Renault launched the facelifted Fluence last month. The Fluence gets a new face with revised headlamps and bumpers and the company's new design language grille. The insides reflect a few changes as well with a new soft feel finish for the dash and a new metal finish that replaces the old faux wood trim. The dials have also been tweaked and there's a new eight speaker sound system as well. We spent a day driving it and discovered that it feels quite the same as before, which isn't surprising considering that underneath the new skin lies the same 110PS diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox.
The Fluence continues to be a great car in terms of comfort, looks and is a good package. But it will do little for Renault in India. Cars like the Fluence, Scala, Pulse and Koleos account for a small portion of Renault's business. The French company has only tasted real success with its Duster SUV that has been widely accepted and sought after. But now even the Duster is coming under attack from vehicles like the Nissan Terrano and Ford EcoSport. Sales are still strong but they have eroded since the EcoSport came out and they will further be affected when Maruti's and Mahindra's impending compact SUVs go on sale. There's also the fact that despite all these vehicles, the Mahindra Scorpio still records the highest numbers in the category.
So what does Renault have in store for the future? Well for starters there's the Duster facelift, but the one we're more eagerly waiting for is the Duster 4x4. We know plenty of people who are impressed with the Duster but want a 4x4 option. Renault should find plenty more buyers with that car.
Perhaps the bigger news is that Renault is planning to bring the Dacia Lodgy MUV to India and according to sources that should happen by the end of this year. The Lodgy is a medium sized van that spans 4.5m in length and is 1.75m wide. It will be branded as a Renault and will run the 1.5-litre K9K diesel which puts it squarely against the Nissan Evalia and Chevrolet Enjoy. The MUV market in India is witnessing a surge in demand and the Lodgy could see Renault add another big seller to its product portfolio.