Renault’s latest offering, the Fluence, is its first serious attempt at cracking the Indian market after severing ties with Mahindra.Tested in hot and trying conditions, the first aspect that hit us is the cabin’s excellent air-conditioning.
The Fluence manages to be a good-looking car owing to its chic French styling. The 16-inch alloys with fat 205 section tyres nicely fill up the wheel arches to give the Fluence a strong stance and balance to its generous proportions.
Take your pick
Renault is initiating its foray into India by offering the Fluence with two engine options — a 1.5 diesel and a 2-litre petrol, with the latter featuring a six-speed CVT auto transmission with no manual gearbox. The idea is to position the petrol as the top-of-the-line variant.
Renault has packed the petrol with features like twin-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, automatic headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. The list also includes keyless start-stop, an on-board computer, leather seats, electrically folding mirrors and Bluetooth connectivity and four airbags.
In the diesel, however, the beige interior has made way for a more practical but less cheery all-black trim and the lack of basics (for this class) makes it feel spartan in comparison.
Cabin quality is pretty impressive and the interiors have more character than the purely functional design of its German rivals.
The instrument cluster with the digital speedo in the centre looks modern and is easy to read. Some idiosyncrasies do creep in, however, like the steering-mounted controls that are located on a stalk hidden behind the wheel and not on the steering itself.
The Fluence’s 2703mm wheelbase is much longer than other cars in this category and this translates into fantastic legroom inside the cabin.
The front seats have lots of travel and the only thing missing is generous under-thigh support. The rear seats have good legroom as well. The 530-litre trunk will swallow almost anything you throw its way.
The petrol twin-cam
16-valve mill pumps out a respectable 135bhp, while a variable valve timing and a double cooling circuit reduce friction and fuel consumption.
The petrol engine’s slick CVT works effortlessly in stop-go traffic and there are no jolts that usually accompany a CVT.
Out on the highway, however, is where the petrol feels quite lethargic owing to the ‘rubber-band’ effect inherent in the transmission.
The Fluence managed the 100kph sprint from standstill in a leisurely 13 seconds. The diesel powerplant is a 105bhp mill that promises excellent fuel efficiency of a claimed 21.8kpl. 0-100kph comes up in a modest 14 seconds but the mid-range is punchy enough for overtaking with 24.5kgm of torque mated to a six-speed gearbox. The lack of low-end grunt makes driving in the city a chore though.
Ride and handling on the Fluence is magical and the electrically assisted powered steering is excellent. The suspension tuned for comfort is easily the best in class and while there is a little bit of body roll, it remains well under control. High-speed mannerisms are also top notch.
The Renault Fluence is a very complete car, blending space, practicality and style tremendously well. The top-end petrol CVT will be close to around
Rs 13.7 lakh, and the base model diesel will sell for around
Rs 12 lakh. While the Fluence does afford value, it will be the lower-end diesel model that will sell in larger numbers in comparison to the petrol.