Provided by Independent.ie

As a snapshot of improvements in – and continued development of – electric cars the Renault ZOE is a good example.

It has gone through a raft of changes over the years. The latest has impact.

Range has been extended significantly thanks to a new battery. There is heavily upgraded interior, some exterior tweaks and a much fancier/friendlier touchscreen. Even the suspension has been improved.

However, it is not without a drawback as we shall see.

First the good bits. There’s now a new, more powerful 52kWh battery with a claimed 395km range. I proved here in Sardinia that you can make it in real-world driving. You’ll get more if you drive it half decently. The 395km range (WLTP) is a 32pc increase on the current 41kWh battery. And it shows. My outward journey started with a projected 359km “in the tank”. After 120km there was 288km left – so I had “gained” significant range.

The thing is I had driven it nice and easy with my ‘EV head’ on. And I used the B mode on the new gear-shift (more anon) to pick up as much energy from braking and deceleration as possible. Neither did I use the air con (why bother in 26/28 degrees sunshine?).

In contrast, I drove it much harder over the twistier 90km return route and didn’t use the B facility at all.

So that 90km used up 133km of battery range. Doesn’t that just go to show how you can materially influence consumption?

Anyway, after driving 232km I still had 152km of the 359km I started with. So with all computations complete my 384km (combined driven and remaining range) was ‘ahead’ of the start-up figure. Excellent result.

The car also gets a slight visual tweak – the front looks sharper while the boot remains the same size. LED headlamps are now standard.

They have, however, basically come up with a new interior. Watch out for the soft-touch recyclable material (Iconic trim) on the dash and door inserts as well as upholstery. Materials are of a better quality all round.

So too is the central touchscreen. The 10ins TFT instrument cluster is new. There is the option of the 9.3ins touchscreen EASY LINK multimedia system. The new set-up has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Just to recap: There are two power options – the current R110 80kW (108hp) and the new R135 100kW (135bhp).

Prices start from €26,990 for the R110 entry level; €28,990 for the R110 Iconic; €30,990 for the Iconic R135 version and €34,990 for the GT Line. All prices are after VRT rebate and SEAI grant (worth €10,000 in total) have been factored in. The new entry price is €1,400 or so up on the old version. The new car is due in time for 201 registrations in January.

They expect to double ZOE sales to around the 500 mark in 2020.

And now the bad bit: The new e-shifter (gear stick) replaces the old mechanical lever. But it was too finicky altogether. You can switch on demand between B and D modes with a simple push. But I think to get the best from regenerative braking and decelerating you need little paddles on the steering column. Having to take your hand off the wheel to do so is not clever.

And it was too easy to shift into reverse rather than neutral.

It is something I got a bit better used to but it should be seamless.

For all that it wouldn’t put me off the ZOE at all. This is a significant step on a number of fronts – especially the cabin and the realistic range.

Provided by Independent.ie