It’s basically a Mégane with a boot, but the Fluence is spacious, has loads of luggage space and a very frugal diesel engine.
The Fluence arrived on the Irish market just as car sales began to shut down under the weight of the recession. That should have been a recipe for poor sales, but Renault actually managed to sell lots of Fluences, mainly thanks to massive discounts and ‘scrappage’ deals. With new prices dipping as low as €16,000 in some cases, there was literally no beating the Fluence for metal-for-money value. It’s just a pity that its residual values badly suffered as a result, but the upside is that such values make the Fluence a hugely affordable used buy today.
There was a 1.6-litre petrol version technically available but you’ll struggle to find one – by 2009 Ireland was going diesel-crazy, and the Fluence, with its ultra-frugal 1.5 dCi diesel engine, was at the forefront of that. A fuel economy figure of 50mpg is easily extracted and the massive 70-litre fuel tank means you’ll easily put in 1,000km between refills.
That large tank is backed up by a massive boot too. At 530 litres it’s bigger than some Mondeo-class cars, technically a size up from the Fluence, so if you need to lug lots of suitcases around for not much cash, this is the car for you.
It’s also comfy and spacious in the cabin. The entire interior is lifted straight from the Mégane hatchback, which is good but only up to a point. The Fluence was always well equipped, especially in leather-bells-and-whistles Royale trim, but the quality of some of the materials used leaves a little to be desired at times. At least Renault had sorted out most of its early-2000s reliability issues by the time the Fluence was launched, so they don’t seem to suffer any major issues. Just make sure that all of the electric bits are working properly and listen for untoward noises from the suspension. If properly serviced, that 1.5 dCi engine should go for half of forever.
Of course, there is one other version of the Fluence available and that’s the all-electric ZE version. It’s pretty rare on the ground, and it’s quite limited in what it can do – you can’t fast-charge it and the realistic range is only just over 100km, but it’s a cheap way to get yourself on the electric car ladder, if you fancy, and it’ll be utterly reliable thanks to having hardly any moving parts.
It’s best not to shop for a Fluence by year, but by condition and a perfect service history instead. The 2010 models seem to be advertised for around €9,000 but with a bit of haggling you should get plenty off that figure.
Renault Fluence 1.5 dCi 95
Engine: 1,461cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Maximum speed: 175km/h
0-100km/h: 13.0 seconds
Fuel consumption: 4.5 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: *****
• Good value
• Frugal engine
• Big boot
• Bland styling
• Ordinary driving experience
• Poor residual value
You’re not going to buy a Fluence for excitement, that’s for certain. It’s as plain-Jane as a car can get, and it’s best to think of it as a French Nissan Almera. But it’s spacious, economical, relaxing to drive and, thanks to Renault’s efforts on the EuroNCAP front, extremely safe too. Find one at a good price and it’ll provide painless family transport for years to come.