Renault makes a new beginning in India with the stylish and upmarket Fluence
Renault wants to make a new beginning in India and its weapon is the stylish and upmarket Fluence.
The Logan will no longer be a Renault in India and by the end of the year; it will wear just the Mahindra badge. In a bid to change its dull and boring image in India, Renault will kick off its new innings here with an aesthetically-designed all-new saloon.
The main plant for Fluence production is in Turkey but it's also made by Renault Samsung in Korea where it is sold as the Samsung SM5. In India, the Fluence will be assembled from CKD kits shipped in from Turkey but you can expect a fair bit of local content too which is essential to keep costs down.
The Fluence, is much bigger than many other saloons in India. Its dimensions were arrived at keeping in mind the target of having class-leading passenger space. It's built on the very capable Renault-Nissan C platform which is also the base for the Megane III.
The Fluence looks every bit a Renault. The slot-type grille, headlamps which swoop into the fenders, and the sculpted bonnet with a Renault badge deeply embedded won't let you mistake it for any other brand. The pronounced wheel arches and shapely waistline, which rises up sharply towards the rear to form solid haunches, give the Fluence lots of character while the long 2702mm wheelbase gives it a well-balanced stance.
The rear styling is more generic but the two-part lights allow a generous boot opening. Splashes of chrome around the door handles and fog lamp surrounds add to the upmarket feel of the car. It's fair to say that the Fluence will be one of the most stylish cars to hit the market.
Slide into the driver's seat and you are greeted by a chunky steering wheel, legible instrumentation and a dashboard which is uncluttered but yet full of character. The multi-layered dashboard is quite curvaceous and there's no separate centre console that makes it look quite unique. The navigation screen pops out from the top of the dash like most Renaults but I found the controls for the audio system set a bit too low. For such a big cabin, I expected some more storage space to be popping out but the door pockets and cubbyholes are big enough to hold most things and the illuminated and refrigerated glovebox is one of the biggest around.
The front seats with their generous under-thigh support are supremely comfortable and adjust in all directions. Short drivers, however, might want a little bit more seat height adjust to comfortably clear the high-set dashboard.
Move over to the rear and you will be in for a pleasant surprise. The Fluence's back seat is one of the most comfortable with loads of legroom, great under-thigh support and a nice, upright sitting position. However, because of the dark trim (the Indian cars should have beige) and the small window area, the interiors don't feel as airy and bright as they should. Cabin quality is good with hard-wearing plastics and switches which feel nice to prod.
The boot is huge and comes with a 60:40 split for added versatility. However, in India that feature is hardly used and it's possible that split seats may not be offered in the Indian version if it saves costs.
The equipment level on the Euro-spec Fluence is not particularly generous but the Indian car will almost certainly have all the bells and whistles which include Bluetooth connectivity and a keyless start among others.
The engine under the Fluence's long hood is a familiar unit. It's a more powerful version of the Logan's 1.5-litre diesel dCi engine and develops 105bhp. There are other engine options too including a 2-litre 140bhp petrol with a CVT automatic transmission and Renault may consider this model too for the Indian market.
Back to the diesel. It feels extremely refined but that's to be expected given the extra insulation the Fluence can afford. The Fluence's diesel engine is reasonably quiet but pile on the revs and the drone becomes louder. But, for the most part, when driven in a relaxed way, engine noise is hardly obtrusive.
The engine is fairly punchy and has a strong mid-range and the six-speed gearbox, which has a delightful shift, makes highway cruising with the tall fifth and sixth gear ratios quite a breeze.
However, the big disappointment is the way the Fluence drives in town and in heavy traffic. A drive through rush-hour Paris highlighted the infuriating turbo-lag. In fact, at very low speeds, the Fluence feels less responsive than the Logan because the bigger turbo in this engine takes its own sweet time to spool up. You floor the throttle and nothing happens.
Wait for a moment and suddenly whoosh — the turbo kicks in and you rocket forward. The non-linear power delivery will be cumbersome in Indian traffic and hopefully Renault will smoothen out the power delivery of the engine before launch.
The Fluence suspension has been tuned for comfort and the ride is, without a doubt, outstanding. However, driving around Paris, the Fluence felt extremely cushy and ride was very comfortable.
The handling, however, is a bit dull. The electric power steering doesn't exactly bristle with feel and the big and soft Fluence doesn't like to be hurried through corners, so enthusiasts may be disappointed.
It's too early to announce the prices but one can expect the Fluence to be phenomenally competitive. In fact, there are rumours that the Fluence could be priced alongside the Corolla. Pricing will be the key to the Fluence's success and Renault just can't afford to get it wrong. Not only is the Fluence a new car for Renault in India but it marks a new beginning for the company too.