Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good The Renault Fluence arrived in Australia in October 2010; replacing the Mk.II generation Megane Sedan (the Megane is no longer available in a sedan body style). A rear sloping roofline adds an element of sportiness to the typically conservative small family sedan segment. A noticeably larger car than the previous Megane sedan, equates to interior space equal to the smaller medium segment players.
Not so good Not all of our reviewers loved the styling with one calling it ‘awkward and slab sided’. The rear wheel gap between body and wheel appears too large (however this isn’t uncommon for a small segment sedan) and the point where the raising beltline meets the sloping boot is not the Fluence’s best angle.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good The interior is light, calming and airy. It exudes a sense of spaciousness, thanks to the use of a light colour palette and a rakishly angled dashboard surface. The instruments are clear and well laid out. The analogue speedo looks classy and the chrome finishings on the gearlever, instrument surrounds and door handles as well as the optional leather upholstery creates a premium feel. The steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach and the seats adjust for the usual attributes plus the addition of lumbar support. Visibility is impressive - the A-pillars (next to the windscreen) are slimmer than most and at the rear the window is generously large. In cabin storage is noteworthy with a large glove box (which is also chilled via a A/C duct) and a centre console and front door bins.
Not so good The interior design retains typical quirkiness of controls and switches exclusive to French automobiles. Though this can be overcome in the long run, the Fluence is not a car that you can simply hop on, tune to your favorite radio station, have the front demister on and set the cruise control at 110km/h while talking on your Bluetooth-paired mobile. Get ready for some heavy reading in the owners’ manual. True to its roots, the Fluence’s controls are unashamedly idiosyncratic. Throughout ownership of this car it will at some time become necessary to know that: the bonnet release is on the wrong side of the car (in front passenger footwell, presumably a throwback to its LHD origin), steering column mounted remote audio controls more difficult to work out than French pronunciation, cruise control main switch located near hand brake lever and rear wiper switch that wants you to guess whether it’s on or off. The seats could use wider range of height adjustment, particularly at its lowest setting. Due to seats that don’t go low enough, finding a comfortable position was a little hard at first. In the Fluence, you sit on, not in however this is normal for a non sporty family car. We also found the driver seat squab is a little short for our liking, but the headrests are easily adjustable, by pushing it up with the back of your head without having to push its release button.
Performance

Performance

Good The Fluence’s 2.0L petrol unit is smooth and tractable, with enough low down torque for everyday driving. The automatic style gearbox is actually a CVT and is also impressively smooth. Overall, the engine is perfectly adequate without feeling sluggish nor overtly sporty. The CVT is more economical than the six speed manual (a benefit of this kind of transmission as typically an automatic gearbox is thirstier than the manual offering). Overall the willing engine and CVT transmission equates to smooth real world drive-ability.
Not so good The CVT transmission can sometimes get caught by surprise during sudden, short-burst acceleration (e.g. in-city driving) and its immediate response is a little disappointing. We would recommend you stick with the manual transmission if you have a more aggressive driving style.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good For a front wheel drive small segment family sedan, the Fluence rides and behaves acceptably. The suspension is comfortable over bumps and road imperfections and for parking and inner city maneuvering; the EPS steering is pleasingly light. The Fluences’s rear ‘programme-deflection flexible beam’ (read: Torsion Beam) suspension rides with aplomb and with none of the bouncy-tail syndrome experienced by some other cars in this class with the same set-up. Renault’s engineers should be applauded for their effort in tuning it.
Not so good Although the Fluence isn’t trying to be sporty, we would welcome more controlled body movement and less suspension travel, especially at higher speeds.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good All grades tick the safety box with standard Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control and six airbags. The Dynamique grade (entry level pricing, but not entry level in features) comes standard with dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, cruise control (but not if you opt for the manual transmission), auto headlights and wipers, largish 16 inch alloys wheels and fog lights as well as a host of other features. The top of the range Privelge grades adds leather seats, a more premium audio system, sunroof, 17 inch alloys and rear parking sensors. No question, the Fluence offers good value for money buying.
Not so good No Diesel is offered in the Fluence – surprising for a European brand.