From £22,195
A comfortable, practical and impressive EV and a solid way to kick off Renault’s commitment to an all-electric range

Our Verdict

Renault Fluence

The Renault Fluenze ZE is a C-segment saloon and is a solid way to kick off Renault's electric vehicle product offensive

  • First Drive

    Renault Fluence ZE

    First electric Renault isn’t likely to make much of a mark in the UK
  • First Drive

    Renault Fluence ZE

    A comfortable, practical and impressive EV and a solid way to kick off Renault’s commitment to an all-electric range
Matt Burt
18 October 2011

What is it?

Together with the Kangoo ZE light commercial van, the Renault Fluence ZE is part of the first wave of electric vehicles from the French manufacturer.

At 4748mm, the ZE is 130mm longer than the standard car to allow the lithium-ion batteries (280kg of them) to be located behind the rear seats. Compared to a regular Fluence the electric version has a more substantial rear overhang.

The front grille design has been altered and the rear bumper features a diffuser. This car rides on low-resistance Goodyear tyres and aero-efficient wheels.

Cosmetic tweaks include a new rear light cluster, a blue tint to the lights, fog light surrounds and badging, plus chrome highlighting on the boot lid.

What’s it like?

You get a spacious cabin and plenty of legroom front and rear. Despite the vertical stacking of the battery pack behind the rear seats, the size of the boot is the same at 317 litres, although the shape is made quite awkward by the battery.

The interior finishings are all of a good standard, with an emphasis on functionality, and the amount of technology on offer is impressive.

The main dashboard display comprises a gauge that shows the battery’s power, a conventional speedometer and an econometer that shows the current level of charge or discharge. Stamp the accelerator and the econometer’s needle leaps into the red; lift off during a downhill descent and it falls into the blue as the kinetic energy recovery system replenishes the battery.

To start the car you turn the key, which illuminates a green ‘go’ button on the dashboard display, then engage drive from the single-speed ‘box. The Fluence ZE moves away almost silently, with only a faint turbine-like whine.

The power delivery is seamless and gets you from a standstill to 30mph in 4.1s – almost two seconds faster than a standard Fluence. The linear acceleration feels like it could go on forever (it can’t, because the car is limited to 84mph).

The first challenge when driving the Fluence ZE is remembering that 166lb ft of torque is immediately at your disposal. Due to the lack of noise and urgency, it’s easy to forget that the car is capable of, say, pulling away from junctions in a hurry.

The recovery of kinetic energy during deceleration slows the car quite dramatically and takes some getting used to. After a while, you start incorporating the system’s characteristics into your driving style, anticipating traffic lights and junctions earlier and using the kinetic energy recovery system to slow down rather than the brake pedal.

In that respect, the Fluence ZE encourages you into a relaxed mode of driving, a feeling emphasised by super-light electric power steering. This isn’t a car suited to more sporty driving though: the suspension has been retuned to take into account the extra mass of the batteries – which takes the car to1605kg – but you can sense that weight when you press on.

Still, aggressive driving can play havoc with your range. Renault’s claim is 115 miles, although this can vary from 50 and 125 miles depending on driving conditions.

There are, however, features to increase efficiency. These include an Eco Mode that restricts the climate control and heating functions as well as a pre-heating and pre-air conditioning system, which can be remotely programmed whilst the car is still on charge.

An integrated TomTom satnav comes as standard and displays the nearest charging points, as well a radius of locations that can be reached on the car’s current charge. A full recharge takes between six and eight hours, so Renault recommends the use of a home or work charging point as the main power source.

Should I buy one?

If your daily drive is a short-ish urban commute, the Fluence ZE could be an option – particularly when you consider the economical benefits of no road tax, zero-rated benefit in kind tax and lower insurance and maintenance costs. In the right circumstances – using cheap off-peak overnight energy, for example – it can cost as little as £3 to ‘fill up’.

If, however, you tackle regular motorway thrashes, this probably won’t be the car for you.

Although you purchase the car, Renault owns the battery system, which is hired for a cost starting at £69.60 (including VAT). The Fluence ZE will go on sale here in mid-2012, priced £22,850 – or £17,850 when the government’s £5000 EV subsidy is factored in.

It is a solid way to kick off Renault’s commitment to an all-electric range of vehicles and bodes well for the Twizy and Zoe which will follow next year.

Renault Fluence Z.E Prime Time

Price: £22,850 (£17,850 with government EV subsidy); Top speed: 84mph (limited); 0-62: 13sec; Range: 115 miles; Charging time: 6-8 hours; Kerbweight: 1605kg; Motor type: synchronous electric with rotor coil; Batteries: 22kWh capacity; Power: 95bhp; Torque: 166lb ft; Transmission: single-speed auto.

Join the debate


19 October 2011

As it retains the EV's limitation of a range degraded by a heavy right foot it is still an EV fit mainly for city use, even the largest cities. (Eg: Los Angeles is approximately 33 miles square, a backbone of a mountain chain dividing it in two.) But a city EV calls into question its size. For me, and for many with parking issues and small garages, a narrow hatch back, or even a two seater with load carrying capacity, is all that's needed.

19 October 2011

From a financial point of view, this car makes a lot more sense than something like the Peugeot Ion. It even pushes it's Nissan Leaf relation close for value for money.

However, this is a big car and considering it's still only really useful for urban use (with the odd overnight stay longer journey), I'm not sure why Renault have gone down this route.



It's all about the twisties........

19 October 2011

Renault's ZE range really are making the rivals look very expensive indeed now...


19 October 2011

This makes the Nissan Leaf look very expensive. Well done Renault!

19 October 2011

I dont think a price comparison with the leaf is fair where you own the batteries outright. Having said that, leasing the batteries sounds a better idea until we know how long they really last. The rest of the car sounds decent enough, and i am quite impressed with the weight, considering the the battery pack. I agree that a saloon of isnt ideal for a town car though.

In the end i dont think the economics will add up against existing diesel and petrol powered alternatives, and thats after the government gives away £5,000 to start with, and then gets nothing for road tax or fuel duty.

19 October 2011

[quote TegTypeR]

It even pushes it's Nissan Leaf relation close for value for money.


Not sure I understand that. Was about to say Leaf makes a less compelling case for itself as each day passes. The Leaf costs £26k (£31k before grant) - the Renault costs £18k. Lets assume the battery lease cost is £80 month for 6000 miles over 3 years - that's just shy of £3k battery lease + £18k = £21k. That'd suggest it trashes the Leaf on value. It's also suggested the Renault may return more miles per charge.

Brave of Nissan to launch that car but as with any new tech, it's not long until someone supersedes it.

Only slight surprise is 4750mm seems too big for a car that's geared towards the urban commute. 4750mm was the size of my old V70 !!!

19 October 2011

It is a step in the right direction, but the battery leasing cost seems a tad steep. If the car was 17k less the government scheme (making it 12k) then that would be more acceptable. As it is, that's a minimum of £840 a year. My current car (granted it is a smart) would travel around 6200 miles for that price, which doesn't account for the 3 quid per charge.

840 / 33l tank x £1.339 per l = 19.15 full tanks

19.15 x average 325 miles per tank = 6223.75 miles

19 October 2011

The Fluence EV is longer than the Fluence. I thought the Fluence was electric only??

19 October 2011

[quote ronmcdonald]Only slight surprise is 4750mm seems too big for a car that's geared towards the urban commute[/quote] This car was designed more for the middle east where they are getting the quick drop scheme.

19 October 2011

Why has the main interior photo been flipped tomake it look like a RHD? The accelarator pedal and foot rest are clearly poistioned for an LHD car!


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