Renault are planning an onslaught on the EV market and this is the vehicle leading the charge. James Batchelor reports
One year on from alliance partner Nissan and the launch of its Leaf, Renault now brings us its first electric car – and it’s a whole £8,500 cheaper than the Japanese firm’s offering. The Fluence is 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.
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.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
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.
WHAT DO THE PRESS THINK OF IT?
Autocar were enthusiastic saying the Fluence ‘is a solid way of kicking off Renault’s commitment to an all- electric range of vehicles, and bodes well for the Twizy and Zoe’, while Auto Express said: ‘Those that do opt for a Fluence ZE will be rewarded with an electric car that comes with very few compromises. And unlike most other electric vehicles it doesn’t carry an astronomical price-tag.’
WHAT DO WE THINK OF IT?
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 eccentric Twizy and Zoe on the way, the French firm may well have cracked it.