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Ford Fiesta Van vs Renault Zoe

Wind the clock back a decade or 2 (or 3 even) and you were spoilt for choice if you were looking for a car-derived van. The Ford Escort, Rover Maestro, Vauxhall Astra, Renault Extra, Citroen C15 - all small vans that were familiar sights on our roads. Now though, the choice is much more limited and vans truly based on a passenger car are few and far between.

Ford discontinued the van version of the Fiesta a while back, but, presumably underestimating the demand from fleets, in particular, re-introduced it fairly swiftly. In this feature, Vanarama’s Van Expert Tim Cattlin puts this smart little load carrier up against the new kid on the block, the Renault Zoe, a van that has one big difference to the Ford – it’s fully electric.

From The Outside:

Let’s face it, the Fiesta is a great-looking van in anyone’s book. Despite the design having its roots way back to 2008, regular refreshes have kept it bang up to date, and the car version regularly tops the UK best-sellers list. 

It’s available in two trim levels. Even the base van looks the part with full-size wheel trims, a body-coloured rear spoiler and door mirrors. The headlights are snazzy LED reflectors with daytime running lights and the Fiesta has body-coloured rear side panels so no one will be in any doubt that this is a commercial vehicle.

Go to the Sport and you’ll get 17” alloy wheels. These complement the sports style front and rear bumpers, side skirts, sport style fog lamps and a chrome exhaust extension just to finish things off. LED projector headlights and LED taillights ensure the Sport looks the part even at night.  

So, to the French upstart – and whilst the Zoe van is, well, technically a van, you’d be hard pushed at first glance to distinguish it from the passenger car of the same name. There’s no body-coloured side panels as with the Fiesta, in fact, Renault has just blanked out the rear side windows with film and have retained the rear passenger doors too which, whilst allowing easier access to the load area has the disadvantage of intrusion of the door bins and handles.

Like the Fiesta, there are 2 trim levels, Business and Business+. Not a huge amount to shout about on the more basic version but you do get LED headlights, wheel trims and body-coloured door handles. Alloy wheels distinguish the Business+ from its sibling.

What’s Under The Bonnet?

This is where things get interesting. Decided on a Fiesta? Then you’ll get a petrol engine as standard, there’s no diesel or electric option. They’re all based on the award-winning, 3-cylinder ‘Ecoboost’ unit, in 95PS or 125PS outputs. There’s also the option of the mild-hybrid version of the 125PS engine, this technology, to quote the manufacturer ‘enhances the 1.0-litre Ford EcoBoost petrol engine with a belt-driven integrated starter/generator (BISG), which recovers the energy usually lost during braking and coasting, and uses it to charge its onboard battery pack. The BISG also acts as a motor, seamlessly integrating with the petrol engine and using the stored energy to deliver extra torque during driving and acceleration, particularly at lower engine speeds, as well as running the van’s electrical ancillaries to further enhance efficiency and performance’. In a nutshell, making the engine more efficient, particularly when it comes to fuel economy, although independent tests have only shown a modest improvement. Worthy of consideration though? We think so.

There’s just 1 power unit available in the Zoe, and it’s neither petrol nor diesel. That’s because the van is only available in pure electric form. The 80kw electric motor (equivalent to a very respectable 107hp) is fuelled by a 52kw battery pack. The official range is a whopping 245 miles, and even after making a reasonable reduction to allow for a ‘real world’ estimate, it’s clear that the majority of users of this type of small, urban delivery vehicle will have no worries about running out of charge whilst out on their daily tasks.

The built-in 22kw charging unit is more than capable of handling the output of most home and office chargers and using a typical 7kw wallbox the little Zoe will be ready for a day’s work after 9 hours 25 minutes. Using a fast public DC charger 0 to 80% takes just 70 minutes and for peace of mind, the battery comes with a respectable 8-year warranty.

Cab Tech And Driver Aids

Both these vans come with some decent spec, even at the basic trim levels. Your new Fiesta van will have Ford’s SYNC 8” multimedia unit, which offers DAB and Bluetooth functionality. Also standard is the FordPass Connect integrated modem which has Wifi hotspot capability together with some fancy telematics that works via a smartphone app. You’ll also get the all-important air conditioning. Move up to the Sport and the differences are really noticeable from the off. Sports seats, stainless steel pedals, and a sports-style steering wheel are included, and under the skin, you’ll even get sports suspension. A heated windscreen, lane-keeping system and a Thatcham alarm to keep the van and its contents nice and secure are thrown in too.

All Zoe vans have a 10” wide drivers screen which has all the usual information the driver needs but in digital form. You can even customise the display to your own preferences. There’s also a 7.3-inch multimedia touch screen using Renault’s ‘Easy Link’ tech which includes the increasingly important Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Cruise control and air conditioning are also included, and the Zoe scores points over the Fiesta for offering an alarm at the basic Business trim level. Business+ spec adds a navigation function to the cab, although some might consider this superfluous given the Apple / Android facility already built-in. You’ll also get flashier upholstery, a synthetic leather (whatever that is!) steering wheel, rear parking sensors and lane-keeping tech.

The Loadspace

You’re not going to lease a Fiesta or a Zoe if your main priority is loadspace or payload, but there’s still some very handy capability here. There’s not much to choose between the 2 when it comes to volume, the Ford having 0.96cu of space and the Renault 1.0cu/m. Load length again is comparable with the Fiesta being capable of taking a 1283mm length, the Zoe slightly shy at 1205mm. Both vans have a half mesh, half steel bulkhead, a rubber floor mat and 4 tie-down points. Where the Ford wins is on the payload, up to 531kg is available, the French van can only offer 387kg of capacity.

Which Is Best?

If it’s just down to looks, the Fiesta will be the winner in most people's eyes, especially in Sport spec. We can’t help but be put off a little by the rear doors in the Renault which make it look more of a car and less of a van. There’s not much to choose when it comes to the level of standard equipment though, although at entry-level the Zoe has the edge. From a load-carrying perspective, unless the payload is critical there’s nothing in it. What it boils down to is whether you want to make the move to a fully electric vehicle. The Zoe’s 200+ mile range may well be a deal-breaker for many, although the attraction of the nippy and economical Ecoboost engines in the Ford will be hard to ignore for some.

If you’re still undecided, why not head over to the Vanarama video reviews of the Fiesta and Zoe vans for some more facts, information and opinion?