Going the extra mile

The product growth of Renault in South Africa to provide a fleet solution across all the major sectors stepped up with the introduction of the Fluence into what we refer to as the Medium Lower category, but the story about this car actually goes back to 2004.

In June of 2004 Renault used the Louis Vuitton Classic, Great Britain as a platform to launch its latest concept, the Fluence.

At the time, Renault’s head of design, Patrick le Quément, said: “Fluence is both a drawing and a sculpture. It blends bearing, generosity, elegance and fluidity.”

The concept car was a 4,6-metre coupé with voluptuous forms sculpted from simple, structured lines, but it was only in 2009 the concept became reality in the form of the Fluence as a four-door saloon designed with the aim of standing out as the most attractive car of its class.

This new, four-door saloon is 4,62 metres long and its size and generous levels of standard equipment place it halfway between the C segment, for compact family cars, and the segment immediately above.

Streamlined headlights herald the start of an elegant waistline, which sweeps harmoniously alongFluence’s sides to the boot. The surround and chromed grille of the upper air intake embellish the car’s front-end looks with a sporting flourish, while Renault Fluence’s status-enhancing appeal is heightened by its sculptured wheel arches and long bonnet. At the rear, the horizontal, two-part lights allow a generous boot aperture and reinforce the car’s thoroughly modern styling.

The sense of strength and safety is reinforced by the carefully proportioned balance between the windows and the large surface area of the doors, the lower part of which incorporates protective panels. Seen from the side, a distinctive character line flows rearward from the rounded front wings before emphasizing the solid rear haunches.

Renault Fluence creates an impression of quality, and particular attention has been paid to the fit and finish of body panels (windscreen pillars and refuelling flap, for example). The rear bumper incorporates discreet parking sensors. At rest, the windscreen wipers are tucked away behind the bonnet’s upper edge, partly for aesthetic reasons, but also to reduce wind noise and improve aerodynamic efficiency.

In the cabin, the airy facia design incorporates uncluttered lines complemented by the sweep of the dashboard trim strip. Significant care went into choosing the ideal materials and finish: the integrated upper dashboard cowling has a soft-touch finish, yet it is also resistant to everyday knocks and exposure to direct sunlight.

For the South Africa market, Fluence is offered in three derivatives – the 1,6-litre Dynamic or Expression and the 2,0-litre Privilege. All three options are petrol-driven with the 1 598 cm3 engines offering 81 kW at 6 000 r/min and 156 Nm at 4 400 r/min. The Privilege has a  1 997 cm3 engine with 105 kW on tap at 6 000 r/min and 195 Nm of torque from 3 750 r/min.

All versions have 5-speed manual gearboxes, electrically assisted power steering and feature a MacPherson strut type front suspension with torsion beam axle at the rear.

The sense of on board comfort is embellished by attention to detail in the realm of reduced noise levels and high standards of interior space, including class-topping elbow room (1,480 mm at the front, 1,475 mm at the rear).

Renault Fluence’s cabin provides more than 23 litres of stowage space, including a 2,2-litre centre console and a 2,6-litre bin in each front door. The 530-dm3 boot capacity is one of the biggest in its class. Access is facilitated by a low sill and a large (1 020 mm) aperture, which has been made possible by incorporating one part of the rear light cluster within the boot lid.

All models have a comprehensive range of leading safety features including anti-lock braking with EBD, front, side and curtain air bags, five three-point seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters. The integrated Carminat TomTom navigation system is standard on all models and is integrated within the dashboard for quality and security. It is also easy to update and extend by simply linking its SD card to the internet.

Recently the French company was named the ‘Most Improved Fleet Manufacturer’ at the Fleet News Awards, recognition of  the series of initiatives which it has launched to enhance its fleet offering in the last year, including cost reduction and continued improvements in product and service quality.

According to the judges:  “Renault’s efforts in listening to what fleet operators want and going the extra mile to deliver it has resulted in a transformation in how it is now perceived in the industry.”

Those efforts form part of a global Renault plan known as Renault 2016 – Drive the Change, founded on Renault’s ambition to make sustainable mobility accessible to all. This strategic plan covers a six-year period with a mid-term review at the end of 2013. This will allow Renault to build a long-term strategic outlook to ensure continuity in operations and to establish precise, quantified priorities.

The Renault group will work on seven key levers to meet these objectives, these being to pursue the innovation policy, strengthen the product offer, reinforce the image of the Renault brand, ensure the excellence of the distribution network in customer relations, control investment and R&D expenditure, reduce costs and to maintain positions in Europe and pursue growth internationally.

Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive Officer of Renault, says: “The success of Renault 2016 – Drive the Change relies a more competitive Renault meeting stakeholder’s expectations; a strong Renault with a powerful brand image and a benchmark level of quality and services; a sustainable Renault in line with the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century.”

Courtesy: Fleet magazine

Colin Windell is Editor of Fleet Magazine

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