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Renault Kangoo 2011 review

While the focus until now has been cutting the harmful engine emissions of cars, commercial vehicles should not be overlooked. Utes and vans and the like make up about 20 per cent of the vehicles sold in Australia and most of them probably clock up more kilometres each year than the average family car.

With this in mind it's comforting to learn French car maker Renault has produced an electric version of its small delivery van the Kangoo - as well as the electric Fluence sedan. We drove both vehicles on a recent visit to Portugal but to be frank it was the Kangoo ZE that was more impressive.

The Kangoo is targeted at business customers looking for an economical solution but one that is more "respectful" of the environment.

Maybe it was the fact that we had lower expectations of the van, but we reckon it was the better drive. To put this in perspective we drove the 1.5-litre diesel version of the Kangoo not too long ago.

While its a tough little competitor, the electric version could easily replace it and save operators of small fleets money into the bargain. Imagine a dozen of these things with a range of 170km which that take less than $100 a month to charge? It'd be perfect for a city-based delivery service like a courier or florist for instance.

In Europe the battery is leased through the Better Place company which charges the equivalent of $95 a month which includes the power. Over there 70 per cent of delivery vans travel less than 100km a day.

Renault has not confirmed whether it is bringing the Kangoo ZE to Australia, but given its strong desire to have us drive the vehicle it's a fair bet.

The Kangoo ZE comes in two sizes, short and long wheelbase as well as a five-seat passenger version  - all with a 650kg carrying capacity. With a 22kWh battery that weighs about 260kg the ZE it has a range of about 150km from a single charge. The electric motor produces 44kW of power and 226Nm of torque. More importantly maximum torque (the important half of the equation) is available from zero revs. The battery does not intrude in anyway into the cargo area of the van which has the same capacity as the diesel.

Unlike the Fluence however the battery cannot be swapped for a fully charged one. It must be plugged into a charge point to be recharged which takes six to eight hours or less with a commercial grade charger. The battery is mounted horizontally beneath the floor.

The smaller lighter van is surprisingly nippy to drive and the pick of the bunch. The larger versions feel considerably heavier but the extra weight has little impact on power consumption. The harder you drive the van less range it has, but an eco button limits the speed of the van and can boost range by up to 10 per cent.

With less moving parts Renault estimates maintenance costs are 20 per cent less than a petrol or diesel powered vehicle. That will also appeal to savvy fleet operators. With electricity something like 10 cents a kilowatt hour, it's a powerful argument.

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Range and Specs

1.5 DCi 1.5L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $7,700 – 10,890 2011 Renault Kangoo 2011 1.5 DCi Pricing and Specs
1.6 1.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,700 – 10,890 2011 Renault Kangoo 2011 1.6 Pricing and Specs
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