The Renault Zoe and the Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe: electric car comparison

Which is better, the Nissan Leaf or the Renault Zoe? Our comparison guide tells you everything you need to know.

Cazoo Editorial Team Byline Icon

By Cazoo editorial team

Published: 21 July 2022

If you’re looking for a compact, affordable electric car that’s practical and gives you decent battery range, chances are the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe are on your shortlist. In many ways, they’re very similar. Both are five-door hatchbacks, both give you similar battery range and both feel quite alike to drive.

But there are significant differences between the two, which may prove crucial to your decision. So, here’s our comprehensive guide to the Leaf and the Zoe, comparing them in the areas that matter most.

Both cars have been around for a number of years, but in this article, we’re focusing on the latest Nissan Leaf, sold new from 2018 and the current version of the Zoe, sold new from 2020.

Interior and tech

The interiors of both the Leaf and the Zoe have a dark colour scheme of grey and black with bits of silver-coloured trim dotted around, and a flash of blue on the Leaf’s gear selector. Both cars have big windows, so they actually feel quite light when you’re sat inside. 

The dashboards of both cars have a large central touchscreen display that controls their infotainment systems – the Zoe’s portrait (vertical) screen is several inches bigger than the Leaf’s landscape (horizontal) screen. The heating and ventilation systems in both cars have separate controls – with buttons in the Leaf and dials in the Zoe. You’ll learn your way around the interior of either car easily enough; you can program shortcut buttons for the features you use most often. In all models, both cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, plus air con and cruise control. 

The Leaf’s interior has more comfortable seats than the Zoe’s. The Leaf also has a more premium feel to it, with materials and design details that have a higher-quality look.

Renault Zoe left; Nissan Leaf right

Boot space and practicality

The Leaf and Zoe are in slightly different size categories. The Zoe is the smaller of the two, being about the same size as a Ford Fiesta. The Leaf is significantly bigger, at about the same size as a Ford Focus, although there isn’t that much difference in passenger space. Four adults can travel for a few hours in either car without feeling too cramped, even if they’re tall. If you need to fit in five adults, though, the Leaf is a much better bet. It’s wider than the Zoe, so three adults fit across the back seat much more comfortably. 

With their relatively generous passenger space, either car could work for you as a family car. However, the difference between them in boot space may be a deciding factor. As the bigger car, the Leaf has a lot more boot space than the Zoe – its 435-litre capacity is more than in most other mid-size hatchbacks so pushchairs, big bags of shopping and family holiday luggage should fit in easily. The Zoe actually has quite a big boot for a small hatchback, with 338 litres of space. However, a pushchair may be a tight fit and you’d have to pack much lighter for those family trips.

Renault Zoe left; Nissan Leaf right

Which is the best to drive?

Both the Leaf and Zoe have automatic gearboxes and light steering, feel reasonably agile and give you a great view out from the driver’s seat.

They also have a ‘one-pedal’ driving mode. Every electric car has a regenerative braking system that spins the electric motor in reverse when you press the brake pedal or lift off the throttle, generating electricity that’s fed back into the batteries. It also has the effect of slowing the car down. 

In one-pedal mode, the regenerative braking effect is increased, slowing the car so much when you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal that you rarely need to touch the brakes. It can take a bit of getting used to, but it can make driving much easier when you don’t need to hop between the accelerator and the brake.

Out on the open road, the difference in how the two cars feel to drive becomes clearer. The Leaf has a lot more power than the Zoe, so accelerates noticeably quicker. The more powerful Leaf e+ model is particularly quick and maintains 70mph on the motorway more easily than the less powerful Leaf models. The Zoe is hardly slow, though, and motorway driving is no issue in the Zoe, especially in the more powerful R135 model.

The bigger Leaf feels more solid and stable when driving on the motorway, which makes it very relaxing. The Zoe certainly doesn’t feel like it’ll be blown away by a passing lorry, but it doesn’t feel quite as composed and stable.

Renault Zoe left; Nissan Leaf right

Which has the best range and charging time?

The Leaf is available with two different battery capacities. Regular Leaf models with the 40kWh battery can give a range of up to 163 miles when fully charged, according to official figures. The 62kWh battery in Leaf e+ models can give you up to 239 miles. In both cases, a full recharge from a typical 7kW home charging unit takes around seven hours. Use a public 50kW rapid charger and an 80% top-up can take around an hour.

The Zoe has a 52kWh battery and gives you similar range to the Leaf e+ – up to 238 miles for R110 models and 245 miles for the more powerful R135 models. A full recharge from a 7kW home charger takes more than nine hours or three hours from a 22kW public charger. Some models are compatible with 50kW rapid chargers, which can give you an 80% recharge from zero in 70 minutes.

It’s worth noting that while the Leaf’s range figures are at the low end of the spectrum for a car of its type, the Zoe can get you further on a full charge than any other small electric hatchback. 

How much will charging cost? That depends on your domestic electricity tariff and how often you use public chargers. On average, though, it should work out at less than filling a petrol or diesel car with fuel.

Renault Zoe left; Nissan Leaf right

Safety and reliability

All Leaf models have a lot of standard safety features including seven airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control, plus more advanced driver safety features like automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. 

By contrast, entry-point Zoe Play models just have four airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control. Zoe Iconic models also have lane-departure warning; GT Line models add automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning.

The low level of safety features is part of the reason that the safety organisation Euro NCAP gave the Zoe a zero-star rating when it assessed the latest version in 2022. The original version of the Zoe (sold new between 2012 and 2020), which is mechanically very similar to the current model, was awarded a full five-star rating in 2013. But, in the years since, the car hasn’t been updated with the types of new safety tech that Euro NCAP looks for.

The Leaf, on the other hand, was given a full five-star rating by Euro NCAP, scoring high marks for protecting both adults and children.

Dimensions

Nissan Leaf

Length: 4,480mm

Width: 2,030mm (including door mirrors)

Height: 1,540mm

Boot space: 435 litres

Renault Zoe

Length: 4,087mm

Width: 1,945mm (including door mirrors)

Height: 1,562mm

Boot space: 338 litres

Verdict

In many ways, the Renault Zoe is a great option. It’s surprisingly spacious, gives a usefully long range and is fantastic value for money. But we’re going to name the Nissan Leaf as the winner here. It’s more spacious, better equipped and has a better safety rating, which could be the deciding factor if you’re looking for a family car. 

We will, however, add the caveat that the 163-mile range of models with the 40kWh battery may be an issue if you can only have one car. If you can stretch to the extra cost of Leaf e+ models, its greater range makes it much easier to live with. 

Renault Zoe left; Nissan Leaf right

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