What’s it like to drive an electric car? remarkably, in the case of the Renault Fluence ZE family car and Renault Kangoo ZE – two family cars coming to the Renault UK range over the next 12 months – the answer is that they’re not much different to petrol or diesel cars.
There’s an idea of electric cars as either space-age supercars or boxy oddities, but both the Fluence and Kangoo EVs look exactly like their petrol or diesel counterparts. There’s already a Kangoo available with a combustion engine as a panel van or glazed van while there’ll be a Fluence mid-size family car along with a petrol or diesel engine too.
The Fluence takes it styling cues from the current Megane and Laguna models; it’s essentially a five-seat four-door family car that’s comparable to the old Renault Megane saloon.
There’s practically nothing to suggest inside or out that the Fluence ZE (the ZE stands for zero-emission) is any different to any other car on the road. The interior is spacious, though on a prototype we took for a test drive the boot space was compromised by a large battery pack; that should be minimised by the time a production version comes around though.
That illusion may be tested when the Fluenze ZE drives down the road with only the hushed noise of tyres on tarmac detectable to human ears. Inside there’s a bit of a whine as the electric motor winds up, but it’s barely audible; wind and road noise when the Fluence ZE gets up a head of speed are more noticeable.
And there’s no difference in the response – when the Fluence ZE moves away you could be in a quiet diesel engine with an automatic gearbox. Torque is instantly available, meaning acceleration is fairly brisk – handling and ride are responsive and comfortable respectively.
Both vehicles have ranges of around 80 miles in a mix of city and motorway driving. The battery packs that power the Fluence ZE and Kangoo ZE – will be available to lease at a cost of £75 per month for 6,000 annual miles. A full charge will take 6-8 hours, says Renault, but an 80 per cent charge will take 30 minutes only.
Renault’s new EVs are a world away from the fanciful concepts and supercars that electric cars have been characterised by in the past. In the Fluence – and the Kangoo too – the French manufacturer has made two functional, practical everyday vehicles that just happen to be battery powered.
The Renault Kangoo ZE will go on sale later this year from £16,990. The Renault Fluence ZE will be on sale in 2012 from £22,850.
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