Journalists are notorious for their cynicism. I came across it first-hand when I took receipt of the revamped Renault Fluence recently.
“Ah, you’ve got the Flatulence,” said one, “what’s it like?”
Puerile humour or not, that’s all it takes – and the manufacturers really only have themselves to blame. Ask Mitsubishi which made Pajero (defined, I kid you not, by the Urban Dictionary as “one who fiddles with himself for sexual gratification”) or Mazda and its LaPuta (Spanish for prostitute) and Chevrolet and its NoVa (literally “doesn’t go”).
What does Fluence mean? The Oxford traces the original meaning of the word to a flowing or a stream. Today the word refers to a “stream of particles crossing a unit area, usually expressed as the number of particles per second”. In other words, it measures the strength of a laser beam.
That’s not as bad as Daihatsu calling a car a Charade, but it’s definitely setting the car on a bit of a pedestal.
So what do you get?
For a start, you’ve got three choices, a 1.6-litre Expression, a 2.0 Dynamique with a six-speed box and an automatic 2.0 Dynamique CVT.
The car under review was the 2-litre six-speed manual. The lines are clean and elegant, the car feels like a mid-level executive vehicle, a five-seater with a boot to match, and kitted out accordingly.
The standout feature for me was the incredibly user-friendly Renault R-link, a 7-inch touch screen display that melded multimedia, a TomTom GPS and cellphone via Bluetooth. This could all be controlled via the console, the steering wheel or even by voice command (something I didn’t try) Ignition is by card, which also allows for hands-free entry and exit, locking and unlocking as required by proximity.
As you might expect, there’s the usual range of driver assistance, from emergency brake assist to ABS. Electronic brake force distribution and ESP are standard. Safety is of a similar standard: airbags all round, the doors lock once the car is in motion, and there are front and rear parking sensors, which are actually quite handy because the car is deceptively big.
The Fluence comes with a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty, six years for corrosion and a five-year/90 000km service plan with 15 000km intervals.
So, is it as good or as bad as its name suggests?
It’s definitely not flatulent, that’s for sure. With its 2-litre engine pushing out 103kW and 195Nm it might not be like a laser beam cutting through the clutter on our roads, but it’s no slouch either.
I have often found Renault to be a bit like the curate’s egg – good in parts but fairly awful in others. Some of their models have been real duds, but when they get it right, they tick every box.
The Fluence is like that in every respect. -Saturday Star