Renault's latest fun and funky Zoe offers the longest range of any electric car here
Renault's latest Zoe is funky and has the greatest range of any electric car in Singapore The Renault Zoe offers a silent, emission-free and relatively zippy commute. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The plan was to drive the new electric Renault Zoe to Malacca, a distance of about 240km.

But in the end, I thought the better of it and decided to see how the Zoe's claimed real-life range of 300km holds up here.

Good thing, too. On a full charge, the car managed around 290km, with the battery almost depleted completely by then.

And that was with the Eco mode activated somewhere about 140km. In this mode, the air-conditioner is less powerful and the maximum speed is capped at around 96kmh.

Driving to Malacca would have been possible. But it would have been too close a shave. Unforeseen traffic conditions might have consumed the 50km buffer faster than you can spell Energizer.

Also, driving at 96kmh all the way would not have been much fun.

But in Singapore, the battery-powered subcompact is quite a joy. Like the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, it conveys a level of linearity and seamlessness few conventional models can match.

Like the Ioniq Electric, the Zoe has a low running cost - 3.1 cents a kilometre (based on current electric tariffs), compared with about 14 cents for a petrol model of the same size.

So, the annual savings would be substantial. Over 10 years, it translates to $18,530, assuming the disparity between petrol and electric rates remains unchanged.

You need to service it only once every 30,000km and the servicing cost is a fraction of that for a petrol car.

But in terms of efficiency, it is surprisingly no better than the bigger Ioniq Electric. The Hyundai also costs 3.1 cents/km to run. But the Zoe has a longer range (290km versus 200km) and lower road tax ($726 versus $1,082).

The Zoe is also cheaper at $135,999, compared with the $144,888 Ioniq. (The Zoe does not come with a wall box charger, whereas the Ioniq does.)

But of course, the Zoe is a much smaller car. Legroom and hip room in the second row is tight for adults, and boot space is limited, even if it is the biggest in its segment.

The car also has a jiggly ride, not uncommon for models of its size. Its brakes are not as easy to modulate for parallel parking manoeuvres as the Ioniq.

But its reverse camera is of a better quality, that is if you need one for such a compact car in the first place.

Yet, it is still a fun car for the driver. It has a super-responsive throttle (when not in Eco), a high level of agility with superb cornering stability, and a lightfootedness that comes from its diminutive size.

Onboard, it is pretty austere compared with the Hyundai. It has cruise control, but not the adaptive type found in the Ioniq. And instead of an electric parking brake, it has a conventional handbrake. A conventional-style "gear lever" is in place, too. You won't find wireless phone-charging onboard, either.

But other Renault traits remain, such as a cool and minimalist design inside and out - the car has high-tech yet cuddly qualities. Its tablet-style infotainment screen is funky and its keyless system with walk-away self-locking function is always welcome.

It is a commendable urban runabout, one which offers a silent, emission-free and relatively zippy commute and a range which is more than enough for the average distance covered by a motorist here.

On such short drives, four or five onboard should not be an issue. But I would still like to drive it to Malaysia one day. If not Malacca, then perhaps to Yong Peng for fishball noodles, and back.