Renault Fluence - Introduction
Renault’s Fluence heralded the car-maker’s entry into the Indian passenger car market back in 2011. Three years later, Renault India has launched a revised, refreshed and face-lifted version of the Fluence sedan. We get behind the wheel to see what it is all about. Read our detailed road test of the new Renault Fluence.
Marc Nassif has moved back to France but the former Renault India boss had a pet word which he used liberally to describe Renault’s offering in India – “masala”. The Fluence always had plenty of masala, but now Renault has sought to make this executive sedan even more “masaledar”.
The new head at Renault India is an Indian – Sumit Sawhney, and the re-launched Fluence (and Koleos) are the first products to enter the market under his stewardship.
Renault Fluence - Design & Engineering
At first glance, the new grille and bold front logo are what strike you. It may appear a bit over the top at first, but the face of this car is characterful and distinctive, attractive even. The slim letter-box slot above the bumper has been done away with, and the Renault diamond badge has been made bigger. A simple and tasteful chrome strip edges away from the logo towards the headlights. The shape of the bonnet is slightly different too, with the prominent trapezoidal indent being softened into a more curvy shape.
The headlights too have been changed, with a black surround and chrome ‘eye-lashes’. These are projector units too, which are a technological improvement over what this car offered previously.
The lower bumper has some changes too, with a new fog lamp surround and the addition of LED daytime running lights, or DRLs as they are popularly known.
New grille, bolder logo, chrome piping on the central grille, and chrome fog lamp surrounds are design highlights of the new Fluence.
There are no changes to the rear, and the rest of the car’s sheet metal is the same as well.
However, Renault is offering a new alloy wheel design on the new Fluence, called ‘Kaleido’ and the curved wheel spokes are intended to give it a kaleidoscopic look when the car is moving. That may not necessarily be the case, but the new alloy wheel design looks very nice. The tyre size remains unchanged at 205/60 R16.
Measuring 2,703 mm between the axles, and registering a total length of 4,618 mm, the new Fluence is the biggest car in its class, which includes the likes of the Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze and the soon-to-be-launched Toyota Corolla Altis. The new Skoda Octavia is a little longer, but crucially has a shorter wheelbase.
Renault has also taken the opportunity to rationalize the Fluence range with this new look. Now, the petrol variant has been done away with altogether, and the new Fluence is henceforth available with only a single engine option – 1.5-litre diesel and manual transmission. Does this limit its attractiveness to potential clientele? Yes and no, as we’ll soon find out.
Renault Fluence - Interiors & Comfort
Much of the “masala” Marc Nassif alluded to had to do with the cabin. There’s something about the Fluence’s cabin which grabs your attention from the first time you put your bum into any one of its sumptuous seats. The layered dashboard looks lovely, with the layering giving it class and sophistication not seen otherwise in this segment. A trapezoidal theme abounds in the cabin, from the steering wheel boss, to the AC vents, climate control, centre display and even the buttons on the steering wheel.
The new Fluence is available in two trim levels, designated E2 and E4 by Renault. It is the Fluence E4 which is the more sumptuous of the two, and the car that we drove. The interior of the Fluence E4 has leather upholstery, dual zone climate control with pollen and odour filter, a surround sound stereo by Arkamys, auto-dimming rear view mirror, front and rear parking sensors and rear parking vents. The driver’s seat is not power-adjustable, however.
Seating posture and seat comfort in any of the Fluence’s chairs is superb, on par with what we’ve experienced in the new Octavia, and superior to the Elantra and Cruze for sure. The leather upholstery may not be the most practical on a hot day, especially if the car has been left parked in the sun, but it is beautifully finished and the contrast piping is just one of the little details in the cabin which gives you pleasure. The seats are not ventilated though, so it is something you might want to consider, especially since ventilated seats are offered on the Elantra.
The cabin of the Fluence is nice and wide, making it very comfortable for the rear passengers. On occasion when you have to squeeze in three people at the rear, the Fluence is the car which will give the middle passenger least cause to complain.
Boot space too is a commodious 530 litres, all of which should be easily accessible and usable given the wide aperture. Rear seat splits in a 60:40 ratio for more versatility when carrying bulky items.
Fancy stereos are part of what makes a premium car feel premium, and Renault acknowledges that. Even the E2 variants gets a 4-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, but it is the E4 which gets the special Arkamys system with an additional four tweeters. And boy, does it sound good! Crisp, clear, with perfectly balanced notes and good volume without ever sounding harsh, the stereo in the new Renault Fluence E4 is the best in the segment. If you’re in the market for a sedan and consider yourself an audiophile, then this car should top your shopping list. There are no steering wheel mounted controls for the audio and telephone per se; instead, these are on a separate pod behind the steering wheel on the right. Difficult to see, and not the most intuitive to use. Strangely, while you can adjust the stereo volume and call volume, you cannot change tracks or radio stations using this pod. At most, you can cycle between the different modes, such as CD, radio, or Bluetooth device. For the rest of the functions, you need to resort to the regular buttons on the stereo interface on the dashboard.
Renault Fluence - Performance & Handling
Once you’ve settled into the driver’s seat and adjusted the driving position, you have to start the Fluence by pressing the start-stop button located low on the centre console. The smart key resides in a slot next to it. The placement of the start-stop button feels a little odd, but we’ll discount this to be typically French quirkiness. Both the E2 and E4 variants of the Fluence have push-button start.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Fluence does not have electrically adjustable seats, but the range of adjustability on offer is very good, and drivers of varying stature will find it quite easy to get comfortable behind the wheel.
Powering the Fluence is Renault’s 1.5 dCi diesel, with 110 PS and 240 Nm, driving the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox. This engine is Renault’s workhorse on its India product range (and Alliance partner Nissan’s too). Its versatility and adaptability never ceases to amaze, but it is not the most powerful engine on offer in the class. That distinction falls to the Chevrolet Cruze, which with 166 PS and 380 Nm feels like there’s a mini nuclear device under the bonnet. When you look at specs on paper, the Cruze does appear to be under-powered, a feeling which is reaffirmed on the road.
What works in the Fluence’s favour is its relatively light clutch action, and nice, slick-shifting gearbox. Note however, that the clutch is not light per se, but lighter than in cars like the Cruze and Octavia diesel. The tall lever with its egg-shaped knob falls to hand beautifully, and clutch progression is well controlled. The 6-speed manual is the only transmission on offer, however. With max torque at a relatively low 1,850 rpm, it proves quite easy to drive. Our route had us driving from Ooty in Tamil Nadu to Bengaluru via Gundlupet and Kollegal.
This road is broken in patches, and the abundant rainfall in this part of the world results in pock-marked roads. There is a lot of crowning on the road surface, sharp-edged ruts and rippled surfacing as well. Add to this mix a series of 36 hairpin bends, and as you can imagine plenty of opportunity to test the Fluence’s ride and handling. Which, in a nutshell, left us very impressed. The ride in the Fluence is supple, belying its tall suspension (that provides 168 mm of ground clearance) and body control is very good for a relatively long and heavy car. The steering is well judged too, with precise feedback and good feel through the rim, which again inspires confidence.
The engine’s 110 PS and 240 Nm feel enough to make the Fluence motor smartly, with a strong mid-range that aids overtaking on narrow country roads. However, you get a sense that on a four-lane expressway this motor might feel a little breathless, especially with a full complement of passengers.
Overall, the Fluence’s blend of ride, handling, performance and braking left us no cause for complaint. The approach is just a little different to the competition.
Renault Fluence - Fuel Efficiency
Renault claims the new Fluence will manage to travel 20.4 kilometres to a litre of diesel. This claimed mileage figure is on par for with the competition, but our experience tell us that the Renault dCi motor is among the more fuel efficient engines in the country. Driven sensibly, the Fluence does manage to deliver close to 20 km/l on a highway run.
During our test, which included driving on hilly terrain, stopping frequently for photography, long idling periods and performance driving, the Fluence managed an indicated 11.4 km/l. Not a bad mileage by any stretch.
Renault Fluence - Safety
Renault realizes that safety is paramount in the minds of customers shopping in this segment. In the new Renault Fluence, even the base E2 variant comes substantially equipped with ABS and EBD, 2 front airbags, anti-slip regulation (ASR), rear defogger and front fog lamps. ISOFIX child-seat fasteners are standard equipment too. The higher E4 grade of the Fluence adds two front-side airbags and ESP. The E4 variant also has automatic headlamps and wipers, which add to both convenience and safety. Anti-pinch windows are also standard on both the E2 and E4.
Renault Fluence - Verdict
After spending a full day with the new Fluence and experiencing it over varying terrain, I was struck by just how under-rated this car is. Yes, it was launched at a time when Renault was still a new brand in the market, and maybe Renault thought it might achieve the same degree of recall and appreciation as Skoda managed with the Octavia when it entered the Indian market.
The Fluence has a great blend of ride and handling, comfortable interiors with real panache, good drivability and good real-world fuel economy. It is also a stylish-looking car. Renault now needs to invest in building the Fluence brand to do justice to what is a very good car.
The E2 variant retails for Rs 13.99 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, while the new Renault Fluence E4 as test driven on these pages costs Rs 15.49 lakh, ex-showroom New Delhi. At the price, the new Fluence makes a competent value proposition. It isn’t cheaper than either the Cruze or the Elantra diesel variants, which cost about the same, but is substantially better value than either the new Octavia or the Jetta.
For those car buyers looking for a European brand, the new Renault Fluence is a sexy and stylish alternative to the regular fare.
Renault Fluence - Competition Check
Skoda Octavia, Toyota Corolla Altis, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra
|Length x Width x Height (mm)||4618x1813x1488|
|Ground clearance (mm)||168|
|Engine & Transmission|
|No of cylinder & configuration||4 Cylinder in line|
|Power (PS @ rpm)||110 PS @4000 rpm|
|Torque (Nm @ rpm)||240 Nm @ 1850 rpm|
|Suspension & Brakes|
|Rear suspension||Trailing Arm|
|Front brakes||Ventilated Discs|
|Wheels & Tyres|
|Tyre size and type||205/60 R16 Tubeless|
|Wheel size and type||16" Alloy|
Hindustani is a dialect widely spoken throughout India. It is a pot-pourri of mainly Hindi and Urdu, peppered with Arabic, Sanskrit and Persian words and phrases, and lately English as well. Widely spoken in the Indian subcontinent, it is the default lingua franca in most parts of our country. Into this eclectic mix, Renault has thrown in some French flavour
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Renault Fluence heralded the car-maker entry into the Indian passenger car market back in 2011. Three years later, Renault India has launched a revised, refreshed and face-lifted version of the Fluence sedan. We get behind the wheel to see what it is all about. Read our detailed road test of the new Renault Fluence.
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