MY TIME with the Fluence has come to an end with a bang. Literally, because some fool has cracked the mirror housing by driving past too close and whacking it with their own.
Obviously there was no note and it’s added a rather sour tint to my final month with the car, but there have been lots of positives too. It’s totting-up month and the good news is that even without a charging socket on my house I’ve managed to run the Fluence for less than seven pence per mile. Bargain.
I’ve been paying special attention to the things that impressed me most over the last six months and the overwhelming sensation when driving it is one of peace and quiet – of a kind you don’t even get in expensive hybrids. It’s the complete lack of drivetrain vibrations that does it. You don’t realise how much difference losing them makes, but it’s huge.
Then there’s the quietness of the suspension. It’s not the plushest and often feels a bit too firm, but there’s no denying that even when a wheel gets a fair whack from one of the potholes my local council is determined to pretend doesn’t exist, the suspension stays quieter than the setups on many much more expensive cars.
Range anxiety has all but disappeared. These days I’m happy to barrel along to work and back if the roads are clear, without fear of running out of juice. The one problem that the British public in particular will find very tricky to get past is the frequency at which the Fluence needs attention. We’re talking a recharge every 70 miles or so with normal, care-free urban use, and for some people that’s just too often, even if it does only equate to a recharge every four or five days.
Despite being pretty forward thinking, the Fluence is pleasantly old-hat in one or two ways, with a traditional mechanical handbrake and pull-up sun blinds for the rear side windows. You do get a lot of gadgets though, and despite them all technically using electricity, it’s so little an amount compared to what it takes to power the front wheels that the dual-zone climate control, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control, automatic lights and dusk-sensing wipers really have no perceptible impact on the car’s range.
It has quite a turn of speed around town when you really ask for it. The throttle is set up to make it easier to use less power, which translates as the pedal needs a good shove to access the impressive wave of electric torque. Yes you’ll see the power needle swing downwards faster if you do that, but the point is that you really can use it however you want to around town and still have more than enough charge to last the day.
The restricted boot size isn’t even a problem either. You look into it for the first time and suck your breath in between your teeth, but the reality is that as a town-biased car you tend not to need to jam three or four large cases in there. For an average weekly shop there’s just enough room – no less than in a typical supermini.
Having tested it four-up and found that the extra weight has little or no effect on the way the Fluence drives, that’s another string to its bow. As a school run car it does very well, with doors that open wide and allow easy access to the kids and any child seats.
Speaking of the doors, their rest points are such that it’s usually quite easy to get in and out without taking lumps out of the neighbouring car. Bay spaces that might be a little too tight for comfort are manageable in the Fluence, with the parking sensors on this Dynamique model taking care of keeping the rear end undamaged.
It’s been really very easy to get on with. The automatic lights turn on and off at the right ambient light levels, the ride is smooth most of the time and it’s one of the most relaxing cars I’ve ever driven, at any price point. When it’s driven up into a trailer and sent home to Renault I know I’ll feel a pang of loss. It’s been a brilliant companion over the months. Flawed, but brilliant.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Renault Fluence Z.E Dynamique, £18,395 on the road (£20,324 as tested).Motor: Synchronous electric motor producing 94bhp and 167lb.ft.Battery capacity: 22kWh.Performance: Top speed 84mph (limited), 0-62mph in 13.7 seconds.Cost per mile (mileage only): 6.7p
Average range: Approx 75 miles.