Renault Kangoo Z.E. Van (2014 - 2021) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Renault's modern remit is to create more affordable, more sensible vehicles and nothing the company makes sums this up better than its all-electric Kangoo Z.E van. It costs little more to buy than its diesel-powered stablemate and from then on, the running cost savings will be huge. Assuming the restricted operating range won't limit you and the compact size suits your needs, this is now an LCV that's very difficult to ignore. Here, we look at 2014-2021-era versions of this model.

Models

4/5dr Light panel van (electric [Z.E.])

History

The motor vehicle is at a turning point. It simply has to evolve, whether you believe in global warming or not. To emit less in cities. To make less noise. And to use increasingly scarce energy more efficiently. More and more electric cars are answering this call, but their environmental impact is likely to be limited until another class of vehicle properly takes up the challenge. We're talking of course of vans. When it comes to toxic emissions in our inner cities, LCVs are arguably the biggest culprits, yet van makers have been slow to get on board the electric bandwagon. Renault, in contrast, has led the way - and done it with the model we're going to look at here, the innovative Kangoo Z.E.

Launched late in 2011, then updated a couple of years later to create the variant we have here, this was the market's first affordable all-electric van, the 'Z.E' in its name highlighting its ability to produce 'Zero tailpipe Emissions' in everyday use. And though the technology is new, the vehicle it's plumbed into remained the same second generation Kangoo design that had been on sale here since 2008, with levels of space and practicality untroubled by its new electric remit.

This is a design that competed in the compact van sector where in combustion engine form, it had to battle tough competitors like Vauxhall's Combo, Fiat's Doblo, Volkswagen's Caddy, Ford's Transit Connect, Nissan's NV200, Peugeot's Partner and Citroen's Berlingo. In period, those last four rivals also came in all-electric form - and many more were set to follow. Electric vans are here to stay, but could your business really justify running a previously owned one? Let's look at this 2014-2021-era Kangoo Z.E. and find out. It sold until a new generation model arrived in early 2022.

What You Get

This post-2013 variant gained smarter 'Phase II' front end styling. As in the standard Kangoo line-up, Z.E. model buyers get a choice of two main bodystyles - the standard 4.2m long variant and the bigger 4.6m-long 'Maxi' model, which also came in fully-glazed 'Crew Van' form with a fold-out three-person split-folding rear bench. In this form, buyers could also use this vehicle as an affordable little family MPV, were they to be so minded.

Whichever Kangoo Z.E. variant buyers chose when this vehicle was new, they had to bear in mind that simply buying it wasn't the end of their outlay, for Renault separated vehicle and battery ownership. So, from new, once buyers had to decide whether to purchase or lease this van, they had then to take out a monthly subscription for the battery that would power it, the cost of which was determined by the contract term chosen and the buyer's annual mileage. These parameters could vary at anything between one year and five, with annual mileage anything between 6,000 and 15,000 miles pa.

Once buyers from new had sorted out all of this, they at least had the peace of mind of knowing that Renault would guarantee that their vehicle's battery would always have a minimum charge capacity at least 75% of the original level (batteries deteriorate slowly over time you see). Plus they could count on comprehensive roadside assistance cover that would tow them to the nearest charging point, should they find themselves stranded with a flat battery by the roadside.

On top of the purchase price and the battery subscription, customers of this vehicle from new also needed to budget for a charging point, since Renault frowns upon operators using a three-pin plug supply on a regular basis, even if that were business-practical.

What You Pay

Please contact us for an exact up-to-date valuation.

What to Look For

With the Z.E., you really do get the best of both worlds. The basic Kangoo chassis is as tough as old boots and can shrug off most of what even the most careless city driver will throw at it. The electric drivetrain is also extremely simple, with far fewer moving parts than a typical internal combustion engine and ought to prove very reliable. Check for crash damage, uneven tyre wear, kerbed alloys, parking dents, ripped or discoloured upholstery and make sure the electrical features such as central locking and sunroofs work as expected.

Replacement Parts

(approx. values for a 2014 Kangoo Z.E.) Forget about having to pay for things like clutches, starter motors, cam belts or glow plugs. The Kangoo Z.E. does away with all that. Front brake pads are around £50, a new door mirror glass will be £35 and a replacement windscreen is £145.

On the Road

As you'd expect, the electric Kangoo is pretty quiet to drive. Press the throttle pedal and you move off in near total silence, so much so that you may find yourself rather startling dozy pedestrians and in need of a model fitted with the optional audio warning system that would alert them to your presence. That might be a useful thing to have for from rest, you'll find yourself coming upon them rather quickly thanks to the fact that 100% of this Kangoo's 226Nm of torque is generated from standstill. Once underway, it is true that, because of the heavy 260kg weight of all those batteries, the power surge does tail off rapidly after 30mph, resulting in a total 0-60mph time of nearly 22s. But if you've an urban-based business, how often are you going to be driving at or near 60mph? Exactly.

At more likely delivery speeds, the 44KW electric motor (which puts out the equivalent of 60bhp) feels crisp and remarkably responsive, plus of course, as with all electric models, you've the equivalent of an automatic gearbox, so there are no gear changes to worry about. It's exactly the same mechanical set-up you'll find in Renault's Fluence Z.E mid-range electric car. And here, as with that model, there's just one issue that'll dominate your thinking in day-to-day use of this vehicle: that of operating range.

Renault says that won't be an issue, quoting research suggesting that 70 per cent of van drivers cover a daily distance of less than 62 miles. On that basis, this Kangoo Z.E's quoted range of 106 miles between re-charge fill-ups should be quite sufficient - or it would be provided that was achievable. The French maker itself admits that things like severe weather conditions coupled with sporty driving, hilly routes and liberal use of heating and air conditioning can reduce your range to as little as 50 miles. We've found the actual range to be somewhere between these two extremes and as long as you work around that, you shouldn't have too much of a problem.

If all else fails and the only thing you can connect up to is a standard 3-pin socket from a normal domestic 240V supply, that's no problem, provided you don't do it too often. Charging time here rises to 10-12 hours, but a part-charge can often be quite sufficient. Say you were dining with friends for three hours and rather cheekily plugged into the socket in their garage whilst you were there. That'd charge you up for about 25 miles of motoring, probably easily enough to get you home.

Overall

So, what do we have here? An electric van that's simple, but highly technologically advanced at the same time and incredibly eco-friendly. This 100% electric Renault lets your business take a different route, lowering your overheads and showing your clients that you're fully committed to doing the really responsible thing. And doing it right.

So if you need a vehicle of his kind - if you're in the market for a compact van and like most businesses today, you've one eye on the bottom line, why wouldn't you buy one of these? Answers on a postcard please...

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