Big family saloons are about as popular these days as tape decks or public phones – so why has Renault decided to use an old design philosophy in the current automotive market? We drove the Fluence 2,0 Privilege to try and answer the question.
Styling wise, the Fluence is a combination of French flair and quirkiness, depending on your point of view. For example, take the beautiful rear quarter design of the car and compare it to the face only a mother can love. The side profile does a nice coupe-like impression but the strange protrusions found at the bottom of the doors spoil the picture somewhat. Be prepared to warn fuel station attendants not to lift the wiper blades off the windscreen as this action will remove paint from the bonnet rear lip.
Inside, the theme continues with a trendy instrument binnacle containing difficult-to-read dials (due to the vision angle and colour palette used), fashionable centre console and then the bulky square navigation screen blemishing the clean look. At least a remote is provided to fire up the standard TomTom navigation system.
The leather seats are not the most supportive and the driver feels perched on top of the steering wheel rather than behind it in the classic Renault driving position. Roominess in the back is good but could have been excellent if some of the vast boot space was relinquished for more rear legroom.
The Privilege model sampled is powered by a 2,0 litre, four-cylinder, naturally aspirated powerplant delivering 105 kW of power, driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. Unfortunately, the engine lacks low down torque and the gearbox needs to be used regularly to make swift progress. The power advantage over the base model’s 1,6 litre is less evident than expected. Maybe a better choice for Renault would have been their 1,4 turbo engine found in the Megane, which should give more low-down torque as well as a fuel-consumption benefit?
Driving in the city explains the new trend of moving to smaller MPV or SUVs for family transport. The Fluence feels big and cumbersome which makes parking at your local supermarket a problem. Where the Fluence really excels is in open-road cruising. Marketing departments will always boast about the “big car” feel of their new small hatchback. Tuning suspension can help but a long wheelbase as found on the Fluence gives it a physical advantage. Miles are happily lapped up at motorway speeds while the occupants stay calm and relaxed. Just a pity that no cruise control option exists.
This brings us to the Fluence’s trump card: price. The Privilege model retails for R244 900 with the entry-level Expression dipping just under R200 000. In this price bracket there is no competitor to the Fluence when considering the size and specification level. If you are in the market for an affordable, large family saloon, it could tick all the boxes. Throw in a five-year/100 000 km service plan as standard and Renault may just have spotted a gap in the overpopulated automotive market.
- Engine: 2,0 litre, 16 valve, multipoint fuel injection
- Power: 105 kW at 6 000 r/min
- Torque: 195 N.m at 3 750 r/min
- Combined European cycle fuel consumption: 7,8 litres/100 km
- CO2 figure: 184 g/km
- Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 10,4 seconds
- Top speed: 195 km/h