Lost in trans­la­tion

French sedan failed to make an im­pact when new but it could prove a smart buy as a used car

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Used Car - with Gra­ham Smith

NEW

Some cars just don’t make the grade in the show­room, barely mak­ing an im­pres­sion be­fore qui­etly slip­ping away. But that doesn’t mean used car shop­pers should ig­nore them, as they can some­times be a bar­gain.

The Re­nault Fluence, for ex­am­ple, ar­rived late in 2010 and faded, af­ter barely a sales whim­per, in 2014.

A five-seater com­pact sedan, it gained scant traction with new car buy­ers — but that means it’s some­thing of a hid­den gem as a rel­a­tively cheap usedie.

Made in Korea, the Fluence was in essence a sedan ver­sion of the Me­gane hatch, with ba­si­cally the same un­der­pin­nings but a more con­ser­va­tively styled body.

Some might pre­fer the prac­ti­cal­ity of a hatch but there are plenty of oth­ers who have grown up with sedans and like their se­cu­rity. The Fluence came in Dy­namique en­try trim and the more ex­ten­sively equipped Priv­i­lege.

If you went with the Dy­namique you drove away with a well-equipped car that had Blue­tooth and au­dio stream­ing, auto wipers and head­lights, key­less en­try and start, cli­mate-con­trol air­con and cruise con­trol.

For the ex­tra dol­lars, the Priv­i­lege gained re­vers­ing cam­era, sat­nav, sun­roof and park­ing sen­sors.

Power came from a 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gine, with rel­a­tively mod­est out­puts of 103kW/195Nm pro­pel­ling the com­pact sedan along with­out ever be­ing ex­cit­ing.

A six-speed man­ual gear­box was avail­able on the Dy­namique, but few would have bought it, pre­fer­ring in­stead to pay the ex­tra for the con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion. The Priv­i­lege was CVT-only.

On the road the Fluence was com­fort­able and re­fined rather than sporty. The ride was fluid, the han­dling and steer­ing pleas­ant if not pre­cise.

NOW

With the Fluence be­ing some­thing of a sales flop here there isn’t a lot of his­tory to re­fer to but own­ers we found spoke highly of their cars.

The com­mon com­ments were about the ride — most praised it as one of the most com­fort­able they have owned.

Per­for­mance wasn’t ter­ri­bly thrilling — more like ad­e­quate — and most were happy with the fuel econ­omy.

The big­gest draw­back with the Fluence is the re­sale but, be­ing a rel­a­tive un­known can mean a de­cent bar­gain for a canny buyer.

The down­side is it can also re­turn to bite you when sell­ing. That, of course, de­pends on how long you keep it — the longer, the less re­sale pain.

From the feed­back, it seems there are no such con­cerns about keep­ing the Fluence longterm. There are no ma­jor is­sues to sig­nal fu­ture melt­downs.

The key things to do be­fore buy­ing a Fluence are to check the ser­vice his­tory to make sure it hasn’t been ne­glected and to check elec­tri­cal items.

When tak­ing a test drive, pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the way the CVT drives. These trans­mis­sions dif­fer from the con­ven­tional au­to­matic — first im­pres­sions are that it’s noisy and revs too high, and doesn’t go. If you haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced a CVT be­fore it can take some get­ting used to, but once you do it’s not an is­sue.

While test-driv­ing the car it’s a must that you pay close at­ten­tion to the CVT, ob­serv­ing any­thing that might sug­gest a prob­lem. Shud­der­ing is the most com­mon con­cern with CVTs, it’s mostly felt as you take off from a stand­still.

OWN­ERS SAY

Sharon Willing­ham My hus­band and I drive Flu­ences. Both are 2011 mod­els that have done about 50,000km and we are very happy with them. It is un­usual for us to hold on to a car for more than three years, we usu­ally turn them over more fre­quently than that. The only is­sue we have had has been the fuel gauge, which in­cor­rectly showed the fuel level. We liked the five-year war­ranty, the fiveyear road­side as­sis­tance, and ap­pre­ci­ate the ser­vic­ing every 12 months. We have not found any­thing that comes close to match­ing them.

David and Ruth Clark We have had two Flu­ences. We have found them eco­nom­i­cal, safe and we love the large rec­tan­gu­lar boots that are great for in­ter­state trips and school runs with our grand­kids.

Ben El­tring­ham I had never owned a Re­nault, so switch­ing from my Maz­das was a gam­ble, but it’s been great. It’s com­fort­able on long trips, per­forms OK, and is eco­nom­i­cal.

David Mor­ri­son I have found the Fluence to be quiet and com­fort­able and nice to drive. The en­gine per­forms well enough, but I’m not taken with the CVT. It’s the first CVT I have had and I feel it’s soft and noisy when pushed.

SMITHY SAYS

Not for ev­ery­one but it’s a de­cent car and can be a used bar­gain.

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