2011 Renault Fluence | road test

Posted on Dec 6, 2010 by

The Fluence is larger than its competitors

AT A GLANCE

FOR

  • Big for the segment
  • Easy to drive
  • Good ride quality

AGAINST

  • Noisy engine
  • No driving enjoyment
  • Feels cheap

SUMMARY

The Fluence has been conceived by as a rival for C-segment sedans such as the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Tiida but boasts a bigger size than these machines. It’s cheap and feels it and the driving experience will disappoint enthusiasts, but it’s practical, comfortable and very easy to drive.

The Fluence is dynamically unimpressive, although the ride quality is good

PERFORMANCE

The 110bhp, 1.6-litre engine doesn’t have a huge amount of power and is quite noisy, especially when worked hard. But it does the job and acceleration is not bad at all for the size of car. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission, which makes sense as it has the benefit of instant optimum power.

If you’re used to a traditional automatic gearbox it can feel disconcerting at first, as the engine note remains constant even as the car gathers pace, but it means that the engine is always at the optimum revs. Put your foot down and there’s almost instant grunt with none of the problems of some cheaper automatic gearboxes that take an age to select the correct cog.

HANDLING AND RIDE

The steering is really light and rubbery with an elastic feeling devoid of a sense of directness or connection to the wheels. But this is an appliance car rather than an enthusiast’s machine, so while there’s no emotional involvement to the Fluence’s driving experience, everything works. The lightness of the steering means it’s very easy to nip in and out of traffic with too.

The interior is functional, but feels cheap

The ride is good – slightly wallowy around corners and with no sporting pretensions but it’s comfortable and nicely damped to soak up potholes and imperfections in the road, if a little bouncy on more uneven surfaces.

COMFORT

The fabric seats are comfortable, if lacking a little in lateral support.

The quality of materials is pretty cheap with lots of hard scratchy plastics. Some parts, such as the silver insert on the gearstick, move around in their seating and there are other parts that don’t feel very well nailed down but it’s reasonable for the price.

The controls are all logically laid out and the seating position is good, but the steering only adjusts for rake, not reach, which is a shame.

The 120kph speed warning is the most annoying we’ve yet to experience, sounding like a 1980s British ambulance. Best not to speed then, unless you want to go mad from the noise.

The Fluence's extra space means practicality levels are good

PRACTICALITY

There are various little cupholder and pockets in the centre console and a fairly small door pocket for both driver and passenger. The air conditioning cools the glove box, which is good for keeping drinks cold. The general space inside is good; five adults should fit inside the Fluence with no trouble.

There’s nothing in the back – no cupholders, pockets, armrests of anything else, but the boot is a good size.

FEATURES

Features on an entry-level car such as the Fluence are not going to set the world on fire, but it comes with manual air conditioning and electric windows and mirrors. We’re glad to see a socket for plugging in an MP3 player too and the version we drove also had alloy wheels.

The Fluence's rear seats fold flat for extra storage

SAFETY

Safety wise, the Fluence looks good for the segment. We’re pleased to see ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution as standard, along with electronic stability control and six airbags. ISOFIX child seat attachment points are included in the back.

No crash test information was available for the Fluence at the time of writing.

COSTS

With prices for this 1.6-litre model starting at 54,500AED, the Fluence represents a lot of car for the money. The Nissan Tiida has more of a quality feel to it, but it’s smaller and costs from 62,000AED. The Corolla is an older car, with slightly less power and a starting price of 56,000AED.

The combined fuel economy for the Fluence is 7.2 litres per 100km, giving it a range of around 803km from its 60-litre fuel tank.

Renault offers a three-year/100,000km warranty on the Fluence. Servicing is due every 10,000km and will cost between 360AED and 1,000AED at the time of writing.

2011

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder
Max power (bhp/rpm): 110/6,000
ax torque (Nm/rpm): 156/4,400
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Driven wheels: Front wheel drive
Kerb weight: 1,339kg
Price (AED): From 54,500

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