Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe: which electric vehicle is best?

Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe: which electric vehicle is best?

Electric vehicles are now a viable alternative to their diesel- and petrol-powered counterparts. Offering low running costs, sophisticated travelling and a range long enough for most journeys, they are – rightly – more popular than ever.

The statistics back up this surge in popularity. The UK’s Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders claims 512 electric vehicles were sold in the first month of this year, which has a lot to do with the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe. Based on affordable city-runners like the Nissan Micra and Renault Clio, both cars bring all the benefits of electric power to a tried-and-tested platform. The result? Electric power for the masses – and at a very reasonable price.

But which EV is best for you? We analyse the key aspects of each car, from the running costs and performance to the technology inside, to find out which provides the most seamless, cost-effective crossover from a traditional car.

Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe: Price and running costs

Electric vehicles represent the cutting edge of transport technology today, so you have to expect to pay a premium for them. That said, both the Renault and Nissan do a good job of bringing costs down, and providing a cheaper route into the world of EVs. Throw in the government’s £5,000 for the electric cars, and both EVs can be had for less than £20,000.

The Renault starts at an asking price of £18,455 (including the government grant) for the entry level Expressions Nav, but that extends to £20,545 when opting for a Dynamique trim model. However, Renault also offers an ingenious battery-leasing solution that makes things much cheaper.


Instead of buying the batteries outright, Zoe owners can rent them for a flat £25 to £84, and pay significantly less upfront. If you’re signed up to the battery-leasing system, a Zoe can be had for as little as £13,445.

As well as slashing the initial cost of ownership, the scheme also reduces the risk of owners having to pay for new components: when a leased battery’s working range is dramatically reduced, Renault replaces it for free.

That’s not to say the Nissan Leaf is expensive. EV buyers can secure their own entry-level version of the 25kWh version of the car for £20,790 – but that figures extends to £26,490 for the 30kWh, longer-lasting Tekna model.

Nissan also offers a battery-leasing service too, and that reduces the cost of the entry-level Leaf to an affordable £15,790. Of course, that means you also have to pay a leasing fee per month, and depending on the miles you do and the length of the contract, that could cost anything between £70 and £129.renault_zoe_1

Running costs

Although it’s the more expensive car of the two, the Leaf offers great value when it comes to overall running costs. A full charge should cost as little as £2, especially if it’s done during the night, and Nissan claims that only £257 will be added to your electricity bill at the end of the year – if it’s charged at the right time, and with the right frequency.

As you’d expect from an electric car, the Nissan has extremely low running costs too, but they vary depending on which purchase plan you went for. Paying upfront is the cheapest option over three years, but renting the battery from Nissan invites charges of up to £25 to £84 month, driving up prices considerably.

Verdict: Renault Zoe wins. Both cars represent the cheaper, more affordable sector of electric cars, but the Renault Zoe goes one better. Its possible starting price of less than £15,000 is hard to beat, and after factoring in the reasonable battery payments, the Zoe is still cheaper to run than the Leaf.renault_zoe_4

Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe: Technology

As you’d expect, the Leaf and Zoe can’t compete with the technology-packed interiors in higher end cars like the BMW i8 and Tesla Model S. Instead, both cars’ interiors echo that of the cars on which they’re based: the Renault Zoe looks and feels more like a Clio inside, while the Nissan Leaf has the same fit and finish as a Nissan Micra.

The Renault Zoe features an R-Link touchscreen system complete with voice assistance, telephone connectivity and a TomTom as standard. For easier parking, the Zoe also includes a range of proximity sensors around the car, giving drivers a better awareness of their surroundings. Renault have also included a suite of apps that give drivers access to Twitter and emails – but the best bit? The R-Sound Effect app will make the Renault sound like a V8-engined car every time you accelerate.

Renault also provides an app to monitor the Zoe remotely. Featuring everything you’d need to know about your EV, the app provides information about the battery charge level, charging status and more. What’s more, the app also lets drivers set the temperature of the cabin before they get in the car, saving money and time.nissan_leaf_5

The Nissan Leaf also uses a smaller touchscreen of its own, but combines it with a fresh-looking interior design that keeps the car feeling furististic. Like the Renault, the Nissan Leaf also comes with its own Nissan Leaf app. Like the Renault app, Carwings also keeps drivers abreast of their car’s status and allows them to pre-condition the car’s interior when needed.  

Verdict: A draw. Both cars offer just enough interior technology to keep owners informed on their car’s status. The inclusion of apps is a bonus, but neither of them have anything like the features or UI of similar offerings from BMW and Tesla.

Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe: Range and performance

Range is rightly regarded as one of the most important factors when buying an EV, as it represents the biggest change from using conventional car. In this respect, both the Zoe and Leaf do a fine job of making the transition to an EV as easy as possible, and offer a decent, usable range between them.

The Renault Zoe is good for around 100 miles of mixed driving, and putting the car into ECO mode increases that by almost 50%. In the power-saving mode, the Zoe delivers 60 of its 87hp, and cuts top speed to 60mph. As a result, Renault says the Zoe will make it 149 miles on a single charge.renault_zoe_2

Performance is also good and, thanks to the Zoe’s 200Nm of torque, it zooms from 0-30mph in under four seconds. Of course, that performance doesn’t extend to higher speeds, and the Zoe’s 22KWh power plant takes a further seven seconds to get to the 60mph mark.

The Nissan Leaf offers a very similar range to the Renault Zoe, but, again, that depends on much how you use it. When going at 38mph, with a temperature of 20°C and no AC, a 30KWh higher end Leaf will deliver 155 miles of driving. In contrast, driving at 55mph on a warmer day with AC gets you just under 100 miles per charge.

Although the Nissan Leaf doesn’t have the same impressive 0-30mph figure as the Zoe, it also benefits from the huge torque you get with an electric motor. That means, at low-speeds, the Leaf feels more like a sports car than an affordable EV hatchback –  but, after 30mph, that illusion quickly fades.

Although both cars are as quiet as you’d expect, they don’t always offer the best ride on rougher roads. Where a conventional car would attempt to smooth potholes and bumps, both the Leaf and Zoe don’t take the bumps well. The result can often be a shaky, or jolty ride.

Verdict: A draw. While the Renault Zoe appears to have a slight edge in performance, both cars appear to be neck and neck when it comes to range. The Leaf’s headline figure of 155mph is impressive, but refers to a more expensive 30kWh model. In contrast, the base model Leaf’s 124-mile range is far more comparable to the Zoe’s.

As for performance? Both cars benefit from the torque that an electric motor provides, but their performance won’t worry a Porsche. The Leaf and the Zoe also offer a ride that’s very similar to a compact hatchback, so they’re refined enough for city and motorway driving.nissan_leaf_interior

Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe: Conclusion

Both cars offer a great starting point in the EV market. They’re reasonably cheap when compared to other cars, and they offer a manageable range and good economy. While the range of both cars is similar, and both pack in a good range of technology, it’s the Renault Zoe that pulls ahead when it comes to price.

The cheapest car to buy outright, the Zoe is very affordable when you take advantage of Renault’s battery-leasing scheme. Even with the monthly payments included, it’s simply  cheaper to run. And, significantly, the Nissan Leaf doesn’t offer anything extra to justify its increased price.

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