Renault Fluence An Affordable Mid-Range Sedan

By Lee Pang Seng

THE Renault Fluence has been in the Malaysian market since mid-2014 and in that time close to 300 cars were moved, most of the purchases favouring the higher-spec Dynamique variant. At about RM10,000 more at RM119,888 (on the road without insurance) it makes sense to go for a Dynamique Fluence that has leather seat upholstery, standard daytime running lights and LED (light emitting diode) rear combination lamps.

The Fluence draws its appeal on standing out from the crowd in its body styling that leans a little towards a coupe-ish design with the high rear and rakish C-pillars. It was developed from a Renault/Nissan platform and might remind some of a Sentra from certain angles, especially in the front. The prominent Renault badge, however, on the nose clearly underlines its French roots. We found the contrasting outline of the foglamps that sandwich the lower air apron a nice touch. Playing its distinctive part too are the two-tone alloy wheels that were shod with 205/55 R17 Continental ContiPremiumContact 2 tyres.

Renault distributor TC Euro Cars are only making the Fluence available with the 2.0-litre engine that appears to carry some similarities with the engines used in the Nissan range, such as the Teana. This is not unusual as Renault and Nissan share the synergy between them to reduce development cost, among others.

This is an undersquare unit with 84.0mm bore and 90.1mm stroke to displace 1997cc. It has been tweaked in engine management to deliver output to suit the car’s driving style and power is rated at105kW (143hp) at 6000rpm and 195Nm torque at 3750rpm. The transmission is also from Nissan being the X-Tronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with option for manual shifting to select the six ‘gears’ provided. The output should be about right for the Fluence, which has a kerb weight in the region of 1400kg.

We like its progressive initial engine feel at city crawl speeds while the typical CVT growl as we accelerated was within the acceptable noise range. It picked up speed quick enough up to 170km/h and beyond if you are in a hurry, with engine speed above 4500rpm. Renault says the Fluence will top 195km/h and accelerates to 100km/h in 10.1 seconds, which should be quick enough for most.

The Fluence is independently sprung all round with MacPherson struts and lower wishbones in front and a torsion beam axle with coil springs and struts at the rear. As the car came to us with more than 32,800km on the odometer, it was pretty much run-in by then. Moreover, it has also taken us this long to decide on gauging the Fluence for what it could offer.

We brought the car’s mileage up as we believe it could have a bearing on our following impression. It appeared to pick up a lot of road noise that was transmitted to the passenger cabin as soon we hit the road. Could this be a case of suspension bushes and links that had seen better days, although the mileage covered was relatively low. This was the only factor that coloured the drive impression a little.

We could tell that the wind noise generated by the reasonably aerodynamic curvature of the body was low and came largely from the door mirrors at highway speeds. The road noise, however, stayed constant at a certain pitch and we soon got used to it as it did not drown out the music from the car audio system.

On highways, the engine ran at a relatively easy pace, turning around 2500rpm to cruise along at 110-120km/h and acceleration was smooth due to the CVT’s operating efficiency. We had expected the Fluence to be long on fuel distance, despite the few stabs at top speeds on the open highways. It covered slightly more than 300km when we returned this Renault sedan and the fuel level indicator was at the half-way point (it has a 60-litre tank). Not bad.

For the windies, the Fluence is quite at home. Body lean was quite well checked when taken to corners at fairly quick speeds but the understeer came on strongly at a certain limit. This might have dampened enthusiasm a bit though it must be said the Fluence is designed more for ordinary motoring rather than gung-ho driving. Still, it could be taken reasonably quick through winding roads.

On the same token, Renault certainly saw to the tuning of the Fluence’s suspension to provide a firm but comfortable ride. It took well to speed bumps and ruts, absorbing the impacts nicely and ironing out the rough edges. But do expect firm thuds and some suspension noise if you like to drive rough shod over bumpy stretches at higher speeds than necessary.

And if you like to push your luck with speed cameras on highways, the Fluence felt nicely planted on the road at speeds above 110km/h. We did find the electric variable assist steering a little dead in a straight line though. It appeared to be somewhat devoid of directional feedback although we enjoyed a livelier steering input when driving through corners.

The Fluence is in good company among its peers in interior space; those sitting in the rear would enjoy good legroom and headroom, despite the rakish C-pillars. The boot looks like it has more than 400 litres of luggage space and you can extend that by lowering the rear seats that are split 60:40 for longer and bigger items.

We might not have liked the rather plain looking leather seats but the dashboard provided a pleasant sight in appointments and information gleaning. The speedometer is digital while the tachometer is analogue, a mix-and-match presentation that we found perfectly acceptable. The seven-inch touchscreen info display on the centre dashboard was about the right size and within easy reach.

A unique Renault feature is the flat keyfob that you put into a slot at the base of the centre dash area, following which you press the start and stop button next to it to kick the engine to life or kill it, while stepping on the brake pedal of course. The keyless entry feature for the door worked but in its curious way, it wouldn’t react to the door button being pressed to unlock sometimes although the keyfob was in our hand.

We didn’t have time to find out if it works that way or there is a specific way to use it properly when we returned the car. In that respect, we are not sure if it was appropriate to compare the system to that in other vehicles, which we encountered no problem using the external door button to lock and unlock the doors.

These are all little things here and there that didn’t spoil the overall good impression of the Fluence. It delivers a comfortable driving pace in urban centres and highways, with plenty of room for passengers and luggage. It is attractively priced for a 2.0-litre sedan with five-year manufacturer warranty and five-year free parts and labour. In addition, there is free pick-up service and even a courtesy car if your Fluence has to be in the workshop longer than 48 hours; Sounds like a good deal if you are looking for one.

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