Renault Fluence : Road Test
The French have landed on Indian shores, and without anybody else's assistance, as before. We take a look at their latest offering, the Renault Fluence, and find out whether it really is the French revolution we've been waiting for, or just another European sedan that can be ignored?
Ride and Handling
Ever since the days of the Citroen 2CV and later on the DX, French cars have never compromised in the ride quality department and the Fluence is no different. In fact, what it manages to achieve should pretty much be considered the benchmark for family sedans. The ride is absolutely incredible. It manages a balance between comfort and handling that would be the envy of most other cars in its class. While it’s not really a ‘magic carpet’ experience, the suspension does an excellent job of isolating the passengers from the ups and downs of the outside world. There is some tautness to the chassis, but never enough to jar you even through fairly crater sized potholes. This stiffness really does wonders to keep body roll in check when you chuck the steering from side to side while going around corners. But the credit for this also goes in part to the fantastic steering, which though electrically powered in nature, imparts all the feel and feedback of a hydraulic system. That being said, it’s not like the handling prowess of the Fluence can be described as ‘sporty’ – far from it, with the car wafting its way through corners rather than sprinting through them. But behind the wheel, the driver always gets the feeling that the chassis is under his control and that’s more than what can be said for some of its rivals.
Living with it
Now comes the hard question – is this a car you could live with? And the answer is not so cut and dry. While all aspects of the design, performance, ride and handling might be up to the mark, there is the eternal question of fuel economy, something which takes the limelight in our country more than anything else, which needs to be addressed. And this is one subject where the Fluence should have studied harder before attending the final exam. While the highway mileage of 16.5kmpl might sound all right, one should remember that this is a 1.5-litre diesel motor with a six-speed gearbox. So it is natural to expect more from this otherwise killer combo. And then when we get down to the urban fuel consumption figures, things get even more woeful. During the city run, our road test editor only managed 12.5kmpl, which says a lot. With the overall mileage figure in the range of 13.5kmpl, it is difficult to see merit in this diesel motor, especially in such an economy conscious country.
Let us first get this out of the way – the Fluence is a great car. It scores very high marks especially when it comes to the way it looks. Other aspects such as ride and handling as well as performance are things to write home about too. But what makes this diesel variant of the Fluence a little difficult proposition to recommend is the lack of toys in the cabin and the overall feel of the interiors. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not like Renault can’t get those things right. The petrol variant of the Fluence is the perfect example of what the insides of a car need to have to match its gorgeous exteriors. Granted that the petrol variant is almost a lakh and a half rupees more than the diesel, but it’s not like the diesel is the epitome of affordability. Priced at Rs 12.99 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), it definitely wants to tangle with the big boys, but the rest of big boys might just offer a deal that Monsieur Frenchman would find difficult to match.
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