I have now driven 1000 kilometers with the Renault ZOE Z.E. 50. The Renault ZOE is Europe’s best-selling EV in 2020. This means that, I am not the only one who thinks the ZOE has many great features. But what are the “Top 5 strange features” that have made be crazy during the first 1000 km.
Four out of the five items on my list are related to the rear part of the car. Has the ZOE design team been working in two work shifts? Has the morning shift designed the car from the front bumper to the B pillar, and a less talented or lazy evening shift team has designed the car from the B pillar to the tail lights?
After the 1000 kilometers with the ZOE, the only thing in the front part of the car that gets to my Top 5 list is:
I - Bad lumbar support. The driver’s seat looks nice, but there is no way to adjust the lumbar support. The lumbar support is acceptable on a short drive to the supermarket, but when I sit there longer it would like to have better lumbar back support. The ZOE online user guide says that lumbar support adjustment is “model specific”. What does this means? The sales brochure does not list the lumbar support for any of the trim levels: Life, Zen, Intens. There is a drawing in the owner’s manual that shows a lever for the adjustment. I can’t find this lever in my ZOE.
In my opinion, except the poor lumbar support and imprecise user guide everything in the ZOE from the front bumper to the B pillar is pretty logical and in a positive sense “normal”.
The following 4 list items are behind the B pillar. I think this is surprising. I see would imagine that many people buy a ZOE size car to get to the supermarket and transport children to their activities within the city. I think, in this use, a user will value a functional rear end design.
II - No liner in the rear of the trunk and holes in the metal panel. When I opened the Renault ZOE Z.E. 50’s trunk of a for the first time, I asked from the sales representative about the unfinished looks of the trunk. I thought that someone had removed the liner. I said to the sales person that can imagine how my groceries and small items will roll into the rear bumper: Spice cans, Tabasco bottles,... I couldn’t believe when I heard that this is how it was mean to be. What has the designer been thinking? On the 6th day with my new ZOE a Fanta can rolled into the hole. I knew it! Soon after this I noticed that when I load any long items to the car, they will move against this unprotected painted surface. Imagine driving with slalom skis. They have sharp metal edges. When you drive to the mountain, the skis will move in the cargo space and the aggressive corners will be scratching your car. The painted will look bad in no time, there will be a clean metal that will start corroding. I guess this will look terrible in many used ZOEs. Personally, I will need to visit a home improvement store and buy something to fix the lazy design of Groupe Renault’s evening shift.
III – A trunk floor is not standard. If the ZOE had a trunk floor, the trunk would hide the Fanta can eating holes, and it would create a space where I can store the charger cable when I don’t use it. The Renault dealer informed me that a trunk floor as a 235EUR optional extra. In my opinion, 235EUR is too much for a styrox box and a panel that sits on top of the box. The ZOE is a 30000EUR compact car. I think, at this price point, Renault’s evening shift could have finished the trunk design before they went home. It don’t believe that the sheet of plywood did not fit in their design budget: The same team had money to add several USB ports on the rear seat.
IV – Ergonomics of the rear door handles. The Renault ZOE does not have traditional door handles in the rear. It has plastic flaps that pop up from the side of the window. I must say the flaps have been surprisingly reliable, they have worked even on snow days. I was thinking that they would get stuck or frozen, but no problems during the first 1000 km. But the design is not functional. The design is not made for everyday use. It is difficult to get a good grip on the handle. When I wearing gloves, they are even more difficult to operate. In my opinion the rear door handles of the Renault ZOE Z.E. 50 are a great example of design where form goes before function. The car has conventional front door handles that are perfect. Opening the front doors doesn’t require any extra attention. Why did they want to make the read doors difficult to operate?
V – Rear seat folding mechanism. The ZOE has a folding rear seat. This is a good feature. I can load long objects, such as skis. Unfortunately, the flexibility of the design is not good. Many compact cars do this much better, including many Renault cars. The ZOE has only a foldable backrest, and the backrest does not fold all the way down. I guess this is because of some EV components under the seat. Whatever the reason is, I would have expected that Renault finds a solution before starting to sell the car. The other car in our family is a S205 Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrid wagon. It has folding rear seats too. In the Mercedes, you will get a completely flat load floor. Similar to the ZOE, the Mercedes has quite a lot of batteries too. The ZOE, unlike the S205 Mercedes is designed from the ground up as an electric car. I would have expected the ZOE’s cargo versatility and flexibility to be better. Currently, the ZOE’s cargo flexibility has too many limitations.
The shape of the ZOE’s cargo area with the rear seats folded makes me ask myself: Has the evening shift been in a hurry? Why have they rushed to get back home? The rear seats that don’t fold completely down along with the missing trunk floor looks really unfinished. In my opinion, many city cars and compact cars have better versatility, and a smarter and more practical trunk and cargo space design.