- Published: Sunday, 28 July 2013 00:00
SINGAPORE - When you think family sedans, the kings of the segment are Asian – Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Toyota – but there’s been a Gallic alternative to the East Asian dominators since 2009.
The Renault Fluence has been the less obvious choice when it comes to a mainstream sedan, and, along with the Latitude big sedan, part of the French brand’s attempts to make inroads to the ‘regular’ car market while still retaining European features and badge appeal.
Like the Latitude, which was made by Samsung (a separate Nissan-Renault owned entity and now no longer part of the tech chaebol), the Fluence was also produced in Korea, although modern cars from Korea have gotten so much better quality isn’t really an issue. Therefore it’s rather hard to tell that the new, facelifted Fluence is actually made in France.
Still, some buyers find country of origin important, but that aside everything else is at it should be with a Fluence facelift – preserve the spacious, relaxed nature of the car while adding on a whole bunch of features.
To give an impression of its size, at 4622mm long and packing a 2,702mm wheelbase, the car’s a tad longer and has almost the same wheelbase as the new Kia Forte. The latter figure also means rear legroom is very impressive, and Renault boasts the car has the biggest wheelbase in its class. Indeed space is what the Fluence promises most, with the boot holding a huge 530-litres, with 60/40 folding seats, and the brochure even details 23-litres of storage in total in the cabin (armrest, door bins etc).
As you can see above, new, very Renault face adorns the front end, with the giant piano-black crosspiece framing the huge rhombus-shaped logo, redesigned lights that now have halogen projector (as opposed to reflector) lenses. The all-important modern touch – LED DRLs – are also new, and combine to give the car a much more contemporary look.
It drives in very much the same fashion, that is to say, predictable, safe and bordering on the ‘anyone can drive it with half a cerebrum’ regular family sedan way of things. The engine has been refined, now featuring variable valve timing on the exhaust valves too, not just the intake, and as a result fuel efficiency has been improved from 7.6L/100km to 6.4L/100km, while emissions drop from 179g/km to 149g/km. It does feel smoother as a result, and there’s also a slight 3bhp bump to peak power.
Strangely, the car hasn’t gotten quicker as a result – it takes almost a whole second more to reach 100km/h from before –and that’s likely a result of trying to meet efficiency targets.
The cabin is still packed with features. The instruments are now a digital display, similar to that on the Megane, while the infotainment and navigation functions are now integrated into a single ‘R-Link’ 7-inch touchscreen system, which is simple and easy to use, while your ears will be tickled by an eight-speaker Arkamys sound system. There’s even cruise control and keyless entry/start plus another super-useful feature – as you walk away from the car it locks itself automatically.
Like most cars in this segment, the Fluence doesn’t win you over with its sheer performance, but it will convince you in a more important, mundane way by making your life easier and it’s still the only European in the very much Asian affordable family sedan market.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,598cc, 16V, in-line 4
Power 115bhp at 6000rpm
Torque 156Nm at 4400rpm
Top Speed 176km/h
0-100km/h 11.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.4L/100km
Price $126,988 with COE
Also Consider: Honda City, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte K3, Toyota Vios