charging becomes an issue and 60 miles doesn't afford sufficient distance to risk a flat battery, so the appeal has been limited to say the least.
Until now that is, and an extended test drive in a car that's swiftly changing people's perception of EVs - the Renault ZOE.
Renault is now in its seventh year as Europe's top selling electric vehicle brand and ZOE is currently the outright No 1 model.
That's no surprise given that the latest version has a new battery containing double the energy of most others and now claims the longest range of any mainstream EV, its 250 miles trumped only by American supermodel the Tesla Model S - and that starts at more than Â£55k compared with Â£17,845.
And while we all know car manufacturers are prone to exaggeration, Renault is painting a clear picture with its assertion that in real-world terms 186 miles is ZOE's more realistic range, and 124 miles in cold winter conditions.
For many folk those figures equate to a full week's driving at about Â£3 cost, so they may only need to use the free wall-box charging point that comes with every new ZOE every seven days or so.
It is because the French manufacturer is now offering a choice of two batteries, the original one dating back to 2013 giving an official range of 149 miles.
At entry level Expression Nav the starting tab, with leased battery, is £13,995 making it the cheapest electric five-seater you can buy.
Then there's the fact that this supermini size electric warrior is a pretty cool looking car with its slick, swept back headlights, ritzy interior and plentiful cabin space.
The fact that it has been designed from the ground up rather than been modified from an existing model means that everything is placed where you would expect, and where Renault wants it, and buyers can rely on stuff like a proper boot and five seats.
Go for the new Signature Nav trim, top of the three spec grades and Â£19,895 if you lease the battery at Â£59 a month, and you also get a BOSE sound system and pin sharp tunes because there's no engine noise interference.
For me though, the ZOE needs to drive like a proper car, really feel alive, fun, sharp - and it does just that.
Okay its 92bhp capacity sounds low and the performance figures of 0-62 in a stately 13.5 seconds with top speed of 84mph are hardly inspiring, but that's really not how this car feels.
It has a low centre of gravity, feels positive, planted and joyous with tip-top dynamics, nicely weighted power steering and a simple forward and reverse automatic gearbox.
The ZOE was the first Renault to be equipped as standard with the brand's R-Link multimedia tablet including a seven-inch touchscreen, voice command, sat-nav, Bluetooth and access to on-board apps.
You can also monitor battery charging and vehicle range from a smartphone or laptop and programme the cabin to be cooled or warmed while charging before setting off on a journey.
All clever stuff in addition to the added peace of mind provided by a warranty package covering the car for four years or 100,000 miles.
The electric car game has certainly moved on - and ZOE is leading the way.
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