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First drive: Renault strikes a happy ‘medium’

Feel-good factor: Renault's Fluence sedan is packed with safety gear and is designed to provide occupants with a sense of wellbeing.

Fluence replaces Megane sedan and claims class-leading size with the larger Fluence

1 Nov 2010

RENAULT may have under-performed in Australia for too long, but the French car-maker hopes to win a bigger share with new models such as the Fluence sedan, which has replaced the Megane sedan in this country.

On sale from November 1, the larger Fluence sedan is expected to achieve a similar volume to the new Megane hatchback that has also just been released, with each winning about 1000 sales per year.

Despite having a unique body design, the Fluence is largely the same as the Megane under the skin and has similar pricing.

35 center imageIt is significantly bigger than the old Megane sedan and Renault claims class-leading interior spaciousness and size, with an overall length of 4618mm and wheelbase of 2072mm, enabling it to comfortably carry five adults.

The entry point is the well-equipped Dynamique six-speed manual at $22,990 ($25,990 drive-away from launch), with a constantly variable transmission (CVT) as a $2000 option.

The flagship Privilege variant comes only with the CVT and is priced from $29,990 plus on-road costs.

Like the new Megane Hatch, the front-wheel-drive Fluence is powered by the Renault-Nissan Alliance ‘M4R’ 2.0-litre Euro 4-compliant 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine, which delivers 103kW of power at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 3750rpm.

Fuel economy is rated at 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle for the CVT-equipped Fluence and 8.2L/100km when the six-speed gearbox is fitted.

Safety features in both model levels include large disc rotors front and rear, backed by ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, electronic stability control with an understeer control feature, five inertia-reel lap-sash belts, all have pretensioners and load limiters, and six airbags.

Still on safety, vision in all directions is excellent thanks to relatively narrow A-pillars while the exterior mirrors are heated, foldable, colour-keyed and incorporate side repeater indicators.

Also standard are automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control with speed-limiter (CVT-equipped variants only), fog lights, dual-zone climate control (a rare feature on a $22,990 car), Renault’s unique smart key card, an engine stop/start button, four-speaker (plus two tweeters) sound system with a single CD/MP3 player, alloy wheels (6.5x16-inch on the base Dynamique model, shod with 205/60 R16 rubber), rake and lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat and a steering wheel that is adjustable for both reach and rake.

The flagship Privilege model adds 17x7-inch alloys shod with 205/55 R 17 rubber, black leather trim, upgraded audio, rear parking sensors, integrated satellite navigation with multimedia connection box, an electric glass sunroof and the same level of seat adjustability for the front passenger.

Renault claims the Fluence interior provides a high-quality impression with details such as the chrome finish applied to the door handles, instrument surrounds and gearlever knob, as well as the availability of leather upholstery in a choice of light or dark tones.

The company said it paid great attention to driver ergonomics and controls, and that a feeling of wellbeing is enhanced by low Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) levels, and high standards of interior space, including class-leading elbow room (1480mm at the front, 1475mm at the rear) as well as “outstanding” rear passenger legroom and knee room (238mm).

The cabin provides more than 23 litres of stowage space, including an illuminated, chilled 9.0-litre glovebox, a 2.2-litre centre console and a 2.6-litre bin in each front door.

The boot swallows 530 litres of luggage, and considerably more with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats folded. Access is facilitated by a low sill-height of 727mm and a wide opening of 1022mm, made possible by incorporating one part of the tail-light cluster within the bootlid.

Suspension is by MacPherson-type struts at the front with rectangular lower arms and a 22mm-diameter anti-roll bar, while the rear incorporates a programmed-deflection flexible beam.

Renault claims the brakes are particularly effective, enabling the Fluence to stop from 100km/h in just 39 metres, even after repeated high-speed stops, thanks to 280mm-diameter vented front discs and 260mm solid rear discs.

2010 Renault Fluence pricing:
Dynamique $22,990
Dynamique (CVT) $24,990
Privilege (a) $29,990

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