131102-RenaultZoe

Electric cars are starting to make sense, and here's proof. Renault's Zoe looks great, is easy and fun to drive, costs peanuts to charge and has all the range most people will ever need.

It's that word 'range' that bothers people about electric cars. In reality the problem is not so much the short distance per battery charge (compared to a tank of petrol or diesel) as the long time that battery takes to recharge when depleted (compared to the speed of conventional refuelling). According to official tests the Zoe will do 130 miles between charges, though Renault itself suggests 90 is more likely. Either way, it's more than enough to make the Zoe a genuinely useful everyday car.

It feels much like any other small hatchback, with an airy, modern interior reminiscent of the Renault Clio. Only the new instrument graphics delivering information on battery status give away the fact that this more than just another supermini. But the Zoe is easier to drive than most cars: you simply slot the 'gear' selector into D and go. It's very quiet and there are no gearchanges to interrupt progress, just seamless acceleration up to a top speed of 84mph.

The Zoe's list price is over £17,000, but a government grant is available to cover 25% of the cost of a plug-in electric vehicle, up to a maximum of £5000. That brings the cost of a Zoe down to around the same as a conventional supermini of similar performance. Yet the Zoe will cost far less to run - and that has to make sense.