Volvo V40 VS Renault Zoe
- Great looks
- Responsive, torquey engine
- Simple to use interior controls
- Small boot
- Limited rear legroom
- No Apple CarPlay
I miss my old phone. Sure, my new phone has a bigger screen and it’s smarter and faster, but my previous phone was smaller and easier to use, and now when I go to do a screen shot I accidentally hit the volume button every time.
What I really want in a phone is a new version of the old one – and I have a feeling people may feel the same way about the 2018 Volvo V40.
Some time next year the completely new generation V40 is expected to arrive and there will be some things I’ll miss about the old one. So, this really is your last chance to buy a new ‘old’ Volvo V40.
In a last-hurrah review, I road tested the V40 in the Inscription grade with the T4 petrol engine. What’s so 'missable' about it? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Renault chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn may look like a Bond villain, but rather than threatening to end the world he's intent on saving it.
In October last year he launched Groupe Renault's 'Drive the Future 2022' strategic plan, which included a commitment to "eight pure electric and 12 electrified models as part of the [Renault] range" within five years.
But he didn't mention the head start, because Renault already had several pure electric vehicles in its line-up at that point, including the subject of this review.
In fact, the Renault Zoe has been on sale in France since 2012, and stands as Europe's best-selling electric vehicle.
In late 2017, Renault Australia dipped its toe in the electrified waters (risky...) by bringing the Zoe here within a "business-to-business and business-to-government framework."
And in July this year, due to allegedly popular demand, it was made available to private buyers through "selected dealerships"; currently two in Melbourne, and one each in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.
Just under $50,000 for a city-sized hatch is hardly cheap, but it's entry-level territory for electric vehicles in this market. And what price can you put on helping to save civilisation as we know it?
Let's find out.
I’m going to miss this V40 like I do my old phone, and for many people this hatch really could really be close to perfect: excellent safety equipment, enjoyable to drive, cool prestige styling and some lo-fi buttons and dials that are far easier to use than swiping a screen. This is your last chance to own an old, new V40.
Would you wait for the new V40 to arrive or would you prefer the current version? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Renault Zoe is a fun to drive, ultra-efficient, practical little hatch. But the dollar-shaped elephant in the room is its price. Without the government ZEV subsidies offered in other markets, it's wickedly expensive, and with fresh competition in the shape of a new 'normalised' Nissan Leaf coming soon it'll have to work hard to wean more than a handful of small-car buyers off their fossil-fuel addiction.
Are you ready to make an investment in planet Earth's future? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The V40 has been around forever (well, since 2012) but somehow it still looks great – it’s the Nicole Kidman/Rob Lowe of cars.
The thing is Volvo’s new-generation vehicles now have a different look, which will be worn by the next V40, and that seriously dates the current car.
Sure, in 2016 this V40 was updated and given 'Thor’s Hammer' LED running lights like the new-gen cars, but it’s clear the V40 has the old look.
The question is: are you the type of person who would be annoyed if this time next year somebody in the latest ‘new-look’ V40 pulled up beside you at the lights. If yes, then stop reading now… we’ll just wait a moment for you to leave.
Okay, it’s just us now. We don’t need those shallow people anyway, right? They don’t know what they’re missing out on – like an interior with lots of buttons. I’m serious the centre console actually has a numerical key pad for making phone calls. There are also lots of dials for the climate control and seat warmers and for the auto parking system.
All of these buttons will be replaced by a sexy, large touchscreen in the new V40, which will make the screen in the current one look like the slot in Ned Kelly’s helmet. Wait, don’t leave. See, I’ve road tested the new X60 and I missed just flinging a dial to make the cabin’s temperature cooler, instead I had to go into the screen’s menu, find the climate functions, and then slide my finger down a little digital ladder until I found 21 degrees. It’s a frustrating design and potentially distracting in that it takes your eyes off the road longer than twisting a dial does.
I’ll stop the rant. So, yes, the interior of the new V40 will look so sleek and minimalist, decluttered of its buttons and sporting a large vertical screen, but there are functional advantages to keeping it simple.
That said the current V40’s cabin is still special and elegant. The Inscription grade brings milled aluminium trim to the centre console and that leather steering wheel. Volvo owners would be aware of that solid, well-built feeling with a high-quality fit and finish.
What are the V40’s dimensions? Compared to the Audi A3 Sportback the V40 is 59mm longer at 4369mm end-to-end, 72mm wider at 1857mm across, and 5mm shorter in height at 1420mm.
Renault claims no less than 60 patents came out of the Zoe's development, but while BMW's i3 is as hip as Kendrick Lamar on his third encore, and even Toyota's long-serving Prius hybrid still looks ready to roll onto the set of the next Avengers movie, this little hatch isn't shouty at all.
It seamlessly merges into the automotive landscape. A cute, small car with a few flashy blue bits in its head and tail-lights giving the only clue to its distinctly unusual internals.
Underpinned by the same platform as the Clio (with an identical wheelbase) the Zoe is slightly longer (+21mm), fractionally thinner (-2mm) and quite a bit taller (+114mm) than its conventionally powered sibling.
Lead exterior designer Jean Sémériva has literally left his mark on the car, with a full-size thumb print applied in low-relief to the rear door handles. Nice touch.
And monsieur Sémériva has shown admirable restraint in a cool design combining soft curves around the nose, front guards and rear end, with sharp character lines top and tailing the car's flanks.
Vaguely diamond-shaped tail-lights mix a clear lens cover with those nifty blue highlights and brilliant LEDs for an arresting brake and indicator display.
Open the door and a similar blend of tech and tradition creates a clean and simple interior, with strategically placed bright-metal finishes highlighting key elements.
A broad TFT digital instrument screen sits under a minimalist hood, with the 7.0-inch 'R-Link' multimedia screen dominating a central stack lifted by a shiny black face and an illuminated blue keyline around the heating and ventilation controls.
A printed circuit pictogram on the front headrests and left-hand side of the dash is a creative reminder of the Zoe's means of propulsion. And the front seats feature a decorative curved panel, defined by dark piping on each side of the backrest.
Tech highlights include the TomTom Live nav system's ability to describe a circle showing the car's operational radius on current charge, determining whether you can reach a nominated destination. It also taps you into weather updates, traffic danger zones and Renault Assistance.
Plus, the drive-management system can report on energy usage and assess driving behaviour, so lead foots have nowhere to hide.
Umm, next question. Okay, the V40 is not very practical. Those small rear doors don’t open wide, making entry and exit potentially difficult for older or less limber folks.
Legroom in the back is limited – although at 191cm I can just sit behind my driving position and headroom is getting tight, too – but still there’s just enough room for me.
The V40’s cargo capacity is 335 litres and that’s smaller than the A3 Sportback’s boot space (380 litres) and the BMW 1 Series’s luggage capacity (360 litres). The aperture of the boot itself is also small.
There’s even a practicality issue with the driver’s doorway – that windscreen is so slanted that the A-pillars either side of it are hard to dodge for taller people when trying to get in, but especially when climbing out.
Like most compact hatches the Zoe offers plenty of space up front and gets a bit squeezy in the back. Although the first surprise is that there's no height adjustment for either front seat.
Happily that wasn't a big issue. At 183cm I was still able to find a good driving position, with storage running to two cupholders (one small, one laughably tiny), plus a pen slot and two oddments trays in the centre console. The second of those trays houses a 12-volt outlet, SD card slot, 'aux-in' jack and USB port.
There are small bottleholders and storage pockets in each front door, a medium-size (7.0-litre) glove box with an open tray above it, and a small tray on the lower part of the dash on the driver's side.
Rear head and legroom is passable for a car of this size, but storage is limited to modest door bins and a single cupholder at the back of the centre console.
However, it's cargo space where the Zoe really raises eyebrows, with 338 litres available (to the parcel shelf) with the single piece rear seatback (as in, it doesn't split-fold) upright.
That's enough to easily swallow our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), or the CarsGuide pram. In fact, we were able to fit the largest suitcase and the pram at the same time, which is mighty impressive for a city-sized hatch. Push the rear seat flat and space grows to 1225 litres (to the roof), which is heaps.
Carpeting for the boot has been sourced from the cheap 'n' cheerful bin, but there are D-shaped anchor shackles, decent lighting and handy bag hooks back there.
The boot's unlikely volume is partly due to the absence of a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit being your only option. And in case you were wondering, towing is "prohibited" (Renault's word, not mine).
Price and features
The Volvo V40 in the mid-range Inscription grade with the T4 engine lists for $43,990. When I road tested it for the first time five years ago (in 2013) it was $45,990, and it’s a better car now than it was then, with more standard features.
The list includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, sat nav, eight-speaker sound system with CD/DVD player, digital radio, and internet connectivity – but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Also standard are front and rear parking sensors, an auto parking system, plus power adjustable driver and front passenger seats. There’s also leather upholstery, leather-trimmed steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch 'Sarpas' alloy wheels and proximity key entry.
The safety equipment list is impressive, too – you can read all about what’s looking after you in the safety section below.
Also, don’t forget that because the current V40 is due to be replaced, dealers will be keen to move their stock to make way for the new one and that means you should be able to get yourself a bargain.
Built at Renault's Flins plant, 40km west of Paris, on the same line as the Clio, the Zoe's offered in two grades; Life ($47,490, before on-road costs), and Intens ($49,490 BOC) as tested here.
That's big bucks for a little car. At just under $50,000 you're looking at internal-combustion competitors like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and Merc A-Class. And while the Zoe's a long way from spartan, it's an equal distance away from luxurious.
That said, the standard features list includes, climate control (with remote 'pre conditioning' activation), 16-inch 'Black Shadow' alloy rims, cruise control, 3D Arkamys audio (with DAB radio, voice recognition, two 'boomer' speakers, two rear bi-cone speakers, and two tweeters), 'Renault Smartkey' keyless entry and start, auto headlights, and rain-sensing wipers.
Plus, you also get rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, the 7.0-inch 'R-Link' multimedia system (with 'Text to Speech' function), one-touch driver's window (the base Life grade misses this), a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob plus black and grey cloth trim (with snazzy contrast stitching).
The DRLs may be LED but the headlights are halogen (a sure sign of this car's age), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are MIA, and metallic paint, as per 'our' car's 'Zircon Blue' finish is $550 extra. 'Glacier White' is the only no-cost option from six available shades.
Engine & trans
The V40 line-up has three petrol engines to pick from and the T4 sits right in the middle between the most powerful T5 and the least grunty T3. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine the T4 makes 140kW/300Nm and delivers it through a smooth six-speed automatic.
The Zoe is powered by Renault's R90 synchronous electric motor, producing 68kW from 3000-5000rpm and 225Nm from step-off. Drive goes to the front wheels through a single reduction gear auto transmission.
Claimed acceleration for the city-specific 0-50km/h run is a handy 4.0sec, with the more grown-up 0-100km/h sprint taking a leisurely 13.2sec. Flat biscuit is 135km/h.
If you’re only going to stick to urban areas you’ll see higher usage – our trip computer was reporting an average of 14.9L/100km on a regular peak hour commute, but motorways drop the figure to about 8.0L/100km.
None. Next question...
You can have the argument about fuel consumed and source emissions produced in generating the energy required to charge the Zoe's battery, but the fact is this car doesn't consume any fossil fuel and produces zero tailpipe emissions. Helped by the fact it doesn't have a tailpipe.
When launched in 2016, the Zoe's upgraded 41kWh 'Z.E. 40' high-energy lithium-ion battery ranked as the highest energy density automotive unit available.
Developed in collaboration with LG Chem in South Korea, it houses 12 modules (of 16 cells each) for a total of 912 individual cells and weighs in at 305kg.
Renault lists a driving range of 403km for the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), with a real-world number of 300km a more realistic estimate. And that's almost exactly the range we achieved over a mix of city, suburban and freeway running in seven days with the car. Using overnight electricity rates, a full charge should average less than $8.00.
The Zoe's on-board 'Chameleon' charger allows it to be charged using different power levels (single or three-phase) through the same socket, from 3kW up to 22kW. A Type 2 charging cable (6.5m) for wall box and public charging points (in a natty canvas Z.E. bag) is included with the car.
According to Renault, a wall-box charger (not included with the car) is typically $1600 to $2000 for a residential installation and a mid-range 11kW unit will allow you to charge up in around four hours. High-powered 'Fast' and even juicier 'Rapid' charging points would reduce that time appreciably.
The dash indicator displays charge level and remaining range calculated over the last 200km of driving. A reset function can drop that to an average of the last 30km.
We'll touch on it further in the Driving section but regenerative braking, low-rolling resistance tyres, and 'Eco' mode (reducing air-con load and motor output) are big contributors to maximum range.
And while cabin cooling comes courtesy of a conventional a/c unit, heating is far more exotic. The Zoe's 'Heat Pump' system traps calories in the ambient air outside the car, with a pump compressing and heating them, then directing the heated air into the car, with no impact on range. Super clever.
Good handling and a fairly comfortable ride complete a prestige and easy-to-drive package that’s only really let down by heavy steering and slightly noisy suspension. That heavily sloped windscreen does present some visibility issues, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Some believe cars have a soul, but the Renault Zoe expresses its feelings with a distinctive accent, the car's 'Z.E. Voice' function giving an audible warning to pedestrians up to 30km/h (when wind and tyre noise take over).
The whirring hum sounds like The Beach Boys warming up the theremin for a rendition of 'Good Vibrations'. Spooky and fun in equal measure.
Like all electric cars the Renault Zoe accelerates quickly from rest, thanks to the motor's ability to deliver maximum torque (225kW) from step off.
At 1480kg (battery 305kg) the Zoe is 177kg lighter than an equivalent Clio, so it's snappy in its natural city habitat, but thrust begins to taper off markedly around the 55-60km/h mark.
The single-speed, reduction gear automatic transmission combines with the motor's sewing-machine smoothness to provide close to perfect drive delivery.
Ride comfort is surprisingly good for such a small hatch, and the battery's location under the floor sets up a centre of gravity 35mm lower than the Clio's, so despite a 59 per cent front/41 per cent rear weight distribution, the car feels well planted in corners.
The standard 16-inch alloy wheels are shod with Michelin Energy E-V low-rolling-resistance tyres (195/55), which won't win you pole on a qualifying lap, but are commendably quiet.
There are three driving modes, with the dash graphics aligning to each – Eco (green), Neutral (blue), and Dynamic (violet).
But ECO mode should be reserved for hardcore environmental warriors only. Press the console-mounted button and power from the motor is reduced and air-con output is limited.
It may increase range by a claimed 10 per cent, but what price your sanity? This setting sucks out the car's will to live, and thankfully a second press of the button or pinning the throttle pedal to the floor sees full-strength service resumed. Phew.
The regenerative deceleration and braking system distributes braking force between the clamping of the brake pads and the engine on over-run to maximise battery charge.
While the BMW i3's regen system will have you head-butting the steering wheel (not really) when you get off the throttle, the Zoe's system is more subtle, and watching the dash graphic – a blue AA-style battery surrounded by rising rings of energy – is reminiscent of 'the machine man' animating in Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
Speaking of brakes, the fronts are relatively delicate 258mm vented discs and the 9.0-inch rear drums look like miniature versions of the elaborately fluted units found on 1920s Grand Prix racers. They're beautiful and work well.
Some niggles. The wipers skip and stutter in light rain, the lightweight doors feel clangy when you close them, and the R-Link multimedia system is annoyingly flaky when recognising content (or not) via Bluetooth or USB from a mobile device.
First tested in 2012, the V40 the achieved one of the highest-ever scores awarded by EuroNCAP and saw ANCAP give it the maximum five-star rating in Australia. Back then the V40 came standard with advanced safety equipment only making it onto cars these days such as AEB, it also had the world’s first pedestrian airbag, which inflates to protect people from hitting the A-pillars and windscreen.
The 2017 update added blind-spot warning as standard on the Inscription grade. A $1300 option package brings Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Active High Beam Control, Forward Collision Warning and Road Sign Information. A $3000 package brings adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto braking, plus pedestrian and cyclist detection.
ABS, EBD, traction and stability control are of course there to step in should you need it, too. You’ll find three top tether and two ISOFIX points in the second row for child seats. A space-saver spare is under the boot floor.
The Zoe hasn't been assessed by ANCAP but was awarded a maximum five-star ranking by EuroNCAP in 2013, with annual reviews allowing it to maintain that score through to April this year.
Active crash prevention tech includes ABS, EBD, EBA, ESC, traction control, tyre-pressure-loss sensors, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Interestingly, the Zoe continuously monitors the state of each cell in the battery pack and will switch off current immediately if it senses an overheating-style abnormality.
If an impact is unavoidable the airbag count runs to six - driver and passenger front, front side (head and thorax), and full-length side curtain.
There are three top tethers and two ISOFIX positions for child seats/baby capsules across the back row, and all seats feature Renault's 'Fix4Sure' anti-submarining design.
According to Renault, the R90 motor is "maintenance-free", waterproof and requires no lubrication, with servicing costs "20 per cent lower than an equivalent ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle."
Despite that, servicing is recommended every 12 months/30,000km for an estimated cost of $231 each time.
Warranty is three years/unlimited km with 24-hour roadside assist included for the first year, and three after that if you have your car serviced at an authorised Renault dealer.
The battery is covered by a separate five year/100,000km warranty.