First Drive

First Drive: Renault Kangoo ZE33

The story:
Renault has added a new longer-range battery to its Kangoo ZE electric van.
Key rival:Nissan e-NV200
On sale:Now
Renault Kangoo ZE33
Price:£17,741 (ex VAT, inc EV grant and battery)
MPG:170 mile range
Power: 60hp (44kW)
Load length/height/width:2115mm/1219mm/1252mm

No matter how much the converts sing the other benefits of electric vehicles, the issue of range is always going to be a dominating one in the world of vans. Renault has taken a notable step with the new electric version of the Kangoo, though, because the Z.E.33 has boosted its official range to 170 miles – an increase of more than 50%.

This comes thanks to the new powertrain, which is essentially a downtuned version of the one found in the Zoe passenger car, and Renault says that it should be good for a realistic range of around 124 miles in the summer, which is more than enough for most that are based around town.

However, this drops to around 75 miles in the winter due to, among other things, the extra demands the heating system places on the battery. The new system also takes slightly less time to charge, with a full battery possible after six hours on a 7.4kW wall-box charger.

Driving the Kangoo Z.E.33 (the 33 has been added to the name with the other changes and refers to the power of the battery in kWh) is a remarkably relaxing experience. This is not only due to the lack of noise and simplistic two-pedal, no-gears set-up, but also from the reassuringly slow speed at which the predicted range depletes.

Even after a lengthy and varied test route covering around 60 miles of rural and urban roads with a 250kg load on board, the battery was still showing half full, and a quick plug in to a rapid charger boosted it by 22 miles in just an hour. Even playing around with the air-conditioning and entertainment systems didn’t cut vast amounts off the predicted range.

The downside is that the performance on offer is some way short of electric, with 0-62mph taking a somewhat protracted 22.6 seconds. This slow acceleration means that the Kangoo Z.E.33 is not best suited to motorway driving, but it is around town where the van really shines. The instantaneous torque means that nipping away from lights is quick, and the sharp steering makes placing it around both tight and quicker corners really easy.

The Kangoo comes in standard, Maxi and Maxi Crew variants, and has a load volume ranging from 3.0 cubic metres on the standard model to 4.6 cubic metres on the Maxi.

As before, Renault offers a choice of buying the Kangoo Z.E.33 outright, or leasing the battery separately, with the lease costing between £48 and £81 a month depending on the number of miles you intend to do. Some might welcome this, but it does make the cost equations a bit more complicated.

If the extra elements of an electric van, such as charging and a predictable relatively low-range regular route, fit with your fleet, then the Kangoo Z.E.33 is the best of what is still a relatively small group.


The verdict

If your fleets set-up fits electric vehicle idiosyncrasies, it’s a good choice.