A Sombre Introduction
The decision go "go electric" was taken at Christmas and by the New Year I had put my money down on a Fluence, an ex-Renault car with 300 miles on the clock. I liked the styling and the space, the no-nonsense design compared with the Leaf.
Trying to obtain a British Gas charge point was frustrating, a five week delay before completion. In the meantime I ordered a (extra £415) 13A cable and when this arrived the car was duly dispatched to me. While Renault pay for the charge unit British Gas managed to squeeze an extra £450 from me for "extra work". The wall charger is faster, and according to Renault, a lot safer than using a 13A socket but it does cost a helluva lot of dosh.
The battery agreement (£76 per month for 3 years for starters) was completed and sent off by the dealer but, to date, Renault Finance have failed to respond. I guess one day I will get a whopping backdated bill!
The car is a delight to drive, quiet of course, and I cannot understand why the press almost universally have been unkind to the Fluence, prefering on the Leaf. They go on about the boot space yet this is only marginally smaller than the Leaf's. I suspect Renault's marketing has let the car down, and with worldwide sales at the low end of disappointing I wonder if the car will be sidelined once the Zoe is available.
For the next two weeks I very gently cruised the lanes, getting the feel and trying to find the true range of the car under such use in cold weather. The figure, for those who care, is 79 miles per charge. The plan, to then speed up to normal and spot the difference. The official test figure of 115 is, as one might expect, wildly optimistic but is theoretically higher than the Leaf.
March came in with a bang. Well, actually no sound at all, nor any brakes. Braking for traffic on a roundabout the pedal went solid and WARNING, BRAKE FAILURE - STOP appeared on the dash. If only I could! Luckily I was going slowly and the regenerative braking just performed its task in avoiding a prang. Yesterday, one month later, I picked up the car from the dealer with a new brake vacuum pump installed. Apparently Renault have advised dealers to change the pump when cars come in for service. As this could be a year or more away, do they expect drivers to carry on using their cars without being advised there's a possibility of brake failure? Not good, in my opinion.
What else to report? Confusion, misinformation and silence. I have many queries concerning features and usability and, try as hard as I might, no answers have been forthcoming, from dealer or Renault themselves. They really do need to get their act together; buying into new technology can be quite unnerving and lack of information can only make matters worse. I need to know simple things, like how to pair my phone, how to time the battery charging to take advantage of offpeak electricity, how to use the mobile phone app...... The brochure hints at all these things but no explanation is forthcoming. And Marshalls in Milton Keynes (full marks so far) say Renault customer service is the best in the business so what are the others like? I guess the car is so rare in the UK that information from Renault France is still stuck in the channel.
The good points so far: comfort, smoothness, ease of driving. The bad points: those mentioned above - and my local dealer, who for now shall be nameless but it's NOT Marshalls. It's early days and if only Spring would arrive I would get out and about and enjoy myself. More later.
Average charge (very gentle/very cold) 79