The French in their time have invaded many countries from Russia to Mexico. After a first botched attempt in Puducherry, it's India's turn again. Luckily this time they're here not to stake territory but to serve the Indian customer. Specifically, they are coming to sell cars. And not just any cars, but ones that are slotted to set new benchmarks in comfort, innovation and style. We are talking about Renault's invasion, which will bring five new automobiles to Indian shores over a span of two years.
For now, there's just the Fluence
-a business sedan that will compete against the likes of the Corolla Altis and Honda Civic. And as first impressions go, things look promising for the French automobile.
The Fluence's insides are very well put together. The car cannot be faulted for uneven gaps or poorly finished surfaces. In fact, the quality of plastics used in buttons and fixtures, in terms of look and feel, is very much at par with the competition. The Fluence's interiors are fresh and prioritise luxury and space, rather than function or that cocooned, sports-car feel.Renault launches Fluence at Rs 12.99 lakh
It also has a well-thought-out cabin, designed for convenience. There's loads of stowage space, a couple of cup and bottle holders, door pockets on all four doors, sun blinds for rear passengers and a window and child lock button on the driver side door.
We also liked the seats on the car. They sustain the aura of comfort established by the interior design and colour scheme. The seats aren't terrifically supportive and the rear seats do lack a bit of thigh support in particular, but they are all immediately accommodating and retain that necessary cushiness over a longer drive. We weren't completely happy about the ergonomics.
A lot of design elements on the car, for instance, the placement of the start-stop button, the handbrake and the hood opener, have not been adapted to a right-hand drive format. As you can imagine, that's not entirely satisfactory. Also, we found the placement of the audio controls behind the steering a tad unintuitive.MUST SEE
: Most talked about cars
The Fluence is available in both petrol and diesel versions. We drove the petrol kind, and in top spec form too. It had side airbags as an additional safety measure, electrically folding mirrors, a multi-functional steering wheel with cruise control, a two-zone climate control system and rear AC vents. The engine is a two-litre, 137 bhp unit, which is refined, but the CVT it is coupled with makes the driving experience lacklustre. The NVH levels nonetheless are pretty low. The focus for the Fluence is clearly passenger experience and that becomes apparent in the way it drives.
The ride quality though, is exceptionally good. The Fluence glides over bumps and potholes allowing very little shock to seep through to car occupants. For a soft car, it also has surprisingly good straight-line stability, even on undulating or broken roads, no matter how fast you run through them.
The Fluence then, is a good bet. The petrol version might lack passion, but is comfortable and well-equipped. It's also easy to drive and if you are going to be driven around, the Fluence makes even more sense. The writer is Editor of Auto Bild