The last I met the people from Renault India was during the Scala Automatic drive. When asked about the products in the pipeline they said that the first year was all about introducing new products, so we had the Koleos, the Fluence, Pulse, the impressive Duster and finally the Scala. After this product onslaught it was all about sustaining the growth with enhancements to the products to make them up-to-date. So, if you go to see, Renault doesn't really have a new product for the Indian markets for what could possibly be another year or so.
This time around, the French car maker decided that a quick update to their two premium cars in India would be a good way to kick-start the new financial year. Renault India has refreshed the looks of both the premium sedan, Fluence and its premium SUV, the Koleos and has added some features to both the cars to try and drive the sales of these cars which sit in two niche segments where competition grows but sales are few.
I quite liked the Fluence when it first came to India. It was not aggressive like its Korean or German counterparts. It was sedate and charmingly French which made it stand apart. Maybe this is one reason why Renault India thought of giving the Fluence a bolder look and that's what we see in the facelift.
The front fascia of the car sees the most change as it gets a new grille along with a big chrome Renault badge that can be noticed from over a mile. The restyled halogen projector headlamps and LED daytime running lights add to the elegance of the car. The front bumper too sees a change and houses foglamps which are encased with chrome all around it. There is no dearth of chrome on the front, side and even the rear of the car. It's all about giving the Fluence a very contemporary and premium look and even the new design on the 16-inch alloy wheels make a case for the Fluence.
The interiors too follow this theme and the new leather seats, audio system, dual-zone climate control, the digital instrument cluster and the chrome around the air-con vents bear testimony to what Renault wants to accomplish here.
There is also a smart key with start-stop button, cruise control, parking sensors, four airbags, anti-lock braking system, EBD, ESP, rain sensing wipers, rear sun blinds and rear air-con vents. Because of the long wheelbase of 2703mm, the rear seat space is absolutely brilliant and it works well especially if you want to be chauffeur driven.
Now, if you're wondering whether there is any change under the hood of the new Fluence, then you're wrong. It gets the same 1.5-litre diesel motor good enough for 107bhp and 240Nm torques. Renault figures showed that the availability of the 240Nm torque from as low as 1850rpm, however, when I drove it, power kicked in only post 2000rpm. There is a bit of lag at the lower rev range and this is evident when you try to sprint from 30-50km/h in the 3rd gear.
It takes time to pick up and the torque kicks in only after it hits 2000rpm, which makes it a bit of a problem to drive in city stop-and-go traffic conditions. Since there are no changes to the mechanicals of the car, it continues to boast of a great ride quality which the earlier car had. It absorbs the minor and major undulations of the road with ease and even at high speeds; it keeps its head steady and is sure footed. Yes, there is a bit of roll but genuinely you can throw it around a corner and it sticks.
Renault says that it will ramp up its sales outlets to 170 this year (currently stand at 125) which might probably help the company attract more customers and sell more cars. The Fluence will only be available in the diesel form for the time being with 2 variants - the E2 and E4. Priced at Rs 13.99 lakh and Rs 15.49 lakh, respectively (all prices, ex-showroom, Delhi) the Fluence, with its bolder and more appealing looks, makes for a good package but with competition like the Volkswagen Jetta and even the Skoda Octavia breathing down its neck, it still has a long road to travel.
Renault Fluence Specifications
Engine: 1.5-litre, Direct Injection
Power: 107bhp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 1850 rpm (debatable)
Transmission: 6-speed Manual