What is it?
The future, apparently. Or at least the start of Renault’s version of it. The firm has slashed more than half its models from its UK line-up to refocus on its core models (Twingo, Clio, Mégane and Scenic) and free up space for its imminent range of electric vehicles.
The Fluence ZE is the first of four new electric Renaults to arrive in the UK, and this is our first drive of it on UK roads. It is an electric conversion of the four-door Fluence saloon sold in select markets.
So gone is the conventional drivetrain and in its place are a 95bhp, 166lb ft electric motor, single-speed transmission and a lithium-ion 22kWh battery pack. The battery pack’s location behind the rear seats means the Fluence is 13cm longer than its combustion-engined equivalent.
No fast charge facility is available yet for the Fluence, so a full recharge will take up to eight hours when you’ve exhausted the claimed maximum range of up to 115 miles.
What’s it like?
If electric cars are indeed to play a role in the future of motoring, then it’s a shame this particular one looks so much like the present. While the Twizy and Zoe electric vehicles due on sale by the end of the year truly look interesting and innovative, the Fluence does not.
It’s a theme that continues inside. The switchgear will be familiar to anyone who’s spent time in a Megane, and the only real clue as to this vehicle’s powertrain is in the new instrument panel.
A big dial on the left shows how much range you have left, and there’s also a conventional speedometer and a dial to show how much of the electric motor’s power you are tapping into. Interior space is excellent and both front and rear passengers are well catered for.
Like all modern electric vehicles, the Fluence’s step off is brisk as all 166lb ft of torque is instantly available. You never have a problem exploiting a gap in the traffic, although acceleration does tail off once you reach around 40mph.
Lift off the accelerator and the Fluence does slow rather rapidly as kinetic energy is recovered. It’s an odd feeling, but get used to it and look far enough ahead up the road and it’s possible to drive the Fluence around town with just the one pedal.