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Car Rental Company: ALAMO
Company for Purchase: Expedia
Location: BRU – Brussels Airport
The check-in desk for ALAMO come under the Enterprise and National brand and is located where all car hire desks are. Its next to Sixt which has the strongest presence here. There is very clear overhead airport signage to get to car hire area once your exit post customs in the landside arrivals area.
The female staff at desk was very warm and welcoming, she confirmed immediately what car I will be given, with no alternative choice. There was no upsell of damage waiver, GPS or upgrade. There is also no cross border fee which I believe as she said is with all car hire companies in Belgium, not the case in Frankfurt.
Paper work was done fast and a deposit of €500 was taken. I was told to then go downstairs to lower car parks where the car hire Centre is to get keys.
Overall service was efficient and friendly telling driving distances, traffic and where to go etc.
The walk to the cars is around 5 minutes down an elevator and along a walk way, if you have plenty of bags get a cart as it’s not an easy walk, down ramps etc. Staff at Enterprise desk then hand you keys and your away.
It was very straight forward but things I didn’t like was the fact that the timer starts once you sign the contract (with the girl upstairs), so after needing the toilet and getting lost finding the elevator, plus getting familiar with car took around 20 minutes- so this is all outside your allocated time. Saying this when I returned around 20 minutes late and still hadn’t filled up the tank, I asked if I could and the manager said I give you 20 minutes (the shell garage is about 2 minute drive out of airport) so the staff are flexible.
The other issue is the staff don’t go through the car checks with you together, they simply say “it’s not damaged if you see anything let us know” so make sure you do a look around fully.
I had a new staff member when I returned the car and he was highlighting all kinds of marks on the return sheet, I explained it is just like dirt etc and eventually getting the manager to run his finger over this he confirmed this is not to be put on damage sheet. I just think original guy is a little unexperienced. However overall the staff are flexible and relaxed, they don’t try the upsell and generally are efficient overall. Just make sure you check your car for damage before as it appears it is up to you with Alamo.
I was offered a Renault Twingo with no alternative choice.
Car Review – Renault Twingo
This car was very funky and colorful. It seemed quite new with around 6K on the clock. Its very simple plastic décor and small and initially feels like your in a hybrid car/golf cart. The sort of first car you give your kid and perfectly suited for that type of driver. However there are some interesting features to this car that made it more exciting than the initial first impression.
Seating is manual and is overall is not that comfortable. The car is kind of a box on wheels so the seats are very upright, for any long distance (over 200km/100miles) it would just be adequate but not comfortable. There is no central console that you cause as an arm rest so your right arm gets tired. It just very upright though you can slightly recline it. Passengers in the back is for 2 only as wouldn’t fit three and it did not seem that comfortable unless you’re a young child. It certainly is not a car to drive long distance in or with 4 make adults but suited for lots of small journeys.
The controls were quite simple but interesting. The dash board simply shows mileage, temperature and has a gear stick that shows up and down when needed to change gear. However, it is not that clear. Oddly there is no rev counter only a speedometer, one of the first cars I have seen this.
The side sticks for indicator and wipers are strong but offer no auto function. The steering wheel had nice red and black stitching and was quiet ergonomic with what appears to be cruise control buttons of plus and minus, but I played around with them and it never initiated cruise control so perhaps its not that. Behind quite hidden is a side box for audio sources and volume button- I only found this on the latter part of my trip.
Gear change is ok, all very straight forward but have to say the lack of rev counter and engine noise does not clearly indicate if you make a mistake like I did going along highway in 3rd gear when I thought I was in 5th. The clutch is also more jumpy than I am used to but breaks work well.
The highlight however is the console monitor screen in central area. There you have a touch screen of various options such as multimedia (different sources of audio), car economy mode and details for Sat Nav (did not have this) plus services such as finding nearest petrol station. It looked nice and was touch screen. To connect my phone to blue tooth was straightforward.
There is also a reverse camera which also beeps – always find this very helpful since my own car has this function.
The car offers annoyingly by behind hand break a USB slot and SD card slot- I assume this is for when you use SAT NAV. There is also a standard car power socket. AC is offered- all simple dial functions but is not very well designed with small vents.
Overall very straight forward and simple car but the weakness is not having a rev counter making an easy jump between 3rd and 5th which can seem unnoticeable for some time.
Space and Storage
There is plus and weaknesses to this. The boot is open but a cover does exist but you will not be able to place a large (old style Samsonite) suitcases its more for large hand luggage than suitcases. I had both large suitcase and a smaller one that I use as hand luggage though it’s the maximum size for airline guides. The latter fitted in fine but the suitcase I had to place in back seats which took up the whole room. This leaves the car being vulnerable to being broken into since it’s easier to see a large suitcase in the car if you go to a dodgy area. On the plus side if you don’t have a big bag it is ok.
The car does offer a sort of deep box with lid for placing a phone or other items just below the central console. The plastic side pockets have enough space for a coffee or bottle water and behind the hand brake is also a cup holder and some space to place some small sweets or something.
The car is not very exciting to drive. It’s a box on wheels so very non aero dynamic. Acceleration in lower gears is ok until you hit 3rd-5th then its very slow to get there. I had a bit of a rush to get back to BRU airport and therefore had to go full pelt along the highway which was maxed at 140km/ph the car was unsteady as the speedometer is only to 150. You could feel side winds very easily and car felt unsteady. Also be wary going around corners it’s the sort of car that would roll if you take it too speedy. For town and city driving it is good, motorway it is boring as anything. As I mentioned its safe bet car for a teenager just passed their driving test. It’s not a car to have fun with but has that ascetically pleasing and innovative touch to make a teenager satisfied. BRU seems a little pricey for car hire since in Frankfurt airport for the same price I could get a Golf- so went with the cheapest option. It was perfectly fine for my 400km in 24 hours to Eindhoven then Brugge before returning but wasn’t a fun-to-drive car.
The audio had some good options: audio in, USB and Bluetooth. No CD but this is 2016. Radio though is offered on the HUD. Sound quality is ok for mids but any bass and the plastic door panels start to rattle not even at the highest volume. Its depends on the music but anything too bassy like hip hop wont sound good at tall unless you lower the bass on the device your are using. Rock was fine though as was house music so long not at high volume. There was no restrictions and you could bang it out, but like the car at max speed, it doesn’t cope very well with speakers easily distorting the sound.
I used a full tank, 400km/240miles. This is a petrol car and likely 1.1 or 1.2 engine size ate least it felt that way, therefore was ok. Full tank cost me around €35. Then again for a period on highway I was in 3rd gear instead of 5th burning fuel, which if they had a rev counters I would of noticed this.
Overall Alamo/Enterprise offered very good staff service, friendly flexible and not pushy. Price of 44GBP was higher than what I could get at Frankfurt or Bucharest for the same car but this still was the cheapest option when looking at Expedia. However I would return again to Alamo or Enterprise as the service was very good.
The car overall is great for one person or couple with limited luggage driving about a city like Bruges or Brussels but don’t take this to Germany on the autobahn, you will just feel embarrassed. Though very plastic the décor was nice and artistic compared to almost all the other car’s I have hired. The console monitor computer was a nice touch and it works well.
However as I enjoy driving and like to experience a proper car, driving long distances when I drive, I would unlikely want to hire the Twingo again.