Renault Fluence: Fluidity in Motion

2015 Renault Fluence_3 The new Renault Fluence 2015 receives a brand new makeover fore and aft, in line with the company’s current identity, replacing its previously pedestrian demeanor with a completely reworked, fiercer front end. The central grille now extends towards the headlights for a more aggressive stance while the lower air dam has been widened for effect. The foglight clusters have also received their fair share of modernization, with the full-specced Dynamique package getting LED daylight running lights up front and LED combination clusters at the back while the basic Expression package makes do without said superfluous niceties.

Renault is a relatively unknown brand to Generation Y and beyond, no thanks in part to the almost non-existence of the brand’s presence in this country for quite a while. Most likely, only followers of Formula One would’ve heard about the myriad successes enjoyed by the company’s racing divisions on the world’s stage. As notorious as other French marques have been in this country, Renault isn’t even mentioned along the same lines as Peugeot or Citroën, which launched notable variants in the past and present to garner some form of success. Then again, Renault has had some notable representations in the past in the forms of the Mégane Espace and Scénic , two compact MPVs that were favored back in the day when MPVs weren’t that popular yet. And then there was the odd-looking utility vehicle called the Kangoo that seemed to go against the grain of sensible car-buying, judging by the sizeable numbers that can still be seen on our roads every so often.

Just before the turn of the century (1999) and without much fanfare on this side of the world, Renault took up a strategic partnership stake in Nissan at a tune of 43% of Nissan shares, which effectively meant that Renault held a controlling stake in one of the top Japanese carmakers in the world. Said alliance led to bigger things and lots of tech swap which helped to refine the offerings of both carmakers. It was thanks to this fruitful partnership that Nissan managed to make a dramatic comeback into the automotive scene under the helm of its CEO Carlos Ghosn, a Brazilian-Frenchman. Back on local shores, the Renault brandname returned to prominence with the launch of the Mégane Renault Sport 250 Cup (Mégane RS 250 Cup in short) by TC Euro Cars (a subsidiary of Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd). Said launch caught many by surprise and all of a sudden young hot rods and rich kids wanted to take one home.

At the same time, TC Euro Cars decided to ride on the popularity of the RS Cup by launching consumer variants to beef up its line-up. The Clio, Fluence and Koleos began appearing in showrooms but without much hype surrounding the launches the excitement quickly subsided. With the exception of the Clio, the Fluence and Koleos hardly made their presence felt in the local motoring scene, which is sad especially for the Koleos which had all the makings of a good mid-sized SUV. Not perturbed by the less than stellar showing, TC Euro Cars is back with a bang, and quite an interesting one indeed, with the launch of the facelifted 2015 Renault Fluence that promises more bang for buck in total ownership costs.

Renault Fluence: New Face

The new Renault Fluence 2015 receives a brand new makeover fore and aft, in line with the company’s current identity, replacing its previously pedestrian demeanor with a completely reworked, fiercer front end. The central grille now extends towards the headlights for a more aggressive stance while the lower air dam has been widened for effect. The foglight clusters have also received their fair share of modernization, with the full-specced Dynamique package getting LED daylight running lights up front and LED combination clusters at the back while the basic Expression package makes do without said superfluous niceties. Being essentially a facelift, nothing has changed with its side profile so the new Fluence retains its fluid 3-box side profile that is sleek, aerodynamic and with very good ground clearance. Its side profile suggests a car that is nimble and able to clear most if not all undercarriage obstacles in its path (on tarmac of course).

The rear visage has been subtly reimagined, with a body colored lower skirt to present a more cohesive side profile, as opposed to a black unpainted lower skirt on the previous iteration. Having a body colored lower skirt also gives off the illusion of a larger boot. The tail light cluster is also subtly reworked, with the Dynamique package featuring LED clusters for a more dynamic appearance. Elsewhere, the tailgate gets a sliver of chrome across the top of the number plate garnish for added flair. Aside from these minor reworkings, the rest of the package remains largely similar. All in all, the facelift brings the Fluence closer to its sibling the C-segment Mégane which it is based on.

Renault Fluence: Familiar Territory Within

Once inside, you will not be able to tell one from the other, as both pre- and post-facelift versions feature pretty much the same interior. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke….. The dashboard design doesn’t pretend to be a larger car and keeps everything ergonomically compact and within easy reach. It took me a few seconds to locate the push start button (both Expression and Dynamique variants feature keyless entry and push start by the way) but once I’ve gotten that out of the way it was smooth sailing from that moment on. The centrally located frontal air vents are placed reasonably high enough to avoid freezing my fingers, which is such an important design issue that not all manufacturers take note of, so thank you Renault. The throttle and brake pedals are placed far apart enough to avoid accidentally stepping on the wrong one in an emergency, something that I always look out for in European cars which tend to place the said pedals dangerously close to one another.

I like the grab handles for the front doors that make it quite easy to use, as opposed to the archaic designs of most Japanese cars that place the handles near the driver/passenger’s elbow area. In the latter case, with the door fully opened you’d have to stretch uncomfortably from your seat to grab the handle to close the door. On why this is still the case in the second decade of the new Millennium, only the Asian manufacturers can answer. Aside from making it easier to close the doors after entry, said grab handles also serve another purpose, and that is to allow the front seat passenger to hang on tight should the driver decide to drive like a maniac.

The audio system provided in both variants deserves some mention, as the choice of components shows that Renault is serious about building a car that is not only smooth and powerful but is able to transport the passengers within in relative luxury, keeping them entertained on the go. The entertainment unit is split two ways, with a multi-function screen on top while the controls can be found just beneath the dual-zone automatic climate control cluster. Nothing too flashy, just some oft used buttons and a knob to control the volume, keeping in line with the simplicity of the cabin. Just underneath the audio system controls sits the rubberized push start button, which I suspect is universally mounted and originally meant for the left hand drive market as it is slightly inconveniently placed on the left side, away from the driver.

As for the front seats, they are of the consumer variety with little side support, but offers a comfortable ride nonetheless, even in the Dynamique variant that features leather upholstery. Elsewhere round the back, there is ample room for 3 adults or 2 adults with the center armrest down. Said rear seats also feature a 60:40 split fold configuration, allowing more creativity in rear stowage. The squabs for the rear seats felt a little too short for my liking, and I would venture a guess that long distance travel would be a little tiresome, especially for adults with long legs. Otherwise, there is nothing much to fault the cabin of the new Fluence, which is up to mark with most other C-segment offerings in the market. And yes, the much needed rear air vents continue on here in the facelift as well.

Renault Fluence: Mechanical and Safety Considerations

Featuring the same power and drive train combo as found in the original Fluence, there are no surprises here. For those who are unfamiliar, the Fluence has a Japanese heart and transmission carried over from Nissan, the very same combo that can be found in the previous generation Nissan Sylphy, Teana and X-Trail. However, instead of the MR20DE monicker, Renault christened theirs the M4R, harnessed to a Nissan-sourced CVT gearbox (under Nissan’s subsidiary Jatco). With some tweaking from Renault however, the engine’s output is slightly more aggressive compared to the MR20DE’s in the old Sylphy, which means a healthy 143hp @ 6,000rpm and 195Nm @ 3,750rpm on tap to pull a kerb weight of roughly 1,400kg.

This translates to on paper figures of 10.1s for the century sprint and a 195km/h top speed, which is none too shabby for its class. If the figures are to be believed, the 60l tank in the Fluence would allow you to travel unhindered for up to 983km of extra urban driving or 571km of urban commute (quoted fuel economy of 6.1l/100km and 10.5l/100km respectively). For the old schools reading this article, this translates to between 12-20 sen per km traveled, based on RM1.95 per liter of RON95 fuel.

The front of the Fluence is sprung on MacPherson struts with lower wishbones while the rear uses a torsion beam axle to free up valuable cabin space, a combo that is increasingly common on cars of this class. As per industry norm, front brakes are of the vented variety while solid discs shore up the rear defense. ABS with EBD are standard on both variants, as are 6 airbags and ESP with ASR (Anti-Skid Regulator). It’s a good thing to see how Renault differentiates their variants without compromising on occupant safety; just because you don’t want to splurge on niceties doesn’t mean you should risk your lives with a less safe variant, yes? In this regard, Renault as a company has got its head screwed on straight, unlike many other manufacturers offering cheaper variants that compromise on active safety. There should be no bloody excuse for not offering 6 airbags and ESP as standard on all variants, period.

Renault FLuence: Ride and Handling

The Renault Fluence is a pretty supple performer, soaking up bumps easily while remaining firm and composed like how any other continental compact car would. I would expect nothing less from a renowned manufacturer with years of experience in carmaking. There are no strange insect orchestras practicing their scores as you ride over the stone gardens that we call council roads and tyre roar is kept at bay thanks to a decent soundproofing package that elevates the car above most non-continental makes.

The engine plays nicely below 4,000 turns, and even beyond that you won’t really hear it complain much. The excellent CVT mated to this higher tuned engine tangoes nicely with the engine like how it should, tightening up the ratios while maintaining a steady cadence throughout. With CVTs and a punchy engine, you’d rarely if ever find yourself left wanting in the pickup department, because a CVT is programmed to take advantage of the engine’s peak torque and available ponies at any given speed. Translated to real world experience, the Fluence glides along effortlessly like a flying carpet with minimal throttle input, which means excellent fuel savings all the time.

Notably, a fixed rear axle is a no-no for good cornering performance, but somehow the engineers at Renault managed to tweak the heck out of the dreaded torsion beam system to deliver a decent drive round the bends. Having said that, torsion setups are no match for independently sprung ones, but in the long run and for all intents and purposes that this car was built for, I’d say torsion beam systems will be that bit cheaper to maintain. I don’t expect Schumacher types to give this car a serious look, but for the average wage earner whose main concern is making a name for himself out there, this car may just fit the bill.

Of the 5inFLUENCE and parting words

TC Euro Cars has cleverly packaged the Fluence with an attractive tagline, the 5inFLUENCE Renault After Sales Service package that encompasses 5 key areas of concern to potential owners, namely 5 years manufacturer’s warranty with unlimited mileage, 5 years / 100,000km free labor and parts, 1 year genuine parts warranty for any replacements, a courtesy car for your usage should your car be required to be at the service center for more than 48 hours, and free pickup for every time you need to service your Fluence. At present, no other manufacturer of mass market cars is able to match the level of after sales promised by TC Euro Cars, so this is an important consideration for many working adults.

To seal the deal, the Renault Fluence can be had for between RM108,888 and 119,888 (Expression and Dynamique variants, respectively), before any seasonal rebates which you may get from any authorized TC Euro Cars outlet, of which there are 14 sales outlets nationwide at the moment and ever expanding.

Ultimately, buying a C-segment is not an easy task, but thankfully the choices are not as wide and varied as A or B segment contenders. At its asking prices, the facelifted Renault Fluence variants with the 5inFLUENCE after sales package offers a compelling reason to “go Continental” without causing a huge dent to your wallet. And, with solid backing from TC Euro Cars (a subsidiary of Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd, distributor of Nissan in Malaysia), your fears of poor after sales can be put to rest, but don’t just take our word for it, book yourself a test drive and see what the hype is all about.

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