So quietly, with a minimum of drama, Renault has established itself as one of the most accomplished purveyors of everyday electric cars. It’s done this without the need for ebullient figureheads, stand-alone sub-brands, or even OTT styling (unless you count the eccentric little TWIZY two-seater). At time of writing, the French company’s pure electric range consists of just four models, two of which are commercial vehicles.

The four-door ZOE hatchback is therefore only conventional electric car that Renault makes, although it has a couple of plug-in hybrids (the CLIO and the CAPTUR – apologies for the shouty nomenclature) and some other pure EVs in the pipeline.

The ZOE sets a very credible standard. Updated and enhanced since its official launch in 2012, the ZOE recently got a battery boost and some other revisions to keep it feeling current. The new ZE 50 model has a range of up to 245 miles, a zippier electric motor and more advanced driver assistance technology, as well as some mild styling tweaks to keep it in line with the rest of the Renault range. The interior is especially improved, with a tablet-style central display improving on the original’s rather toy-like dashboard, as well as wireless phone charging.

Outside, it’s pretty conventional – one of the small number of stealthy EVs that doesn’t broadcast its zero-emissions capabilities and looks pretty much like any other car. That’s great for the cautious consumer who doesn’t want or need to make a statement, but it also keeps all the elements that are fundamentally right about compact car design in place, namely the practicality and function of four doors and a hatchback. There’s a slightly bulbous, jelly mould-type feel to the bodywork, for it’s actually a bit larger than it looks.

Renalt Zoe dashboard

Like almost all electric cars, using the ZOE is simplicity itself, with a special ‘B’ mode that maximises regenerative braking and makes driving a one-pedal affair. It is a substantially smaller car than some of its better-known rivals, which makes it well suited to short urban hops, but there’s still enough juice in reserve for a weekend out of town. At this point electric cars are part of the mainstream and even detractors can’t deny that range is becoming less anxiety inducing. Given the huge role that unassuming French hatchbacks played in popularising the automobile in the second half of the 20th century, it’s heartening to see the diamond badge grace such an effective and likeable driving machine. §