The Fluence comes with an attractive after-sales package.
The non-national C-segment sedan market in Malaysia is a hotly contested arena, with attractive offerings from American, Korean, European and Japanese marques.
Now, buyers are even more spoilt for choice with the recent entry of the 2.0-litre Renault Fluence.
With such fierce competition, it came as no surprise to us that the locally assembled Fluence has abundant comfort and safety features as well as a very attractive after-sales package to lure buyers.
Priced at RM115,000 on-the-road without insurance, the Fluence has a best-in-class warranty package.
This includes a five-year manufacturer’s warranty with unlimited mileage, free maintenance for parts and labour for the first 40,000km or two years, one-year Renault genuine parts warranty, complimentary pick-up service, a mobility solution and nationwide 24/7 roadside assistance.
The mobility solution from TC Euro Cars Sdn Bhd (TCEC), the franchise holder for Renault vehicles, entails providing a car for the owner if the Fluence needs to be in the workshop for more than 48 hours due to parts being unavailable.
We were told by a TCEC spokesperson that this after-sales package is worth a few thousand ringgit.
"We want to reduce hassle and car maintenance costs for Fluence buyers," said the spokesperson.
It is obvious that TCEC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd, has high hopes concerning the sales of the Fluence which was developed using the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s extensive engineering experience.
Due to the competitive dynamics of global automotive markets, the CKD (completely knocked-down) packs for the Fluence are supplied from Korea by Renault Samsung Motors (RSM) which is part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
In Korea, the Fluence is marketed as the SM3.
We are impressed by the generous amount of kit offered with the Fluence, which is assembled at the Tan Chong Motor Assemblies plant in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur.
Besides its generous level of safety features, the list of goodies include the leather upholstery, dual-zone air-conditioning, hands-free card with remote central locking, engine start and stop button, automatic headlamps and wipers, cruise control, speed regulator-limiter and rear air-conditioning vents.
Both the front door windows have a powered one-touch up/down feature.
The doors closed with a solid and reassuring "thud" - providing that satisfying continental car aspect.
It also has a Renault R-Link multimedia system with a seven-inch touchscreen display, reverse camera and navigation system as well as voice commands, and a six-speaker audio system with 3D surround sound technology by Arkamys, and CD/MP3 playback with USB and Bluetooth.
In our opinion, the dashboard has an understated design that does not do justice to the Fluence's barnful of premium features.
We like the dark-themed leather-clad interior, which has upmarket touches such as the digital speedometer and chrome finish on the door handles.
The car has a 2,702mm wheelbase and a generous 530-litre boot which is useful for bulky items, while its cabin is said to be among the largest in class.
We found ample elbow and legroom for 1.7-metre adults, as well as lots of storage options like cup holders, compartments, front door bins and front seat-back netting.
We also think that some of the cockpit functions and layout will take a bit of getting used to (for example, audio volume control or mute switch is located rearwards of the steering wheel), but this is not a deal-breaker.
It can be fun to learn about comfort features such as the Renault hands-free card which provides automatic central locking as the card-holder walks away from the car.
In terms of sporty or spirited driving, the Fluence does not offer the thrills associated with the famed Renault Sport (RS) models.
But when it comes to ride comfort, the Fluence excels at absorbing and dampening road shocks.
Running on 205/55 R17 tyres, it has a front MacPherson-type strut suspension and rear torsion beam, and its chassis is tuned to deliver high levels of comfort.
We drove it over some of the worst potholed and damaged roads in Klang and Puchong, and we daresay it provided segment-leading comfort levels.
At highway speeds, it is a refined and quiet cruiser - road and tyre noise intrusion is quite muted, which allowed us to better enjoy the high-quality Arkamys audio system.
When the car is moving at 110kph, we noted that the tachometer needle was at 2,400 to 2,500rpm.
At 80kph, the needle was at 1,900rpm.
The Fluence is the sort of car that does not kindle immediate excitement, but it did grow quickly on us after we experienced its high comfort levels and premium features.
With its high-end package, generous appointments, refined drive quality and tempting after-sales deal, the Fluence offers a lot for your hard earned money.
It is certainly among our top choices on the shopping list for C-segment family sedans.
Engine: 1,997cc 16-valve
Maximum power: 143hp at 6,000rpm
Maximum torque: 195Nm at 3,700rpm
Transmission: X-Tronic continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Acceleration (0 to 100kph): 10.1 seconds
Standard features: Driver and passenger airbags, front and rear head level airbags, lateral airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist, electronic stability programme (ESP) with anti-skid regulation (ASR) and understeer control function, cruise control, reverse camera and navigation system
Price: RM115,000 on-the-road without insurance