Renault Fluence Z E opens electric cars up to the frugal but willing

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RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars

Renault Fluence Z.E. opens electric cars up to the frugal but willing

By John Simpson 06 March 2012

When an innovation makes a splash on the scale seen with the launch of Nissan ’s LEAF, it is usually just a matter of time before imitations begin to emerge.

Putting Renault ’s zero-emissions Fluence saloon toe-to-toe with the LEAF seems unfair as the French present something which is clearly pitched at buyers ready and willing to give electric models a shot but are priced out of the showroom by the LEAF’s £26k+ outlay.

What the Fluence Z.E. does is open up electric cars to a wider market but that lower price tag (£18,395 on the road) inevitably results in cutbacks on the standard set by Nissan .

With lower quality materials and plastics (tinny doors, wobbly gearstick), Renault ’s fully electric effort may not be as well put-together as the LEAF, blatantly omitting some of the bells and whistles – most notably, the all-singing, all-dancing sat-nav replaced by an awkward and inferior alternative — but company car drivers will still be won over by how the Fluence seemingly glides along the road with a drive that, despite a lower top speed, seems to outpace the LEAF, easily matching it for handling.

As quiet as a mouse on mute

Although cheek-wobbling performance would compromise the whole point of an electric vehicle, the Fluence Z.E. still manages to pack impressive acceleration, picking up speed at a pace that seems to deceive the 13.7 second 0-62mph time reported on the spec sheet.

Even when putting its performance to the test, the Fluence Z.E. is almost as quiet as a mouse on mute with just a delicate whir and the obligatory tyre noise to be heard; a silence which only compliments the effortless pull and suave ride.

There are the same tax benefits with the Fluence Z.E. as its fully electric counterparts so businesses can forget about forking out for road tax, the Congestion Charge, National Insurance contributions and most appealingly, fuel.

There is however the battery rental to consider instead — at £92 a month on a three year, 12,000 miles a year contract – along with the electricity required to fuel it, but these new costs fail to impede on the vital savings available.

RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars

For space, the Fluence Z.E. is physically bigger than the competition. It’s a little bit longer and a tidgey bit wider than the LEAF (by 3cm in both cases) which means an extra bit of elbow room for everybody.

The interior may be a bit grey – colour wise and in the design sense – but for space and comfort, it’s hard to argue with more than ample head and legroom.

It’s in the boot however where the Fluence is let down spatially. That aforementioned battery has got to go somewhere and that somewhere is at the rear, dominating much of the boot space. The most dislikeable point of the Fluence perhaps in the view of the company car driver but if the size of the boot is the most offensive attribute we can mention then Renault have certainly played it well with their first foray into electric vehicles (along with the Kangoo van Z.E).

Safety spec includes Electronic Stability Control, ABS and Electronic BRAKE Distribution, however it fell short in Euro NCAP’s view who awarded it just four stars, frowning on the insufficient driver airbag and knee-knocking dashboard structure.

Failing to grab that all important fifth star, even after retests, puts it at an instant disadvantage when squaring up to the top-scoring LEAF; luckily it has that £7k undercut and buyers are more likely to look at the price of a model before the safety rating.

All in all, Renault ’s Fluence Z.E. is a worthwhile investment for those looking to invest in electric vehicles. The performance, handling and cabin space will certainly please the average business car driver while the price tag and running costs will tick most fleet managers’ boxes too.

RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars

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