Car Hire

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Alamo – BMW 3201

Car Rental Company: Alamo Company for Purchase: Expedia Location: YVR – Vancouver Airport Very easy to find from international arrivals, just follows signage out of door and walk less than 5 minutes where you enter a lower garage and all car hire companies are there. Alamo and National share desks and there are 4 counters. Staff were very welcoming and was seen quick. My compact car was confirmed to me with hard sell but I did ask if they had any upgrade offers. They recommended they had a luxury car, a brand new 400km on clock BMW 3 Series for CAD $25 more. Since it was such a new car with built in GPS I went with this. As car was so new I was concerned about damage waiver and they confirmed it was an additional $5 to reduce any excess that would be $500 without. Staff were fast and friendly explaining to me clearly where the US border was, since I was staying down in Washington to go outlet shopping. Overall very friendly with clear directions to car. A great service and upon return asking how the vechile was in a warm friendly manner. Again Alamo prove themselves to be a great option in terms of staff service and pricing. Car Selection Other than the original compact car order, they had two upgrade options a family van or a BMW. The BMW was very new in fact on key it said 2017 3 series with only 400km on clock so went with that. Car Review – BMW 3201 X Drive 2017 My first experience with a BMW and a somewhat premium sports sedan. I found the experience best described as a comfortable smooth ergonomic drive. Great interior look and feel, super responsive steering and handling. But it did have its weaknesses the suspension felt a bit overly bouncy and the car lacks good small storage options like US and Japanese cars. The console monitor looked great with a decent navigation system but there was no way to adjust the sound settings. For driving there is a feel of power but the acceleration lacks what you might expect. It was not say an exciting drive but smooth and comfortable great car for highway driving on smooth roads. Seating Seating was very comfortable, all side controls with easy to use electronic switches. You can even save your own setting under a number, great if your sharing the driving with someone. Headrest is also easily angled to support neck well. With arm rest on one side and central console storage box on the other, driving is great. At night the door arm rest has a dimmed light on it. Controls Firstly enjoyed the keyless controls that had a lovely touch of locking the car by pressing the BMW button and opening the boot. A Touch start button with fot on brake to start engine worked well with a auto stop button, handy in saving fuel in traffic. BMW truly offers a wide angle small console monitor, looks great is not all that functional compared to other vehicles I have driven. Controls though are easy to understand using a circular dial control next to the hand brake with six buttons: Media – offering radio, line in, USB, Bluetooth, etc – all easy to use and Bluetooth was very easy to connect under the options menu. Com connects your phone and making calls using the dial to go thru your phones menu was of no issue driving on an interstate. Sound and volume of calls were good. NAV is the in-built GPS. This was easy to use and is much like Mercedes it shows a colorful display map and can zoom in and out. It does though lack real time information such as traffic and speed cameras that you would get with a Garmin & some other vehicles I have driven etc but however a small side screen shows a folder of your route stage by stage so you can see quite far ahead. The menu button brings up a display of six choices, such to check the vehicle condition (tyres, oil etc) , notifications, connected drive (unsure what that was), Nav (GPS), calls and Bluetooth media. Unfortunately, you must use this dial as the monitor is not touch screen which kind of made it’s at a disadvantage when driving since it can be distracting since you have to look down which is of no issue compared to touch screen versions. Saying that after a few hours and I got very much used to it. I did enjoy the automatic gear stick with its one button park on top as well as 3 options, reverse, neutral and drive- however it does offer a side plus and minus for manual control, but did not really figure this out in my day car hire. There is a clear button for sports and eco pro button, plus to turn anti skid off- very clear to see next to gear knob. There are individual dial auto AC units on each front seat showing exact temperature and control of fan- quite handy, worked fast and warmed car up very quickly. Heated seats are also offered and other buttons such as window heaters are easily seen. One weakness was the audio function, a CD player is offered and Volume is dial but there was no way, I found to configure the sound, something I like to do due to varied music I listen to. Therefore I found some of my music way too bassy and really wanted to adjust it. There is a mode button but this just takes you back to media options not sound adjustments. However I am sure it exists somewhere but out of all cars I have hired this was the most unclear vehicle to find this. The steering wheel feels very comfortable with an ergonomic grips, the controls are one of the most responsive of cars I have hired. It offers volume for music & phone functions on right hand side and also a one of the easiest cruise controls functions on it. The mode button shows the central computer display between the dials clearly showing outside temperature, speed, distance and you can select for immediate GPS or music playing display. Automatic window screen wiper function was also offered which I have on my own car and find this most useful. The indicator on opposite side had good response with simple to change and not get stuck on which I find I suffer from when using an unfamiliar car. This car offered a open roof which was nice, a screen pulls back to display the glass screen but you can have the roof just open rasied at back, great when I was driving in heavy rain and wanted fresh air in the car without water getting in. The controls above are very simple to use. There is also a clear SOS button under a cap so you wouldn’t accidentally hit it. In terms of power outputs there is a car power right between cup holders but USB and AUX is located inside the box, kind of annoying if you don’t have a long enough cable and wanted to see your phone etc. Overall the controls were very good, though the dial looked premium it was not as good as a touch screen control monitor. The monitor though being wide angle was quite visually pleasing meeting a good size and sat navigation worked well. I just was disappointed I couldn’t find any sound setting controls. Steering wheel and gear stick were excellent in terms of comfort of driving. Space and Storage The boot offers adequate space for a large suitcase or two- it does go back quite far. I would say you could fit two suitcases in there at ease. There were cup holders in front with small laid area in front for your phone but I did find the console storage box quite small but did fit say a phone and wallet in it. This is also where the USB slot and AUX is located. However the side door panels do offer a decent amount of space for documents which came in handy when crossing US border needing all paper work etc. However no additional cup holder like you find on US cars. The back seating area though did look spacious for two passengers but might be tight for three. Overall compared to US and Japanese cars the BMW did lack varied smaller storage options whether it be for drinks or sunglasses etc. Driving Driving was very smooth, you could feel the power but acceleration did take a longer than expected while to kick in. It certainly wasn’t slow but by no means did you feel any kick back from flooring it- perhaps because it is so smooth. The responsiveness was excellent of steering especially around corners. Car did have the odd bounce at stages of roads. Most of my driving was on interstate but say driving into tunnels, over bridges where road raises or hitting the central lane separators certainly made the vehicle feel it over obviously. Generally a comfortable ergonomic car for the main interstate roads especially since the cruise control was so easy to set but certainly would not recommend unsmooth roads or say hills and winding roads. This maybe likely because it was so new meaning the suspension was overly sensitive. City driving though is ok unless there is speed bumps which the car feels roughly at slow speed, giving a huge bump. Braking however was very good and responsiveness was fast. Audio The audio had the following options: AM, FM, CD, USB, Line In/AUX and Bluetooth. Bluetooth was fairly easy to connect making the music show up on the monitor. However going into playlists was easier just to do it manually on the phone so not that user friendly. As mentioned I never found the audio settings and whilst the sound level was good and loud enough, it was a bit Beats audio in terms of how bassy sounds were even from a range of genres. Low frequencies were defiantly picked up more than high or mids. The sound though was warm but the bass needed lowering. I was very surprised a brand like BMW do not have a easy to find audio setting where as US cars Jeep, Chevrolet and even Japanese cars all had direct buttons to do this. It was certainly the weakness of the BMW. Fuel Efficiency I drove around 250 miles and it cost me CAD $39 or £24 therefore fuel efficiency is ok for type of vehicle. It was exactly half a tank. Verdict The cost was originally £38 thru expedia for basic car then I upgraded for CAD $25 plus had zero excess for $5 meaning total cost was £62/ $105CAD. This was a very good price for a luxury sports sedan class of vehicle. I did very much enjoy the car though it was not the best car hire I have driven in terms of being a fun car to hire. However it was smooth and felt interesting to experience a BMW.

Dollar – Hyundai Tucson 2016

Car Rental Company: Dollar/Thrifty Company for Purchase : Expedia Location : HNL –  Honolulu International Airport Upon arrival at HNL, you need to get a bus. This is located outside of arrivals in the middle pavement - follow the clear car rental sign posts as all buses go from there.  The bus only for Dollar and Thrifty comes every 10 minutes or so and takes around 4-5 minutes drive to get from airport arrivals to car rental location. Getting back was quick as buses are frequent. The centre is quite small but offers four self-service machines or two desk clerks. Staff Staff at desk was fairly upbeat and friendly. As everything was pre-paid she simply confirmed his back to me and did not upsell for better car or say offer zero liability insurance upgrade or even mention GPS etc. Despite booking stating Jeep Cherokee or similar, she simply said we don’t have jeeps and assigned another mid-size SUV- the Hyundai Tucson. I also assumed there was zero liability since this was first car hire place I have been to where it was not mentioned. Upon returning the vehicle at 7am staff did a quick check and the service was very quick with bus wait time less than 10 minutes back to the terminal. Car  Selection There was only one mid-size SUV available: Hyundai Tucson. Car Review - Hyundai Tucson (Automatic) Mid Size SUV was only about £4 difference to the very basic model so I decided as I was in Hawaii, an SUV would be most suitable. Seating Excellent electronic functional seating including lumpur support up and down levels – all easy to understand side switches. Very comfortable seat including and would happily drive this for long periods. Overall 8/10- just an outer thicker armrest would be preferable for ultimate comfort, which is not offered. The central arm rest is comfortable with a spacious storage box inside. Controls Controls were very straight forward and simple- excellent user friendliness for someone unfamiliar with Hyundai. Bluetooth was easy to set up with I phone.  There is a small central screen which has many functions even shows live tyre pressure on each wheel which I guess is handy for long drives. Hand brake for instance is a push pedal seen clearly rather than a button. Economy power controls for saving on fuel plus easy to use cruise control. Weaknesses were no auto window blinds but type of motion shows up on the digital screen between the acceleration and rev dials- it just is not automatic. AC is not individual for each front seat which for a new 2016 car was disappointing. The car does offers great power options that include X3 12V car power sockets, 1 in boot & 2 under console with USB & AUX audio socket. Space and Storage Storage offers decent space for two large cases and more, as you expect on an SUV, but unfortunately the car hire company did not provide a cover. Therefore, people can see items thru the window, though they are tinted. Good spacious storage by central rest though and side pockets plus drink holders. Driving Car has generally adequate power & acceleration as you expect from an SUV, though felt more powerful than the Jeep Renegade- especially on flat roads at high end speeds. On road up hill and flat the drive is smooth & effortless. Strong braking as well. For an automatic the revving was not high on acceleration when moving up gears that I find on other cars. Audio Audio is adequate and very much like the Jeep Renegade in that precision sound positioning anywhere in the car worked very well with overall decent sound but not quite as good quality speakers as the Renegade. You can customize the treble, bass and mids but no general settings. There seemed to be a restriction on volume so found this annoying and this maybe the car hire did this rather than the car. But all types of music was fairly good though slightly lacking in bass. Fuel Efficiency Fuel wise I drove the whole island of Oahu, stopped numerous times but didn’t count the mileage however I did about half a tank which was only $17– but fuel at that time in Hawaii was exceptionally cheap considering I had a largish vehicle.  It seemed more efficient than the Jeep Renegade. Verdict The Hyundai Tucson impressed me, it was an easy to use controls, comfortable car to drive around Oahu. The price I paid via Expedia was £36.27 / $56 / € 57 with staff offering no upsell, assuming the price covered the insurance waiver – it seemed very good value for an SUV. Sound is not that great due to the sound level restrictions. There is also no personal AC per front seat which is unusual for a 2016 car. However, plenty of in car power options & connect-ability was good for phones. Storage whilst spacious could do with being covered but this may of been decision by rental company because with seats down in back, a surf board could easily fit in. I wanted a jeep and ended up with the Hyundai and was pleasantly surprised.

Enterprise – VW Golf

Car Rental Company: Alamo/Enterprise Company for Purchase: Expedia Location: FRA- Frankfurt International Airport Straight out of arrivals of Terminal 2, you will find the long line of car hire counters. Alamo which is under the Enterprise brand offered a counter with two desks. Actually the first set you will see once you come out of arrivals.  It was noticeably the largest queue of all the car hire places at around11am with a 30-minute wait. Staff Staff was straight forward than welcoming but after my request of a Golf, he did make effort to ensure one would be held for me- so long I pay 5€. I found this slightly ‘corrupt’ since the order from Expedia states VW Golf or Similar. However a VW golf was awaiting me in the car park. Since I was driving to various countries a cross border fee of 7 € is charged which covers your insurance. GPS was also added at a cost of 10 €. This was suppose to be the in built VW version but due to some fault, that staff couldn’t explain I was offered a Garmin. This worked fine at the beginning of my journey thru Luxembourg, Belgium and to Holland but the next day back to Frankfurt I had many issues, it simply flicked out of location when on autobahn past Cologne recognised my position in a field when clearly I was on the main road. Even turning off and on again did not help. As you enter the car area, staff do a check on car as usual and this was when I was offered an upsell of damage waiver at a cost of €20- which I went with since I was driving the first time on an autobahn. When returning the car and agreeing to bring it back with a fuel tank -be wary of lack of access to fuel stations near FRA airport, I ended up returning with half a tank full as I couldn’t find a fuel station due to the failures of the Garmin. With an explanation of this, staff waived any fuel charges due which was fairly decent since half a tank of fuel would have been more than refunding me the GPS fee.  However staff should be checking these things and I it took a further 20 minutes of staff trying to figure out the initial built in GPS before offering me a Garmin when I wanted to leave sooner from the airport, plus they should check the Garmin is up to date. Car Selection It seemed Enterprise have a lot of Citroen and French cars weirdly rather than German in the hatchback category. According to staff the reason I had to pay 5 Euros to hold a VW golf is because they have very few. Car Review - VW Golf R (Manual) Seating Electronic seating which was easily applied and comfortable, I drove in total over 24 hours 800km, whilst there were stops, journeys lasting over 300km -I did not experience any issues with comfort. Overall a comfortable hatchback with good ergonomic seat design more racing style with customised controls. Controls The controls were fairly good, the Bluetooth connection was easy to set up and worked well and this was displayed on the dash computer screen and between the dials behind the steering wheel. Displaying the music and phone connection service seen clearly. The actual computer was touch screen plus clear side buttons for radio, media – which is based around either digital radio or USB/Bluetooth connection. Digital Radio is included. On the screen it also had the front proximity warning system as well as rear view camera. I found both a huge help since I am used to this on my own car. AC is personalised to each front seat and worked find – dial control with digital centigrade seen on individual displays. Below is a small closed storage box where the USB and AV sockets are. Easy to store and phone or MP3 player to connect, charge and close the box for storage. The computer between the rev and speed dials does offers easy to use customizability to change from KM to Miles if you are more used to that, which being from UK I find Miles to be easier. The gear controls worked fine with smooth gear changes and a strong clutch. The only issues I found here is the reverse, first gear and reverse are too close together and so it wasn’t always going into reverse easily requiring some effort to push it down. The hand brake is a switch button next to the gear stick- which being non-automatic when parked was easy to forget initially but got used to it fairly quickly after a few parking’s. The main annoyance I found of the controls were essentially my unfamiliarity with the way the steering wheel controls were set up. In reverse order to other cars I have driven, to which the Golf has indicators on left and window wipers on the right it took me a few hours to get used to this and I did keep cocking it up. Other cars I have hired and my own are in opposite order. This was also the case with the cruise control and volume settings. Overall I found the cruise control hard to use when compared to other cars. It seemed more complex than even a range rover Evoke to understand. I therefore did not figure it out but desperately wanted to since I was driving on autobahn and wanted to cruise on these long periods of driving. The other issue was the built sat nav was not working properly despite being installed, it just kept coming up with some warning in German that I didn’t understand. I paid the additional extra for it so was annoying that I had to return to the car hire podium and they did a check it with staff also not understanding what the warning was, since it was in built and eventually gave me a Garmin- this whole process took 20 minutes and delayed the drive from the airport. Space and Storage Boot is your standard hatch back size and Enterprise did offer a cover so it did feel secure. I recon two medium size checked luggage cases could be placed easily in back. Or one large with hand luggage. General standard space for a hatchback. 5 seats are offered and space at the back seemed reasonable.  There was no option of a central arm rest drop down, if say there was 2 passengers seated in back. The front seats did offer spacious side pockets easy for putting ipads etc or books and drinks etc. There is also a cup holder in the front and a storage arm rest. Driving The VW Golf R was an excellent drive. It felt powerful for a hatchback with superb acceleration and good breaking. Ramming it at full speed down the autobahn caused no noticeable shaky issues you find when you push other hatchback above say 110mph/180kph- it felt in control with a strong breaking system. On other windy roads the manual gear box was fun to use since the car does meet good acceleration strength in lower gears. Overall one of the most powerful hatchbacks I have driven in terms of power for the engine size. I did really enjoy driving this car, it felt exciting and comfortable for the distance I was travelling. I just found some of the controls hard to get used to quickly- such as the wipers and indicators being opposite side. Overall a hindurance. Perhaps there was but I couldn’t find an auto setting for lights or wipers so when used to that function it was an effort in heavy rain. Despite this I had to drive fairly fast not to miss my flight in some extensive showers with the car occasionally aquaplaning but it managed it well without dangerously bouncing out of direction. Audio The audio was fairly good with easily accessible Bluetooth or USB. The car offers 8 speakers and sound was good but not enhanced with directional controls of where you want the sound like I’ve seen on US cars. However the sound was good, standard setting of strong mids level in which was fine for Rock.  Some customisation of levels, done easily when driving on the touch screen - is needed for say Drum N’ Bass & Techno but once tweaked sounded great with decent sound level. Fuel Efficiency I drove 850km and filled it up from yellow light to full and when arrived at drop off the tank was half full, meaning I did 1.5 full tanks – again I believe the engine was 1.8 but not entirely sure. Considering the distance, it seemed economical for a non-diesel car. Verdict For the price paid £30 GBP for 24 hours via Expedia, then an additional 37€ (damage waiver, border crossings and ‘VW Fee”) - it was more than say prices for the US for the car type but overall it was better value than buying online prior than there and then. Saying that I enjoyed the golf, driving was fun, it looked cool felt comfortable and handled the roads well. A well-made hatchback that felt a safe car especially for high speed on the German auto bahns. My only criticism were the controls - the cruise control in particular was hard to use as well as the unfamiliar position of the wipers and indicators – but this can be bias because I drive a Japanese car in the UK. However, I haven’t found this on other cars I have hired even in Europe.

Hertz – Chevrolet Spark LS

Car Rental Company: Hertz Company for Purchase: Expedia Location: CPT – Cape town International Airport As you arrive at CPT airport, expect a 10 minute walk after leaving international arrivals. You have to go outside of airport down some tunnels and eventually you arrive at the car hire centre- where all car hire places are. Hertz has its own building in which offers about 4 counters, a dedicated Hertz Gold, Hertz Corporate and 2 normal Hertz check-in. The cars are a few minutes’ walk away from this centre in an open plan car park. Hertz also offer free WIFI in which is handy if you’re having to wait. Staff Staff at desk were training another staff who processed me, so overall very little interaction in terms of words. Just wanted passport, driving license, address where I was staying and credit card. He then went through the process with the staff and I just listened. There was actually no upsell until I asked. For something like 90 ZAR  (GBP4/US$6/€5.5) it reduced my excess premium from 8000 rand to 2000 rand if I had actually damaged the car that it was a right off. Basic collision damage was included. The guy didn’t even upsell a GPS when mentioned he said Cape town is easy to drive you won’t need one. Well perhaps to him but people wanting t0 hire a car like myself and go to places like Simons town and on to cape point- get the GPS. It costs only 75ZAR (GBP3.50/US$5/€4.5 ) plus it’s a new tom tom so very handy with things like speed cameras. Staff then simply get you to sign a bunch of stuff. The process look quite a while longer than most places I have been but he was training a new guy. Car Selection There was no selection like you find in the US- you are simply given the car you agree to at the desk in which my category was Mini 4 or 5 door car- Chevrolet Spark or Similar. Car Review - Chevrolet Spark (Manual) This car was the cheapest option but included USB and AC. Seating Manual seating- very basic. Typical mini hatchback, bar to move forward and back and seat switch to determine angle. Not a comfortable car, no armrest on any side as its angled down. Very compact and small. Drove 2 hours to cape point & back and found it uncomfortable, certainly would not recommended a drive outside of the city of Cape town. Cape point you can just about get away with before it becomes really uncomfortable. I would say the comfort level is 2/10. Controls The controls are mixture of in your face digital display just above steering wheel- shows fuel, reves and then there is normal km speedometer as a dial. AC is a circular dial that didn’t work very well as vents are oddly placed. But a basic dial design. Audio is very basic again two dials one for volume and one for menu- to say change eq, bass and treble. Gear box - absolutely terrible, about as unsmooth as you can get even though clutch is as expected tight. Revs up noisy and accelerator pedal shakes whatever the speed. There is a car power socket, an additional USB and an audio in jack for your own device. Lights are circular design on side. Wipers work as standard. This car has no automatic function (lights or wipers) though is quite new. However the USB and standard power socket worked well. Space and Storage The boot is small. It won’t fit a huge case but a case that is say the largest you can get away with as hand luggage will get in back with roofed cover. Anything bigger back seat. Back seats have little space. This is a micro hatchback. Driving The cut a long winded description- it is terrible to drive. There is nothing fun about this car. Changing gears is not smooth, clutch is tight but creates large revs without much acceleration, I actually dreaded changing gear much of the time but being Cape town and its mountains you need to constantly. Uphill at some points you almost need to go to 1st and that’s with one person in the car. There is no acceleration unless your at speed already say on a highway you can get it up to maybe 120-30kmph. However don’t embarrass yourself at the traffic light challenge. Even corners it handles badly. In slow traffic jam the constant gear change with clutch control is not pleasurable. I drove to cape point about 1.5 hours from city where I was staying and I just wanted to get out of the car as soon as possible despite my love of driving. Audio The audio is also terrible, either Hertz have put a restriction on volume but you can’t get much noise out of the machine. Controls only show bass and treble with EQ as pop, rock, classical and talk. The sound is tinny and when bass is upped it just has no depth but actually sounds like a high pitch drill. It’s not great car to listen to music. Fuel Efficiency Likely its sole strong point, drove around 200km (to cape point from city and back) not even quarter empty cost me 130 ZAR  (GBP6/US$9/€8 ) Verdict For the price paid £10.20 (US$15 / €15)  for 24 hours, it was an excellent alternative to a taxi including the cheap fuel. But as the saying goes you pay for what you get and this car is a terrible vehicle- worth the price. Not fun to drive, uncomfortable to sit for long periods over an hour and rubbish sound system. However it does have a USB so you can charge our phone and plug it in to listen to music- though I probably recon decent headphones are better. It also cost nothing in terms of fuel. However, I hope I never rent such a car again.

Sixt – Opel / Vauxhall Corsa

Car Rental Company: Sixt Company for Purchase : Expedia Location: OTP - Henri Coanda Bucharest International Airport As you arrive at OTP airport, signage to the car hire places is clearly shown. SIXT have their own well branded desk which is very clear once you arrive at area. There was no other hirers that day so the one staffed desk was of no issue but could be if a bunch of people are ahead of you as there is only one staff desk. Once documentation is complete and the rental agreement is signed staff walk you outside to an area where a van picks you up and takes you the 2-3 minute journey to where the actual car’s are. This is a medium sized car park shared with other car hire companies. You are taken directly to your car. Upon returning the car when by yourself signage for SIXT is poor, only Avis and Budget or Hertz I believe have very clear road signage but I missed the entrance due to SIXT as signage is literally only at entrance to the car park and therefore ended up driving down a motorway for about 3 miles before I could turn around. I noticed it when it was too late. Staff Staff at desk was really pleasant, spoke English well and seemed very enthusiastic. We even had a long conversation of tourists sights, distances to places like Bran and Transylvania- in which he guided me well. There is some degree of upsell in terms of bringing down the car insurance waiver, which I went for a cover called ‘Super Top Cover” which was about 15 Euro’s per day. I asked about GPS and it seems just like in Greece and Sardinia, that it’s a unusual feature. He simply stated I will see if I can get hold of one for you. Staff that drove van, different guide said he found a GPS, a sort of knock off similar looking to a Tom Tom and wanted 90 Lei for it (£15/€20/$22) as my booking ran over 24 hours so basically the GPS is £7/€10/$11 per day. It’s worth it as though signage is quite good in Romania it helps with speed limits etc. However I never got a receipt for this and it had a feel of an unofficial purchase. Car- Selection There was no selection like you find in the US- you are simply given the car you agree to at the desk in which my category was Economy 2 or 4 Door-Car. On Expedia it stated Nissan Tilda or similar. Car Review - Vauxhall / Opel Corsa Hatchback (Manual) This car was the 2nd one up from the cheapest option- in which I choose because I want things like USB and ability to plug my iphone and listen to music of that. Seating Manual seating- very basic. Typical hatchback, bar to move forward and back and seat switch to determine angle. I drove over 500km (but did stop a lot) and did not specially find this uncomfortable but none the less it was basic as you can get and an outer armrest door side exists but not inner side. I would say the comfort level is 4/10 or below average for long distances. Controls The controls were as expected very simple – Steering wheel offers indicator turn switches for cruise control which lights up on speedometer. Basic speedometer and rev counter with dial Air con and volume function. Audio had a button to control such aspects as bass and mids, there is also an auto lock button. There is no computer screen – just a digital basic alarm clock looking dash showing time, outside temperature in Celcius and AUX (if you’re not using radio). There is no USB only a standard car power socket. Though there is a Audio jack input so you can plug your phone into or music device. Fortunately I had a USB adaptor for car power socket so had to stop GPS at times and plug iphone in for a bit. The power socket was also loose especially with GPS- sometimes it showed a light to show it was charging, other times not- so I had to turn it a few times to get the light. Not sure if it was sat nav or car’s power socket that was of issue. The car was manual and the clutch was not that tight. Gear changes were not that smooth in lower gears and speed- meaning a few stalls occurred. About as basic as you get in terms of controls and felt very much 1999 etc. I believe looking at paper work it is a 2006 model. Space and Storage There is a sufficient size of boot for one large case and this is covered at back so is good for security. The car has 4 seats and space is very much down to the occupants but it is a hatchback so if your sat in back seat don’t expect much leg room. Driving The Corsa had 67000km on the clock and therefore quite well used (for a hire car). The clutch and gear box felt its age & had some poor transitions especially going uphill thru the hairpin turns in Transylvania at times in 2nd gear for long period when most cars could handle 4th. It generally had very high revs when in low gears and was  poor handling in slow moving traffic with awkward position of gears not coping at 4th and over revving in 3rd. Acceleration was good overall though and it could beat many at the traffic light challenge- so long your quick with your gear change. Over taking at times was risky but could make it in just about enough time. I wouldn’t risk it if I saw a car coming even 500 metres and you gotta overtake a lorry or coach. Swift gear high revs and engine noise makes it sound like you might break the engine. In 4th & 5th gear it handled much better though smooth ride and cruised very well on highways. Just not that powerful. Perhaps I got it to 130km / 85mph max on the highway straight road but the accelerator did vibrate a lot indicating it was not comfortable at the maximum speeds. However going around wide corners was its special area – accelerating and griping the road at decent speed smoothly and better than other cars I have driven such as Citreon or Chrysler spark etc. Audio The audio was actually ok- for a car 10 years old, you can adjust mids, bass and treble plus fade. I enjoyed my driving with variation of music tested. Rock was its desired feature. Bass heavy music was disappointing, bass lacked any depth- tinny but say house music with high mids and treble sounded fine. Fuel Efficiency This really is a hard one to work out as I handed some money at the border at a petrol station Bulgaria and women whom used pump just walked off. I am not entirely sure what I gave her and I said full but she only did 3/4 . She never handed me a receipt so I was probably ripped off but basically 500km was a full tank and quarter. Certainly reflected a car of 10 years old being not efficient for a hatchback compared to the comparison models of the last 5 years. Verdict For the price paid £16.55 (US$24 / 22€)  for 24 hours, it was an good value for Europe (though in the US you would get a much better/newer car). Overall good for flat roads say down to Bulgaria but not recommended for hills in Transylvania or that famous road (Transfăgărășan ) when more than one person is in the car as it struggles too much with just me and makes the driving a lot of effort with uphills and hairpin corners. I certainly wouldn’t want to drive straight for more than 3-4 hours as the car is simply not that comfortable ride but age of car audio was ok. Fuel efficiency was poor, but the car reved high on even the smallest incline as it can’t handle 4th gear and sometimes 3rd. Controls though are 10 years old- so no USB but ok on corners and sound system acceptable for age of car. I would upgrade unless you’re on a budget and flat road motorway driving lay ahead.

Alamo – Jeep Renegade

Car Rental Company: Alamo Location - LAX Alamo and National Car rental are located in the same location, the location is further out than the other rental places I have used (Sixt, Thrifty & Budget). However way more efficient, at least time I was there. Alamo used many self-service machines, I was a bit wary of this since I have a foreign driving license but it meant at empty line to see an actual Human, since all American driving liciense holders were using these machines.  This made my check-in under 10 minutes, so far better than Thrifty (1 hour) and Sixt (20 minutes). Staff Staff at desk was pleasant enough and just literally did the paper work, he did no upsell or anything and literally within a few minutes just said go to Line 4 and choose your SUV. Nice and quick service. Prefer less of the upselling as its hard to understand some of the things they cover say damage waiver etc when you bought this online from a non-US website. Car Selection At the SUV selection there seemed to be the choice between Jeep or Chrysler. I already hired a Chrysler before so wanted to try a jeep. They had various kinds (about 3-4). The Renegade looked interesting and very new so went with that. The Jeep Renegade An SUV was hired on the basis because I was driving up to Mt. Brady so wanted a 4x4. Seating The car had fairly easy to use automatic seat functions to get comfortable, though in general its not as comfortable as the Chrysler, not sure why as the Renegade offers lower and upper lumper support, even at a slight recline it still felt too upright. You can raise your seat as well, perhaps I raised it too much. I don’t think I would choose this car if I was driving for long distances Controls The controls were all quite straight forward and user friendly, actually much better than most cars- the central computer screen is very easy to navigate. Without GPS it offers audio functions, telephone, media and displays things like outside temperature, direction of travel. The actual screen behind the steering wheel also offered options of time, speed or direction of travel- though there are traditional speed and rev circular counters. Lights set to auto were fine, except be wary of the fog light- it seems like a button easily hit I didn’t realise I had it on until an hour into my drive. The best part though of the controls was the audio function, I haven’t function so detailed that the touch screen can pin point where you want to audio to come to, for instance you can select just the rear right seat or in between the back seat. It really works well but I found the best is the middle of the four seat car. There is also an Audio in & USB in central area, plus another USB under central arm rest. The USB immediately recognised my I Phone so there was no time spent finding it, controls while driving for thing like EQ are very easy on the touch screen. AC are personal each side and worked fine – dial counters that were easy to use to select desired temperature. Space and Storage There is a sufficient size of boot for a large case seating is adequate at the back for comfortable space. The issue though remained that there is no cover for the boot. This made me worry since going to a shopping mall etc, meant all your belongings are clearly seen through the back window – making it desirable for break-in. I certainly wouldn’t leave it for any length of time. I had also two laptops in small basg in the front and there is no under seat space. Jeep renegade simply doesn’t offer any cover for your bags inside the vehicle, be wary of that- especially where your parking. Driving The Jeep renegade is a smooth ride, its benefits is driving up mountains, it coped well though reved up quite high. One thing is weak is interstate or motorway driving, its just boring. It really has a slow intake of acceleration. Comparing to say the Evoke in which obviously is a bad comparison, it just doesn’t have that much power behind it. Even putting your foot down takes a while for the car react and then hits the rev counter very high. I would say overall great car for mountain or offroad driving but boring for general car driving. Audio This was the stand out feature of the Jeep renegade, the sound system is pretty good, it was definitely better than the Mustang and Camaro. This is likely because of the box design of the car but bass lovers will love this car. I listened to a variety of music, drum n bass, Hip hop and techno and the bass really rumbles the car like your in a night club. Its maybe better for bassy music as classical was not that great. However it was really a powerful sound system they had in the standard model, it felt like I had a big sub-woofer inside. Fuel Efficiency I drove in total around 6-7 hours in total and the fuel gauge half a tank, which cost $27 to fill up- its efficient for a SUV. Verdict For the price paid £27 /US $40/ €35 for 24 hours, it was good value for money and was good for my drive into the mountains beyond Los Angeles. However, it’s a boring drive on normal roads but if you’re a music lover, the sound system will keep you well entertained. It looks pretty cool with nice alloys and felt like a safe/strong car in case of a crash.  The controls also very user friendly. Dropping off at Alamo was also straight forward with frequent bus services back and forth to airport made no long wait. The bus is conveniently right next to where you drop the car off.