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Review

Free the Fluence, save the rainforests (Renault Fluence Z.E. long term test month 3) car review

23/07/12

IT’S FINALLY happened. My eco-patience has worn out and this month I’ve been using the Fluence in anger… sort of.

It’s actually been quite freeing, because all of a sudden I’ve started to appreciate more of the Fluence’s strong points and it’s still costing peanuts to run.

The thing is, in busy traffic people get impatient and whenever space opens up in front of them, they go for it. It makes it hard to gently stroke the Fluence along admiring its silence, because you end up being cut up by lane-changers time and again.

So the teddy was thrown out of the pram, the dummy was spat out and I stamped my feet. Well, my right foot at least, and on the accelerator pedal. The motor majors on huge low and midrange torque rather than top-end power, so in traffic the Fluence is in its element.

In fact, using more right boot around town doesn’t use that much more electricity overall, and the extra pace you can make around the area makes the whole experience more relaxing. It’s surprisingly stressful to try to eke out every last metre out of each kilowatt of power, and letting my hair down was a sweet relief.

It actually feels like a much better all-round car now that I’m not driving like Miss Daisy. The torque is a major plus, but it’s pretty nice to drive. The one niggle is that the suspension could – and arguably should – be a bit more supple, but it goes, stops and turns quite well. The vast majority of people wouldn’t notice any difference between the Z.E. and a normal compact family car.

Aside from the quiet, of course. It’s still as impressive as ever, especially around multi-storey car parks where the lack of noise is eerie. I’ve been seeing a lot of those lately, as my increased mileage has seen me visit the public charging bays quite a lot.

I don’t have the ideal solution to run this car like a dream. That would be a driveway and a charging station on my wall, which would mean cheap overnight charges and a full battery in the morning.

I’m tempted to run the car’s three-pin EVSE cable from the roadside in through a downstairs window to benefit from cheaper charges at home, but trailing cables across public pavements is a risky business.

At present the Fluence is returning around 75 miles to a full charge, which is less than the 100 miles Renault claims but I’ve stopped treating the car like a priceless Ming vase. Funnily enough, though, it seems to be covering a few more miles per charge than it was when it was new.

Anyway, the main thing is that it’s just nice to be able to put my foot down when I need to and properly keep pace with traffic – or leave it behind. That instant torque delivery makes the Fluence deceptively rapid up to 40mph or so.

Other things I’ve been enjoying with the Fluence this month have been some of its in-built curiosities, like the ability to change the car icon on the TomTom sat-nav. So far I’ve been the Fluence Z.E., Twizy Z.E., classic Alpine A110 and the Renaultsport Clio 200. It’s a small thing but it’s a welcome little injection of playfulness.

Not so good is the car’s lack of useful cupholders. There are two beyond the gear selector in the centre console, but they can’t take soft drink cups from fast food outlets because the console encroaches on the cup space too much. At least the felt-bottomed central storage bin is a good place to drop oddments.

In terms of running costs it’s only incurring parking fees, and for a typical six-hour daytime charge (I rarely let it go too near flat where the charge time can be over eight hours) I pay £6.50. That three-quarter charge covers around 60 miles with genuinely normal driving, which equates to around 60mpg in financial terms. Choosing an overnight £2 charge nets equivalent ‘fuel economy’ approaching 250mpg.

In the kind of driving I’ve been doing in the Fluence, 45mpg would be a realistic maximum for a similar-sized diesel, making the electric car look rather good value. Plus, you always have the same parking space available at the car park. Honestly, it’s like being a VIP.

I’ve really enjoyed having the Fluence around this month. The boot was big enough to transport a boxed microwave and a small set of bathroom drawers, the totally relaxed way it negotiates traffic is brilliant, and the fact I can drive it relatively quickly and still pay under the odds to run it is superb. I do wish it looked like a Ferrari, though… 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): 7p Average range: Approx 75 miles.

  • Engines
  • Power
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups
  • Airbags
  • Seats

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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