Renault Kangoo ZE on test

Discover the truth about owning and using an electric car

Renault Kangoo ZE on test

While technically the Kangoo ZE is a commercial vehicle, the ZE Maxi Crew Cab also happens to be an extremely versatile five-seat family car, complete with an enormous luggage bay. As such, it is undoubtedly the most practical electric car money can buy today.

Renault has a long history of selling the Kangoo as a cheap family car as well as a van. It may not have the refinement of many people carriers, but it provides a huge helping of practicality for a very good price. The latest Kangoo ZE electric version continues this tradition, and does it extremely well.

Styling is boxy and it is obvious that it is based on a van, yet it is certainly not dull. It is unpretentious, and therein lies its charm.

Practicality is the name of the game. Passengers both front and rear get plenty of space. There are plenty of cubby holes and storage boxes for the usual family clutter, and the boxy shape and large amount of glass give a feeling of light and spaciousness.

Open the driver's door and you are greeted with a smart, functional and stylish interior. Out go the soft-touch plastics of most cars, to be replaced by a harder-wearing finish - but other than that, there is little to belie the van-based interior. Visibility from its raised seating position is excellent and the seat and steering wheel both adjust for height and rake to ensure a comfortable driving position.

Turn on the ignition and a light on the dashboard tells you it is safe to drive away. Like most electric vehicles, the Kangoo ZE does not have a gearbox and drive is selected in the same way as in most automatics. Pulling away is brisk, with effortless torque, and the car accelerates easily.

To my surprise, I found myself enjoying the Kangoo as a driver's car. It has very direct steering, a firm ride and instant throttle response, and is an entertaining car to drive. In fact, in my two days of driving the Kangoo, I came to the conclusion that it is the most fun people carrier I have ever driven.

Top speed is a shade over 70mph (112km/h) and official range is quoted at 'over 100 miles' (160km). During my testing, I did not have enough time with the car to conduct a series of real world range tests. On an ordinary driving test combining a mixture of city and urban driving with open roads, I managed a 73 mile - 116km - range. This suggests that if driven with care in a city environment, 100 miles could be achievable, but that it would be inadvisable to rely on it.

Recharging using a 16 amp 240v socket takes between six and eight hours. No high-speed charging option currently exists, but Renault say that this is not likely to be an issue with their prospective customers, most of whom will be business users travelling in city and urban environments. That is a shame, as the Renault high speed charging network is extensive and would certainly extend the use of the Kangoo ZE beyond the boundaries of the city. Particularly as a practical family car, customers want the option of being able to charge up at rapid charging points on route.

In conclusion, the Kangoo ZE is fun to drive and hugely practical. Undoubtedly, most sales will be to businesses requiring a cargo vehicle with the ability to take four or five passengers, but some will also find their way into family ownership. And as a school bus, shopping trolley and for general driving duties associated with a growing family, the Kangoo ZE makes an awful lot of sense.

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