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Renault Fluence 2011 review

EXPERT RATING
7

The brand has re-launched more times than it perhaps cares to recall, but the Renault crew keep chipping away at the Australian new car market, with a new five-year warranty and some attractive finance deals to spark interest in the French brand.

One of the key weapons for the breed is the new Megane range, a sleeker, svelte beast to replace the angular big-bottomed model. The sedan part of the Megane has been slotted into a sub-range - called Fluence - and it's built by the company's Korean arm.

VALUE

The Fluence Privilege is the top-spec sedan, starting from $29,990, and gets an electric glass sunroof, continuously-variable auto, electrically-adjustable folding heated exterior mirrors, 17in alloy wheels (with a similarly-sized steel spare) and the very chic and pocket-friendly Renault smart card key.

There's also black leather trim, a leather-wrapped reach/rake adjustable steering wheel and gear shift, height adjustment and lumbar support for the driver's seat, dual zone climate control air conditioning with rear vents, satellite navigation, Bluetooth link for phone and music, power windows and 60/40 splitfold rear seats.

TECHNOLOGY

At first the auto-locking and unlocking system can catch a rookie Renault driver unaware - if you've locked the car with the lock button on the key-card, then you have to unlock it the same way. But if you rely entirely on the hands-free unlocking, then the car automatically locks itself as you walk away.

The tech-heads will like the Bluetooth connectivity for phone and music player, but with the back-up of a USB port and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack - enough plugs for several devices, but perhaps not enough storage in the centre console for all of them.

DESIGN

As Renault models go there have certainly been more controversial in the looks department, as well prettier production cars, but the new Fluence is less likely to offend the eye. The four-door sedan won't stir emotions to the same extent either way, but it's not an uninteresting sedan.

The cabin has good room - at least in the front half - and Renault says there's more storage space than before, including a cooled glovebox. There could be a little more in the centre console, which possesses miniscule cup holders, but by contrast the boot is large at 530 litres (more than a Holden Commodore) although the lid is held by old gooseneck hinges which intrude on the space a little.

SAFETY

The Renault has - as you'd expect from one of the first brand's to ever score a five-star crash test rating - no shortage of safety features for its $30,000 pricing. There's stability control, anti-lock brakes, dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags, lap-sash seatbelts with load-limiters (plus pre-tensioners for the front seats), automatic lights and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

DRIVING

As not much of a fan of CVT I was pleasantly surprised at the Fluence's drivetrain - there was less of the "rev-flare" than I expected and the powerplant provided more forward impetus than its numbers suggest. The seating front and rear is comfortable - although the cloth sports seats of the sports-hatch RS250 Cup feel better-cushioned - but adults in the rear will want to be closer to jockey-size than basketballer, as headroom (like it is in the hatch sibling) isn't great.

The smooth and quiet drive in the Fluence is only let down by jittery ride quality over smaller road imperfections - something easily found on Australian roads.Some Renault folks blamed the top-spec wheel-tyre package with low profile rubber but I'm not sure that's entirely to blame. The payoff is decent body control in corners, but the light power steering, which is fine for inner-city wheel twirling, is dead in the bends.

The quality of the interior materials has improved and - unlike previous Renault experiences of old - everything seemed to work. The brand's fondness for the remote control stalk for sound system behind the steering wheel is admirable, but it's certainly something that will require considerable time behind the wheel for familiarity.

The sound system button on the dash are on the small side and having to use a remote control for the satnav is a bit complex - the satnav screen is easy enough to see but it needs a bigger cowling to limit the reflection on the windscreen at night and sunlight issues during the day.

The big-rump remains, which is great for cavernous bootspace but the high bootlid makes rear sensors a must-have - thankfully they are standard. The sedan's gets analogue instruments instead of the hatch's digital readout - the latter is easier to read - and the hatch also gets the auto-filter recirculation system that's not on the sedan.

VERDICT

The price is keen and the features list is also competitive, which means Renault has given itself every chance - with good warranty and finance offers as well - of making a greater impact on the Australian market than it has thus far. Sales so far this year suggest the Australian buying public are taking a shine to the new-look Renault range - including the Fluence sedan - and it's easy to see why.

Pricing Guides

$7,330
Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$6,990
Highest Price
$7,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Dynamique 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $6,950 – 7,990 2011 Renault Fluence 2011 Dynamique Pricing and Specs
Privilege 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $5,940 – 8,360 2011 Renault Fluence 2011 Privilege Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$3,990

Lowest price, based on 8 car listings in the last 6 months

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