Motors review: Renault Fluence ZE
RENAULT and its partner Nissan are investing millions in electric vehicles. Nissan’s LEAF family car and Renault’s Kangoo ZE (zero emission) electric van has now been joined by Renault’s Fluence ZE and by the end of the year Renault will have the Twizy electric two-seater and the Clio-sized Zoe five-door.
Seen here is the Fluence ZE, built in Turkey using the LEAF’s engine (made by Continental in Germany) with a battery unit from Japan. Prices start at £17,745 for the skimpily kitted Expression + (after the government’s electric vehicle grant of £5,000 has been deducted). This is much lower than the LEAF, which is £25,990 after the grant deduction. Renault’s cheaper Turkish production will help prices but with Renault you rent the battery rather than buy it outright.
Battery rental depends on duration and mileage. A year’s rental and 6,000 miles costs £96 a month. Supposing you decide to keep the car for two years and drive 6,000 miles a year then you will pay a monthly rental of £86. The charge would rise to £99 a month for 9,000 miles a year. The deal includes recovery should you break down or run out of electricity. The hire period and mileage can be changed until three months before it ends. The lowest monthly rate of £76 is for rental from three to five years and 6,000 miles a year. Ramp that up to 12,000 miles a year and the monthly rate is £103.
You recharge the battery at home, the office or at the public charging points which are still thin on the ground. The socket is behind a flap in the front wing. The motor is an impressive silvery block under the bonnet.
Fluence ZE is a roomy five-seat saloon, a longer version of a conventionally powered Fluence which is not sold in Great Britain. Unlike the LEAF, its battery pack is stored vertically in the boot – limiting the load depth and the size of your luggage.
The extended boot is rather unbalanced to the eye but is necessary to give decent luggage space. The added weight and length and raised centre of gravity in its rump give the Fluence ZE a curious waggy feel if you twitch the steering wheel. However, there is more feel in the steering than in, say, a Megane, and this helps in judging the handling.
It has an eery silence when setting off, accompanied at higher speed by a whistle. Electric motors give almost immediate acceleration and the Fluence is quickly away, maybe with a spot of wheel scrabble as the torque bites, then fading to settle on a 0-62mph time of 13.7 seconds. Take your foot off the gas – sorry, the spark – and the engine braking is pronounced. This deceleration charges the battery.
The battery charge level is shown on a large dial, with a smaller gauge showing the rate of power use. Using air conditioning, the heater, lights, the audio and the wipers all take their toll on the car’s range. It is one of the few new cars without daylight running lights – getting in just before they became mandatory.
Verdict: Electric car sales in the UK are merely in the hundreds, despite the hype. They are expensive and of limited appeal because of their range. The Fluence looks good but is a mediocre drive with a boot space obstructed by the battery pack.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West