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Renault Kangoo ZE Express road test report


The first of Renault’s pioneering Z.E. range to launch in the UK, the Kangoo Express Z.E and its longer version, the Kangoo Maxi Z.E will arrive here at the end of October 2011. As the first mass-market electric commercial from a mainstream car maker, Renault is expecting the Kangoo Z.E. models to capitalise on commercial interest in improving green credentials and benefitting from the reduced running costs and tax perks of such battery-powered models.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Renault Kangoo ZE

Image number 2 of the Renault Kangoo ZEImage number 3 of the Renault Kangoo ZEImage number 4 of the Renault Kangoo ZE

Performance Performance - 3 stars

What can you say about a van with near instant torque? Except maybe ‘watch out!’, as this near silent workhorse sets off at a pace. Of course, while the electric version of the Kangoo boasts the advantage of bypassing the archaic technology of the combustion engine, its performance is limited at higher speeds, with top speed of just 81mph and a range per charge limited to 100 miles. Recharging will take between 6 to 8 hours, using a 220 V domestic power outlet, or by using a 400 V three-phase supply the battery can be replenished to 80 per cent in about 30 minutes.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

The ride seemed capable enough, although it was hard to tell in the short test drive of this model in the slow-moving traffic of London. Having said that, Renault fully expects that due to the model’s size and its limited range, the Kangoo ZE will be a city dweller, unlikely to encounter being thrown into a corner at high speed. The regular non-electric Kangoo was always held in reasonable regard for its road handling despite being a high-sided compact van, so I think it will be fair to say that we can expect similar. Oddly the weight of an EV’s batteries can actually help the ride-quality, by keeping the vehicle centrally weighted to the road. Handling-wise, due to its electric drivetrain, the Kangoo ZE handles very easily, because like an automatic, there is no gearbox or clutch to worry about. But unlike an automatic-there is no potential for jerky automated gear changes. All the power is there, right from the start. Result.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

The Kangoo ZE is essentially the same vehicle with its combustion heart ripped out. This should actually be a reliability advantage as EVs are very simply constructed; all they really need is an electric motor and a battery. There’s much combustion engine paraphernalia that an electric vehicle lives without, making it easier to maintain. In fact, Renault says that maintenance costs will be half those of an equivalent combustion vehicle because electric motors require less servicing. Plus the battery is leased to you for a fee of £59 per month, so the only really expensive part of the van is taken care of anyway. Of course, as a van only just arriving on the roads, only time will really tell how buyers get on with them and whether they stand the test of rigourous business use.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

Now there has been some concern among consumers about the safety of electric vehicles but it seems fair to say it will be unfounded. Renault will ensure that emergency services are fully briefed on the best practice for electric vehicles in event of a crash and of course, all Renault Z.E. vehicles will be fully compliant with EU safety standards. Although there was no Euro NCAP data for any of the electric vehicles in the Renault’s range at the time of writing, so far the results for electric cars have been good. The Nissan Leaf, developed through the same Renault-Nissan Alliance which spawned the Z.E range, achieved the maximum five star rating from Euro NCAP. The batteries are well protected and in every other sense the Kangoo Z.E is just like the combustion model which achieved a four star rating in 2008. Full equipment levels are yet to be revealed.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

Businesses will be pleased to know that there is no loss of interior space to accommodate the battery. The vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries are mounted in the floor so the Kangoo Express Z.E offers a full payload of 650kg and carry capacity of 3m to 3.5m2. If you want something bigger then there will be a Kangoo Maxi Z.E which is also available from autumn 2011.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

Renault says that through its policy of leasing the battery and selling the vehicles in its ground-breaking Z.E range, that it is taking a long-term view and fully supporting the launch of electric vehicles into the mainstream market. As new vehicles, nonetheless it is hard to tell how residuals will hold up. But rest-assured that through the leasing of the vehicle’s most expensive part-Renault is taking the lion’s share of the burden of that. In fact, the lease will continue with subsequent owners, so it should be a selling point for used electric Kangoos-as Renault will maintain, repair and replace the batteries as needed as part of the lease. Priced from £16,900, the Kangoo Express Z.E is genuinely an affordable small commercial vehicle, around just £3000 more than the base price of the combustion version. Plus as an electric vehicle, there is no road tax, congestion charge and company car tax is zero-rated for the next five years, making even more affordable.

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