Looks aren’t everything

Renault certainly chose a strange name for their new sedan. Fluence sounds like an unmentionable bodily function, but Wikipedia ­describes its meaning (in physics) as “the flux (either particle or radiative flux) integrated over time”. Whatever the heck that means!

The Fluence concept car was first revealed in 2004 at the Louis Vuitton Car Elegance Classic in the UK. That car looked promising and suitably futuristic, like something I would want to drive.

Alas, the complete opposite was made for production and launched locally.

In the past few years, Renault South Africa has brought some lovely cars to the local market with the likes of the new Mégane, Renault Sport RS models, the Clio RS and even the Twingo. Racy cars with good looks... and then this comes along.

The new Fluence looks like an old Mégane II with a fresh face. The rear, though, is very ­similar to the older car with the same bulbous, high-off-the-ground look. Bland and boring.

Launched with two petrol ­engines, there are three models available in the range: two 1.6-litre Expression and Dynamique models, and a 2.0-litre Privilege model.

Once you get over its pedestrian looks, its not bad for a daily-use family car. The entry-level model comes with six airbags and a built-in TomTom navigation system.

It also has cloth seats and 16-inch alloy wheels. It’s comfortable behind the wheel, the interior is neat and tidy with an uncluttered centre console. The performance was a tad disappointing as the ­engine felt rather weak.

The 2.0-litre engine is the same one found in the Nissan Qashqai. But the Fluence is much better and smoother to drive and ­includes leather seats, dual-zone aircon, 17-inch wheels, ­reverse-parking sensors, heated side mirrors and electronic stability programme.

A highlight is the 3D Arkamys audio system with eight speakers.

The Fluence will compete against the Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda3, Ford Focus and Toyota ­Corolla – most of which are much better looking.

However, the Fluence comes with more standard features and it’s difficult to find a good 2.0-litre for under R250 000.

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