In Detail: Renault ZOE


The all-electric Renault ZOE seems to ride the line between the visual expression of alternate mobility and what buyers are currently comfortable with concerning cars extremely well. It's immediately identifiable as an electric car - the blue detailing and avant-garde surfacing being giveaways - but it is still just a B-segment hatchback.

We recently drove the ZOE and will be testing it in more detail when we can get our hands on one in the UK, but, ability aside, the detailing on the ZOE is going to be one of the major factors in attracting people to this car. Here's a snapshot.

Above: Jean Sémériva sketching the headlight graphic for the ZOE concept car that appeared at the Paris Motor Show in 2010. Given that Sémériva describes the ZOE's aesthetic using the words 'agility', 'fluidity' and 'emotion', it might comes as a surprise that before the project he was involved in designing agricultural vehicles. (Note the BMW CSL Batmobile model, presumably for inspiration...)

Above: One of Sémériva's final renderings for the production car, which features the same full-length creases as the concept.

Below: Despite the ZOE's innocent drivetrain, Renault wanted its new halo car to have something of a feral, mischievous feel to it, and a heavy eyelid across the intergrated headlight/grille graphic helps achieve this. Despite the modern technology under the skin, the majority of cars are still clay-modelled during the design stage as many designers feel that machines will never replicate a human's touch or feel.

EXTERIOR

Despite its rather typical dimensions, the ZOE will turn heads on the road simply because of its concept car-style detailing. We're not used to seeing visual jewellery on production cars, as most of it is too expensive for high volume manufacturing.

Above/below: Blue is the international colour of 'green', and the ZOE is sprinkled in light-blue chrome detailing, most notably the now enlarged Renault diamond at the front and uppercase model designation on the boot-lid. The ZOE's charging socket sits neatly behind the diamond logo, which opens on a hinge.

Above/Below: If we were all talking about the headlight graphic it would be perfectly understandable because it's pretty impressive, with cold blue inserts and a tiny 'Z.E' (zero emissions) signature on the LED strips. The rear light signature, however, is straight off the motor show stand, and features concentric rhombic inserts that stand out against the chrome background. Showstopper, indeed.

Below: Yes, it's a bit of a gimmick, but a relief of Sémériva's thumbprint is 'engraved' onto the hidden rear door handle of every ZOE. It's cheesy, but in the same vein as certain Alfa Romeo models, hidden door handles are cool.

INTERIOR

Dominique Marzolf is responsible for the interior design, and, echoing the exterior design philosophy, "tried to to work with elements sculptured by the wind or water - like boats, a hydrofoil for example." Light pastel colours reflect not only purity but advanced technology, and there's even a reference to alternative energy production in the wind turbine blade-shaped moulding on the dashboard.

Above: This is the interior is the higher-spec 'Dynamique Intens' model, and the feeling of space and freedom is immediately obvious once inside the car. It's a strange mixture of old and new, with the smooth digital TFT readout and large touchscreen on the centre-console, but a manual handbrake (we've got no problem with that) in between the seats. Lacquered white inserts are ubiquitous, featuring prominently on the air-vent and speaker surrounds, as well as the door handles and control panel.

Below: Like the Volkswagen up!, the ZOE is another small hatchback to feature sporty modular seats. Modular seats use a seemingly one-piece design that helps keep the interior aesthetic simple and minimalistic. The Dynamique Zen and Intens models also use Teflon-treated seat coverings for protection.

Above: A linear TFT screen sits under a heavy cowl behind the steering wheel. The driver can choose from several colour schemes and the readout offers you your remaining range based on the previous 125 miles of driving. There's also an 'econometre' that indicates whether the ZOE is using or recovering energy at any given point. Usefully, the readout features a 'driving style inidcator' that changes the colour of the background according to your driving style (green: eco-driving, blue: neutral driving, violet: energy consuming driving).

Below: The second digital readout is the 'R-Link' touchscreen system on the centre console. The system can act as a sat-nav as well as a radio, telephone, for audiostreaming and also a social media hub.

Above/below: As if an reminder was needed when driving silently, you're constantly made aware that the ZOE is different from normal cars. Most noticeably, another 'Z.E' logo adorns the pebble-shaped gear-selector and Renault's electric graphic is engraved into the dashboard. Blue chrome serves to break up the smooth dashboard and draw the eye.

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