After the facelift recently operated on the Fluence sedan we took out for a spin the petrol model equipped with the CVT transmission. Now it’s time to see what the model feels like in the more conventional diesel-manual transmission configuration. We did that with a spin, though, as we chose the new 1.6 130 HP powerplant.
The Fluence, launched back in 2009 is the spiritual successor to the acclaimed Megane sedan version – a model dedicated to the emerging markets mainly. Now, along with the name change, Fluence graduated from that class and went on to slot just below the Laguna mid sized sedan. It also went up a notch, asserting itself more firmly in the Renault line-up. More so after the facelift, which visually affected its front end mainly, with styling cues now found all over the range.
Being the sedan sibling of the Megane hatchback is not so obvious now, as the facelifted Fluence steers its design relationship more to the new Clio, which is rather a good way of ascertaining a name for itself. In doing so, its clients will feel a lot better knowing people will not say they drive a variant of another car. The models does a good job here, especially since its target audience remains in the previously established markets like, Turkey, Russia, Latin America or Australia. It also allows easy expansion into the western European markets, like France, Spain or Germany.
As the exterior design has almost nothing in common with the Megane, the fraternal relation is revealed inside the cabin, where if you saw the hatchback, everything will become very familiar, as Fluence borrows heavily. It’s actually a good thing, as the interior from the third generation Megane is quite a treat, with minimal design, good assembly and full suite of equipment (especially if you own the top of the range).
Ergonomics are very good here, with a complete digital instrument cluster (save for the rev count) and all the main systems at hand; but we have one notable exception. The R Link infotainment system is a late addition, which means a big compromise: unlike modern systems the display is out of reach (so no touch control) and there is also no control knob in the iDrive style – access to the R Link is made from where we usually found the radio-mp3 buttons, which is not intuitive and practical. By the time we see the next generation of the model the situation will be addressed, but for now you should test-drive the model before opting for the R Link.
Space at the front is great and so is the case for the back seats, where three adults will fit in nicely and comfortably even on longer journeys – which are easy to handle since the boot is huge (530 liters). Also, in the back, the fact that Fluence sits somewhere at the top of the compact class means lots of leg room – which is always a problem usually in these cars.
Engine, transmission, fuel consumption
The Fluence we drove was equipped with the new diesel powerplant of 1.6 liters and 130 hp (at 4000 rpm), which also churns out a hefty and healthy 320 Nm/1750 rpm. This allows the 1,4 tons car accelerate to 100 km/h in 9,8 seconds on its way to a comfortable 200 km/h top speed.
The car feels even quicker because of the low rev count when it hits top torque, which is very useful in jumping fast in the city from one stop sign to another. Because it approaches medium class territory the Fluence is not as nimble in the traffic as a regular Megane, but it’s still rather easy to park in most occasions.
Where it really shines is on the open road, while cruising on a long highway – the chassis and ride is comfort oriented and the power reserve of the diesel engine is always there when needed. So, long journeys at highway speeds are a treat in this car.
The engine is mated to a six speed manual transmission – though another one in the category of marketing gimmick – the sixth speed keeps the rev counter just a bit lower than a good five speed would – so no gains here. Also, the lever features a short travel, but no sporty feeling because it’s really not very accurate (which is rather fishy, as Renaults usually have good transmissions).
The new 1.6 diesel has plenty of power and torque and is also not very thirsty – with a 4,6 official average, but one thing hasn’t got over the old and reliable 1.5 dCi – nobility. The now rather very old 1.5 had time to grow and outshines in my opinion the new engine in terms of sound and vibrations. No doubt, in due time the field will get even, but for now the 130 hp powerplant is a tad noisier and less vibration prone.
As I said before, the Fluence has one ride setting on its mind – comfort. That means it will disregard any pothole it encounters, with the suspension being very silent in the process. Also, smooth ride all the way for any journey if the driver remembers to soften the accelerator pedal in the bends.
The car handles very well on fast bends, but it does so without any happiness – you could almost feel the Fluence eager to display on the R Link – “slow down”, I’m a gentleman, not a racer.
So, the best setting for the Fluence would definitely be a long journey that includes lots of highway cruising, which is very good if you do that a lot with the family – it certainly has the space and the smooth ride needed.
Safety – without considering the fact that we have no official Euro NCAP assessment – is top notch, simply because Renault has made a top goal in achieving it – so we have no motif to suspect otherwise here.
The Fluence with the 1.6 dCi 130HP engine and manual transmission (actually the only one available) starts in Romania at exactly the 19,000 euros mark and brings a generous selection of equipment – like the killer feature of Renault, the easy access card key. I know it’s old news by now, but very few other automakers emulated the French – which is a shame, as I find it the best car access solution.
Still, bear in mind that for the R link you need to pay extra (690 euros) – and it’s main feature (the app store) might not function in your country.
The good: the new model gets a bump in image with the refresh, keeps the huge interior and boot space. Diesel engine, potent and not very thirsty.
The bad: amendable six speed manual transmission and the engine is louder than expected at higher revs.
Renault Fluence 1.6 dCi
3.5 / 5
January 10th, 2014