A fresh start
Renault is on the verge of its new innings in India, and opening it for them the stylish Fluence. This time, we hope, they won’t go wrong.autos Updated: Jun 02, 2010 13:32 IST
By the end of the year, the Logan will no longer be a Renault in India. The French carmaker called off its joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra and wants to make a fresh start in India. Although the Logan is very capable, it’s seen as being dull and that’s pretty much the perception Indians have about Renault.
So it’s great that Renault’s first car in India is the Fluence. This saloon is just as terrific to look at as the Logan is terrible and immediately assures us that Renault can make attractive cars.
Conceived as a Corolla fighter, the Fluence is much bigger than the Laura or Jetta and not much smaller than a Passat. Its dimensions were arrived at keeping in mind class-leading passenger space. The Fluence has a slot-type grille, headlamps which swoop into the fenders, and the sculpted bonnet with a Renault badge. The pronounced wheel arches and shapely waistline, which rises up sharply towards the rear to form solid haunches, give the Fluence lots of character while the 2,702 mm wheelbase gives it a balanced stance.
The rear styling is generic but the two-part lights allow a generous boot opening. Splashes of chrome around the door handles and fog lamp surrounds add to the upmarket feel of the car.
Slide into the driver’s seat and you’re greeted by a chunky steering wheel, legible instrumentation and an uncluttered, curvaceous dashboard. The navigation screen pops out from the top of the dash but the controls for the audio system are set a bit too low. The door pockets, cubbyholes and glovebox, which is illuminated and refrigerated, are really big. The front seats offer generous under-thigh support and are comfortable and adjust in all directions. Short drivers, however, might want more seat height adjust to comfortably clear the high-set dashboard.
The Fluence’s back seat is comfortable and has loads of legroom, great under-thigh support and an upright sitting position. Neither the Laura nor the Corolla can match the Fluence for rear seat comfort. However, because of the dark trim and the small window area, the interiors don’t feel as airy and bright as they should. But the insides can’t match the Jetta or Civic for feel-good factor. The boot is huge and comes with a 60:40 split.
Features and engine
The Indian Fluence will almost certainly have Bluetooth and keyless start among other features. The engine under the Fluence’s long hood is a more powerful version of the Logan’s 1.5-litre diesel dCi engine and develops 105 bhp. There are other engine options, too, including a 2-litre 140 bhp petrol with a CVT automatic transmission, whichRenault may consider for the Indian market.
Back to the diesel
It feels far more refined than the Logan’s engine given the extra insulation. The Fluence’s engine is reasonably quiet but pile on the revs and the drone becomes louder. The engine is fairly punchy and has a strong mid-range and the six-speed gearbox, which has a delightful shift, makes highway cruising with the tall fifth and sixth gear ratios quite a breeze.
However, the Fluence doesn’t drive well in town and heavy traffic. At low speeds, it feels less responsive than the Logan because of the bigger turbo. You floor the throttle and nothing happens; wait for a moment and the turbo kicks in.
The suspension has been tuned for comfort and ride is outstanding. It’s hard to gauge in the Indian context, especially against cars like the Jetta and Laura which have an exemplary ride. The handling, however, is a bit dull. The electric power steering doesn’t exactly bristle with feel and the car doesn’t like to be hurried through corners.
It’s early to announce prices but one can expect the Fluence to undercut the Laura and Jetta by a fair margin. There are rumours that the Fluence could be priced alongside the Corolla. Pricing will be key and Renault can’t afford to get it wrong.
Price: Rs 12-13 lakh (estimated)
Layout: 4 cyls in-line, common-rail, turbo-diesel
Displacement: 1,461 cc
Power: 105 bhp at 4000 rpm
Torque: 24.4 kgm at 2000 rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Fuel tank: 60 litres
Suspension: MacPherson-type with lower wishbone (f), flexible beam (r)
Boot: 530 litres