Road test: Renault Fluence
What is it
Eighteen months on from alliance partner Nissan and the launch of its Leaf, Renault now brings us the Fluence – and it's a whole £8,500 cheaper than the Japanese firm's offering. It was the first of Renault's electric cars to be launched, joining the Kangoo ZE van, and is the most sensible of the lot due to it being based on a normal Fluence (a Megane saloon not for the UK).
What's under the bonnet?
The "engine" bay contains a 95bhp electric motor, while the battery pack sits behind the rear seats; the range is 125 miles on a 10-hour charge. Unlike Nissan, the asking price does not include batteries – dealers will lease the batteries to customers on 12, 24, 36, 48, or 60-month contracts and prices will vary on mileage. A 36/48/60-month, 6,000-mile contract will cost £76 per month (inc. VAT) and rise to £153 per month (inc. VAT) for a 12-month/18,000-mile contract.
What's the kit like?
Customers can choose between two models. After deducting the £5k Government grant, buyers can slip into the Expression+ for £17,495, which comes with an alarm, hill
start, cruise control, automatic dual-zone air con, and TomTom that can navigate to charging points. The top-of-the-range Dynamique features 16-inch alloys, parking sensors, and a leather steering wheel and gearknob for £900 more.
Is it any good?
The Fluence is nowhere near as interesting to drive as a Leaf, but it's far more of a normal car compared to Peugeot's iOn/Citroen C1/Mitsubishi iMiev. It boasts light steering, a comfortable ride, and bags of interior room. The 95bhp electric motor packs 226Nm of torque, and, because it's an EV, that torque is always available meaning its 13.5 second dash to 60 always feels faster.
The Fluence's chief rival is the Nissan Leaf – which not only looks more attractive but also drives better. There's also the Peugeot iOn, Citroen C-Zero and the Mitsubishi iMiev triumvirate – both cannot compete in terms of space. The hybrid Toyota Prius has a similar green conscience.
The AOL Cars verdict
It's clear that Renault-Nissan have tapped into the EV market with both verve and common sense. The Fluence sits firmly with the latter and provides a relaxed attitude to EV motoring and one that's free from the quirky flair shown by the Nissan Leaf. If this was Renault's only EV, it would be a disappointment – but with the EV range consisting of the Twizy and Zoe, the French firm may well have cracked it.
Model: Renault Fluence ZE Dynamique
Price: £20,324 (as tested after Government grant)
Engine: 70kW, electric motor
Power: 95bhp, 226Nm
Max speed: 84mph
Range: 115 miles