Lost in translation
French sedan failed to make an impact when new but it could prove a smart buy as a used car
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.
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.
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.
Not for everyone but it’s a decent car and can be a used bargain.