Brazilians prefer this size of car as a sedan, not a  hatchback

Brazilians prefer this size of car as a sedan, not a hatchback

Though Brazilian buyers have traditionally liked European brands, their choice of body style in the best selling compact and medium-compact segment is the opposite to that preferred in much of Europe.

Here, three-box (sedan) models are most popular in Brazil, a result of buying power and their typical use for lengthy travel requiring a large boot.

So Renault is importing from Argentina the successor to the Mégane saloon, previously built in São José dos Pinhais. The Fluence is an entirely new car whose basis is the Mégane III hatchback with wheelbase stretched 2.36 in. to 106.3 in. (same as the rival Honda Civic and Citroën C4 Pallas).

Renault now offers a far better equipped car for a lower price than the segment leading Toyota Corolla.

The first Mégane saloon sold poorly partly because it didn't offer a flexible-fuel engine and also because the two Japanese brands had built an image of dependability that left little room for competitors.

With the Fluence, Renault plans to sell some 20,000 units yearly and get an early slice of a segment yet to receive strong players like the upcoming Peugeot 408 and redesigned VW Jetta.

The dealer network has been intensively retrained and is more optimistic after Renault clinched 5% domestic market share this year to rank first among newcomers.

For R$60,000 (US$36,000) the entry Fluence Dynamique has six airbags as standard. In the Privilège – R$76,000 ($45,000) – a built-in Tom Tom GPS navigator is standard.

The car has improved mechanically with a slightly more powerful, all-aluminium two-litre/141bhp-on-ethanol Nissan engine. The automatic transmission is also Nissan’s, a torque converter CVT with six sequential virtual speeds.

The interior is plusher with dashboard and front doors finished in foamed plastic but the rear doors are trimmed with the same old hard plastic which seems inconsistent.

Controls and driving position are highlights, together with nice electrically-assisted steering and top suspension calibration. The rear seat has plenty of room for two passengers’ legs and heads yet is tight for a third adult. A 18.7cu ft. boot is another plus.

The Fluence will arrive in February, just a year after being launched in Europe, and that's unusual here.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more