I had to listen to navigation instructions in Spanish for almost an hour when I was test driving the Renault Fluence because I was fiddling with the integrated Carminat TomTom navigation system when I dropped the remote control.
It rolled somewhere under the seat and I couldn’t retrieve it immediately because of the traffic jam I was inching along in.
This new compact sedan has a mixed heritage of French, Japanese and Korean – a production of the Renault-Nissan alliance in the Samsung factory in Busan, Korea.
Suiting its multi-national nature, the navigation system provides an entire range of languages and dialects to cater to the different races, nationalities and cultures. It gets more specific, offering the English language in different accents, such as UK English and US English.
Dialects like Hokkien and Cantonese will probably be useful for senior folks, but out of curiosity I tried it just to see if I could understand. It was here while I was trying out the different languages and dialects when I accidentally dropped the remote control and thus had to drive along to Spanish directions.
Having a remote control for the navigation system is useful when your passengers can take their time to key in the address as you drive. But if you’re travelling alone or like in my case, drop the remote control, things get a bit sticky.
Fortunately, the audio system as well as the Bluetooth connection for mobile phones can be accessed through the fingertip remote control behind the steering wheel. Like other typical in-car Bluetooth connection systems, your mobile phone can be paired with the car’s Bluetooth, enabling you to make and receive calls with the in-car system.
Something unique about the in-car Bluetooth system is that it can pair up to five devices. Of course, you cannot have two people holding conversations at the same time but at least you don’t have to reconfigure the connection each and every time you get into the car.
The Fluence is huge in terms of space. It has 530 litres of boot space and more than 23 litres of storage space within the cabin, including a 2.2-litre centre console cubby and a 9-litre chilled glove box which is seemingly shallow but actually goes deep in.
At 4,620mm long, 1,809mm wide and 1,479mm high with a wheelbase of 2,702mm, the Fluence has generous space for its passengers both in front and in the back. However, the roof slopes in such a way that taller adults might feel a bit compressed.
Like other Renault models, the key is in the form of a card with hands-free entry and keyless ignition. Automatic headlights, automatic wipers, front fog lamps and dual-zone climate control air-conditioning are some other convenient features standard on the Fluence.
The 1.6-litre 16-valve four-cylinder engine delivers its power through a six-speed continuously variable transmission (compared to other competitors in its class who are on four-speed gearboxes) and takes 11 seconds to get from zero to 100 kilometres per hour.
Comfort-focused and space-generous, don’t expect extreme dynamic handling from the Fluence. It does give a decent drive despite the rather light but accurate variable assist power steering.
Safety is another strength of the Fluence as it comes with no less than six airbags, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist and three-point seat belt with load limiters.
Comfortable and safe with a pleasant drive, the Fluence gives an edge above its Asian counterparts with its broader dimensions and solid build quality. All you need is just a little under $100,000.
Renault Fluence 1.6 (A)
Engine: 1,598cc 16-valve 4-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed CVT
Max Power: 112bhp at 6,000rpm
Max Torque: 156Nm at 4,400rpm
0-100km/h: 11.0 secs
Top Speed: 185km/h
Price: $98,888 with COE (as at 9 Dec 2010)
Distributor: Wearnes Automotive