So we got a 2011 Renault Fluence
Just launched in the UAE, the Korean-built Renault Fluence is a new-for-2011 model that competes in the compact segment in terms of price, features, performance and general demeanour. It is a rather underwhelming car, as most cars are in this segment, but it has one ace up its sleeve. A longer-than-average wheelbase means it is more spacious than many others in the compact class.
Tracing its roots to Samsung cars with Nissan internals, the Fluence doesn’t really follow any sort of corporate styling. It is arguably stylish, and yet, at the same time conventional.
The rear has a chrome exhaust tip and not much else to talk about. If you do buy this car, be sure to rip out that stupid dealer sticker on the rear window, because it blocks the rear view quite terribly.
The extra-long wheelbase is evident in the side profile, though the car is still firmly in the compact category in terms of overall size.
The dashboard features soft-touch upper materials and chrome-ringed gauges, although the upper doors are hard-plastic with padded cloth inserts that match the seats. The steering wheel is rubbery plastic, the simple stereo has an LCD screen up top with integrated Bluetooth and AUX ports, and the manual a/c is pretty decent for a compact car, possibly a Nissan unit.
The thick lower stalk behind the steering wheel has no less than six buttons, including a rotary dial, to control the stereo and the phone. The Bluetooth even seems to have a ‘pause’ function so the person bugging you will only hear a “the person you are trying to call is driving” message. The Bluetooth can even stream music if your phone or MP3 player supports it. Also notice the gauges that are severely angled upwards for no apparent reason, but cause no functional problems or advantages.
The front seats are manually adjustable, have moderate side-bolstering and have firm cloth upholstery.
The rear is surprisingly spacious, and while still less than a typical midsize sedan, most adults can fit back there fine, with good headroom, space under the front seats for the feet, and even padding for the knees if needed. But there is no central armrest, and the middle passenger gets a lap-belt.
The luggage boot is pretty damn big and tall for a compact car. However, the seatback does not fold in our mid-range tester. There is a full-size spare wheel under the floor.
The Korean-sourced Renault Fluence is actually put together much tighter than our friend’s awful Turkish-built Clio sedan that we’ve had the displeasure of piloting various times. Material quality is average at best, and performance is among the slowest in this group, if fitted with a 1.6-litre and CVT transmission like in our tester. However, if class-leading space and ridiculously-good economy are your only concerns, then the Fluence becomes your best choice in the low-end compact segment. More in the full review.