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Turnbull Hire – Kia Carnival

Car Rental Company: Turnbull Hire Drive (Economy) Company for Purchase: Expedia Location: MEL – Melbourne Tullamarine Airport off site in Tullamarine. Expedia provide no clear instructions that this company is off site, only state a phone number in which the company (name of company not stated on booking- only economy rental car) simply say they will come and pick up within 10 minutes. You are taken to this work shop where they have a bunch of cars about 5-10 minutes’ drive from airport. It was more of a hassle when returning the car as no-one was at the work shop for nearly 25 minutes and I needed to check in for my flight. One only assume the cheapest result Expedia does have these kind of challenges but will think again. Car Selection I was offered a small rubbishy KIA that did not have any working function for connecting a phone such as USB or Bluetooth, therefore after much discussion that was friendly, I upgraded for AUS 20 to a Kia Carnival, which is a 7 seater car as they didn’t have any alternative. Car Review – KIA Carnival The car was quite big and felt a bit dated. A people carrier is not what I am used to especially when reversing without a rear view camera (which I have mostly have become accustomed to), it felt like I was driving a van. I lso found the distance in the front to be hard to judge, parallel parking was nightmare. However, for some long distances it was quite comfortable. The arm rests do come down each side both passenger and driver so you can have your hand resting and therefore wouldn’t have any issue with long distance driving. There was some issues with the accelerator perhaps being too sensitive- I kept wheel spinning it when leaving junctions when I did not mean to. Perhaps this was because I am more used to geared cars. Overall it is a fairly dull car but if you need a load of space and have a family with you – then ideal. Seating Seating is manual but the pull side switches were confusing to use. It either overly reclined the chair very easily or not at all. Its best to do when its stopped. The seat though was quite comfortable as I said the armrests down made the long distance drives easy on the arms and in general the seat is soft rather than hard. I think passenger seating in the back would also be quite comfortable. Certainly passenger in front enjoyed the seating. Controls The controls were annoying. I drive a Japanese car and the main issue about the controls that was ongoing is the wipers are on opposite side to the indicator- so I kept getting confused with these. More times hitting the wiper than the Indicator. Not sure if this is just a Korean issues as experienced this on another Korean car. I drive a Japanese car at home and very accustomed to that but other cars I have hired had not had that issue. The automatic function gear box was also quite loose to get it into say reverse. The car gets jumpy when you change gear it moves very slightly when say parking moving to reverse and forward- be careful with this I had to have my foot on break throughout all parking maneuvers. The car offers nothing automatic – such as lighting or wipers. Its very dated and simple. Again most cars these days well at least in US and Europe do have these with recent cars. I think this car was just dated. I also had many problems with the main reason I changed this car- the power sockets, of which there are two simply did not work properly. These are USB adaptors to go into where the cigarette lighter is so one can charge a phone etc- it didn’t work and I initially thought it was my cable and bought a brand new one and same issue occurred. The dash does have a USB slot and Audio in but the USB simply did not work with the audio system. Therefore to play music I had to go via blue tooth. Of course with nothing powering phone, which I was also using for my own GPS via google maps- died very quickly since nothing can power it. This was my biggest gripe with this car and the reason I had upgraded. However Bluetooth did work ok. The rest of the controls such as steering wheel, which offers volume control and I presume cruise control made no sense to me how this works. Put this way if you’re not used to a KIA it is not initially an easy to understand product compared with say Japanese cars or Europe ones. The hand break was also annoying it was a switch under the steering wheel making me completely unsure if hand break was on but in some ways felt this might be automatic. AC though was easy to use and so was the music system. Speedometer is also fairly clear with clear warning lights when a door is not properly closed. 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 HUD display in central console. 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 The strength of the car really – huge amount of space as shown below. The only issue is if you have a suitcase it is hard to hide it say if your park up somewhere while waiting for your hotel to allow check-in. Meaning people can see into the back easily. However I liked the space between the two front seats, good amount of room, flat for a phone, tablet or book. Aslo a side pocket for small items like bottles of water was easily placed. Driving The car is basically a van, but seemed to have a very sensitive accelerator as mentioned I kept awkwardly and not meaning to wheel spin at traffic lights. Not putting my foot down but I guess the power doesn’t match the weight of the car. Going thru Melbourne with traffic lights made this a bit annoying. However on the highways and on the great coastal road the car drove fairly well but be very wary around corners even at light speed the car felt like it might fall. I guess I am not used to this size of vehicle and design. It was nice to be a little higher than cars though, that feeling you get when driving a van meaning you can see the road very clearly. Long distance I would say it’s quite an easy car to use down a long highway between cities. Audio The audio had the following options: audio in, CD, USB, Radio and Bluetooth. USB simply did not work which is most annoying as I like to have my music when I drive and the only way is via Bluetooth whereby you loose some sound this way. The sound though was very poor really – tinny and there was only a base treble and mids options – not where you want the sound to come from. I guess because it was a big car the sound doesn’t travel well inside it. Regardless of music type the quality of sound is very weak and I find this nas important factor to driving, I need to relax and hear my music well. This van was just rubbish basically. Even at high volume it sounded awful- no bass whatsoever. Fuel Efficiency I drove around 250 km and it cost me 32 GBP / 50 AUD to fill up from ¼ tank- obviously it’s a big non -aerodynamic and older petrol vehicle so efficiency is generally very poor. Verdict The cost was in total 51.73 GBP / 84 AUD. Overall Economy or Turnbull Hire Drive offered a friendly service but was disappointed with Expedia that this was not mention that this car was offsite etc and required to wait to pick up and get to airport. I guess it was cheaper than the direct airport places for this reason but I wouldn’t use this company again. I certainly was not impressed that I arrived at the car place returning the car at 830am and had to wait 30 minutes before anyone turned up- to be then told you are early when the guy finally did arrive. It was only 1 hour before end of my 24 hour booking. I did say this day before. I am surprised they left as the place was all open etc. It was annoying because I was in a hurry to check-in for an international flight and when the guy finally turned up he had to proceed to do paper work with new clients and further 15-20 minute wait then ensued meaning if you use this company and cutting it fine to be at airport – I wouldn’t bother, its too risky. Luckily I was ok. Saying that the staff are friendly enough to chat to. I explained the problems with the power socket and charging phone and the guy just didn’t seem very sympathetic just oh well it’s a nice drive though- well it wasn’t to be honest. The price I paid plus the upgrade plus they push very hard the no collision damage which they reduce to 400 AUD instead of 5000 AUD if you crash (doubt the vehicle is worth that much) but went with it for a total extra of 76 AUD for 24 hours was kind of high for how old the vehicle was, lacking in maintenance of functions, and staff service. I must also add they put they stickers on side of car for promotion so think they could offered a better deal overall. Final word- One of the worst cars I have hired for parking and powering a phone.

SIXT – Nissan Altima

Car Rental Company: SIXT Company for Purchase: SIXT Location: MCT – Muscat International Airport The check-in desk for SIXT is in the corner of the car hire Centre in which is opposite the exit of arrivals. So very easy to find. Staff are just hanging about and did not seem very enthusiastic. Very basic counter, there is not even a computer. Staff are not in any uniform or have any name tags. They didn’t have any record of my booking until they went thru a pile of paperwork on the desk and eventually found it. I was asked if I had pre-paid (which I had) but felt it very inefficient service. Since I driving to the Shangri La resort in Al Bustan area which is quite far from Muscat airport (45 minutes) I asked for GPS. I was simply told if I pay £10 the clerk will give me his ‘personal one’ but it would be outside of the SIXT contract and they can only accept cash (5 OMR). Rather annoying as didn’t want to get out cash with the fee’s etc. Staff then asked me to sign some form’s but didn’t make any effort to upgrade or explain any detail of the contract such as damage excess waiver. Overall very unclear check-in service but staff were pleasant enough not rude etc. I was also a platinum member and offered no upgrade like they have done in the US. When I asked if I would be credited points was simply told head office is closed. I was then taken to the vehicle which is in the airport car park on the roof, a Nissan Sunny (my booking was for group two Chevrolet Aveo or similar). Old looking and filthy inside stained with 60k km on the clock. I was unimpressed as I paid for the group 2 (one up from worst) and felt they were trying to fob me off with the worst vehicle since nothing else looked as bad. As I was tired I just took it but lasted 10 minutes with it, I found the engine, though automatic revved very high and sounded odd, felt the engine was not right. Since I was driving outside the city, my fear was that I would breakdown and this is Oman with 40 C heat. Therefore I took it straight back. It was so basic there was no USB slot only a CD player. After I got back, it took 10minutes for staff to reappear at the counter. I complained about the car and was taken back to car park. This time offered I was suppose to get : The Chevrolet Aveo but again filthy inside with 50k KM on clock, stained seat, carpet covered in mess. Staff realized I was not impressed especially since I needed a USB slot for my phone to charge which this car did not offer. That and the fact it was filthy. After much negotiation staff offered me the Nissan Altima, which was a car group up from mine. Staff generally wanted to keep me happy so respect to them for that. This car still had 64,000km on clock but seemed a lot cleaner & modern than the other cars so went with that. It does seem that the Sixt car collection at Muscat was the worst of the car hire companies in terms of the choices when looking at the competitor car choices- at least all of them looked clean. Car Selection I was offered a Nissan sunny at start then a small Chevrolet both as mentioned above had issues with. Finally was offered a modern Nissan Altima. Car Review – Nissan Altima 25S This car seemed quite new in comparison to the other vehicles that were offered but still had 64k km on the clock. Seating Automatic seating and actually quite comfortable with side controls easy to find- not up down but angle and forward and back. I found it comfortable with headrest and armrest but I only drove an hour each day of my stay for the reason to get to hotel. (car hire is cheaper than one way taxi). However arm rests did offer a good deal of comfort for standard motorway and city driving. Obviously in Oman this is not the car for the long distance drives down to the desert, you need a 4x4. Controls The controls were easy to understand but quite basic overall. For instance there was no exact cruise control function on the steering wheel, no auto setting for lights and wipers- which most Japanese cars do offer. However there was a helpful digital display behind steering wheel between the speedometer and rev counter, in which oddly showed a 3D image of the vehicle. If you had music on either radio or audio it would show up as Audio on- but lacked any Bluetooth compatibility. It also showed some helpful information such as how many miles left until tank needs to be filled up, plus outside temperature. Quite a helpful feature in Oman considering it is so hot. The car AC system is quite basic in this day and age, not personalized for each of the front seat but a central dial system. However the car did get cold quite quickly and the windows are tinted. In terms of power sockets there is two standard car sockets but no USB which seemed very unusual. However were kind enough to give me one of their adaptors, to borrow without charge but I would suggest bringing your own as USB appear to not exist on any of the cars I looked at Sixt. The car was automatic, very easy to drive though cruise control would have been nice. 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 5 seats and space is generally good as one expects for a saloon car. Driving Despite the high mileage on the clock of 64km (though it is Diesel). Driving was very simple and the engine never over revved. It did have some speed on it on some of the straight highways thru Muscat to Al Bustan area that I was driving to. As you enter this area, there are tall mountains. The car cruised up the hills without any difficulty with automatic gear change happening smoothly. The car whilst not fast at acceleration did have good high end speed on the major motorways. Audio The audio was fairly simply a CD player or FM radio. There is no USB or function to connect vi Bluetooth. However an audio in is available and staff at Sixt let me borrow their own one again at no charge. In terms of sound quality, very mid range lacking any enhancements, very basic and volume seemed to be restrictive. It was quite low volume. Overall very basic lacking bass and simply your standard car radio of the mid 2000’s. For long drives I think I might use headphones. Fuel Efficiency I picked up the car full and returned it about half full, I had driven around 90km or so. Therefore it was ok. I did not find any petrol station on way back and simply returned half empty. This may explain the unusual charge of £6 on my credit card bill. Obviously this is the Arabian Peninsula where fuel is as cheap as one can get. Therefore it must be £12 to fill up from empty which is very cheap. Verdict Overall SIXT in Muscat was generally a lot of hassle, if your expecting the service that the same brand offers in Europe or the US, its completely different. Staff are very in efficient and as mentioned tried to give me their worst cheapest group cars despite paying for 2nd one up. The cars were filthy inside so clearly they don’t clean them. In terms of car range, SIXT seemed the weakest brand at Muscat. Even the local non familiar brand had much newer cars and therefore if I was visiting MCT again, I would not advise choosing SIXT. The staff are slightly incompetent and offering their own GPS for a cash amount, explaining that was only way they could do it, seemed unprofessional for such an international brand. They also do not acknowledge or care whether you are a Platinum member which they should do. I only ended up with Altima after complaining with the filthy Nissan Sunny that had an engine that didn’t sound right. The whole process though to do paper work and then find car go for a 5-20 minute drive then return overall until I got the car that I was satisfied wouldn’t breakdown took well over 1.5 hours which is unacceptable, staff are just lacking efficiency and effort to get things done. Their set up was shockingly basic and surprised SIXT do not even provide them with a computer. At the same time the cost of the car hire to where I was going, Shangri La in Al Bustan area totaled, with petrol the same price as one way by airport taxi so in hindsight it is good value for money. Be warned though in Oman (& this is with every car hire company) there is a 200km limit to mileage, after this they can charge 1 OMR for every Km over (£2), so if you’re planning on driving deep down south into the desert it can work out very expensive. Saying that staff said if you go over it’s only a few OMR so completely unsure but on website it did say for SIXT states 1 OMR for every 1km over. Overall though I would not use SIXT if I was to return to MCT simply because the area where the cars are, you see many of the other car hire company vehicles and these seem much newer and cleaner.

Global Hire – Ford Kuga

Car Rental Company: Global Company for Purchase: Expedia Location: FRA - Frankfurt Car Centre Terminal 2 Unfortunately, I landed at terminal 1 and the car hire Centre for Global Rent-a-car is in Terminal 2. No hassle there is a sky train that take about 10-15 minutes to get say from arrivals to the car hire place in the different terminal. Global Rent – A – Car was easy to locate with a decent amount of staff so there was no waiting time. Welcome was a little sultry, he initially offered me a Audi A3 then said it would be 30 Euro upgrade charge (my booking was for a Polo or equivalent which he said he had a Skoda Fabia. I believe but kept pushing the A3 explained that the diesel and fuel efficiency is much better. I was driving nearly 800km so this was welcomed and always wanted to drive an A3. He explained that they will take an 800 Euro Deposit for damage and any damage occurred has an excess of 1200 Euro etc with this. However for 25 Euro or around that he offered me full protections explaining even with a scratch or full damage to car I would not be liable not to pay anything. The deposit would also only be 300 Euros. I thought this was attractive so went with it as well most of my journey would be on a Auto Bahn etc. He also said the Global charge 26 Euros for a cross-border fee which I found very expensive, I think another company at Frankfurt – perhaps Euro car or National charge 8 Euros. My main concern was that the car had either Bluetooth or a USB connection so I could listen to my music etc from my phone. He confirmed the A3 had this but was unsure of the Skoda. So I went with A3. However after arriving at A3 downstairs. The car was a dated A3 and was shocked to see no USB or Blue tooth connection. I therefore requested to change car. After come complaining I was then upgraded to the Ford Kuga. A Smart SUV with free GPS and blue tooth connection etc. Car Selection The initial car offered at the booking rate was a Skoda Fabia, then was offered a cheap upgrade of Audi A3. In the end due to issues with A3 ended up with a Ford Kuga. Car Review – Ford Kuga The car was a nice product, a comfortable smart SUV with great console monitor screen and computer driver experience controls by Ford Synch, good speed/acceleration and control handling. Great sound quality and smooth driving in a decent sized and quite nice smart looking SUV. Long distance Autobahn driving was fine, just be careful on corners when accelerating. Car does not handle too well. Clutch was just a bit loose on the gear box in lower gears. Seating Seating is very comfortable with electronic controls that adjusted well even when driving. I noticed this was only for driver though. However, arm rests do offer comfort for arms. The seat was definitely well thought out ergonomic, since I drove over 700km in less than 24-hour period with 3-hour stretch’s and felt no discomfort at all. Controls The controls were comprehensive with a very clear computer console monitor that offered the Ford SYNC system. Various options and included GPS as part of the deal. This worked fairly well with clear display of distance zoom in/out function of map, ahead roads but did not show say traffic or live congestion etc. However very easy to using touch controls. This computer was also easily able to connect to phone via Bluetooth and easy to select music on the touch screen. Source button exist for radio options, Line in, Bluetooth and USB. Plus what was very impressive is a separate sound button to tweak the sound controls such as bass and mids etc but did not offer sound positioning in car. Phone function though was nicely synched up with contacts making easy to use touch controls on the screen and made a couple of phone calls. Sound was very good and clear. The screen also had rear cameras and beeping system for parking- very handy and clear. This area also had a clear hazard button, great for auto bahn when suddenly traffic emerges and everyone behind is at high speed. An auto lock button is also offered. Below very easy to use AC system for each side of car using dials plus front and back window heaters, auto stop options and park button as well as boot button to open. Temperature both inside and outside is also shown. The steering wheel controls did offered a clear display between the rev and speed counter. This combine the GPS for next turning etc and distance to- which was most helpful as well as a trip computer and distance until re-fuel. The steering wheel controls were mixed, no auto lighting but when on lighting was very clear and strong and no auto wipers. The wipers in general were confusing especially the rear wipers which I struggled to figure out how to turn off for a while. I also found the cruise control hard to actually activate. Phone controls though were very easy to use as was the volume buttons and skip track etc. The gear box and reveres was also easy to use but I found I stalled the car a lot between 1st and 2nd gear- it seemed clutch was a little loose for what I am used to and though my Japanese car auto boots up when on clutch, the ford you have to re-start the engine. This is a button key less control which was slow to react. Annoying in slow moving traffic. However, the display behind the steering wheel does indicate when to go up gear clearly in case you’re in 4th not 6th etc. Overall the controls were good and smooth when flat out and not having to change the gear too much. Not so great in slow moving traffic but nice displays and easy to use fairly quickly, only cruise control and wipers were confusing. Reverse parking was very easy and safe to use with a very clear camera and beeping alert system. Space and Storage Lots of space in the back with cover plus tinted windows so good for privacy and safety of your suitcases being not visible. Also cup holders and storage box. Driving Very comfortable SUV, nice arm rest and seat ergonomics – making driving for long distances not an issue Handled great acceleration at the high end, so slow to start but depends what gear and style you are driving. However, in 6th gear got car up to 210kmph max on Auto Bahn and did not shake handled it well. Seems to be max speed it can get to. I would say wide corners felt a bit unstable so go easy. I didn’t like driving in slow moving traffic due to the clutch being loose and stalled a few times because of this. Audio Audio was very good the car offers line in/USB and Bluetooth – easy to connect. Highlight was separate sound button enabling you to customize the treble, mids and bass. Sound was overall good standard offered by Sony for classical, rock to drum and bass. Techno was slightly harder to perfect but still sounded ok. You can use balance and fade but unlike US cars you cannot pin point sound positioning which I always find very helpful. Fuel Efficiency I drove around 700 km and it cost me 51GBP which considering distance and the fact I was going at high speeds, as you do on German Autobahns quite efficient. That mileage before fill up had the tank about ¼ left- or 160km until empty. Verdict Quite an expensive hire due to the add-ons with a total price of £105. This is due to the 30 euro upgrade (originally for A3), 25 Euro damage waiver and 26 Euro cross border fee. The last of which I found well over priced when compared to Enterprise and Sixt. However according to staff I was freely upgraded from A3 level to this premium vehicle but still Frankfurt is not a cheap place to hire a car when compared to Brussels or the US. Saying that I enjoyed driving the Ford Kuga, it was comfortable and somewhat fuel efficient – it also included a free GPS system built in and very good sound quality by Sony. It was just slightly over my budget for car hire. However the damage waiver meant the deposit was lower and it didn’t matter if someone crashed into my car in a car park or scratched it- I was not liable so always think this is easier option in the long run, because well let’s face it you never know what may happen.

Alamo – Tacoma Hyundai SantaFe

Car Rental Company: Alamo Company for Purchase: Priceline Location: SEA – Seattle Tacoma Airport Despite Priceline saying “Airport” for my car option at Alamo (others it didn’t), all car hire places are offsite about 10 minutes-drive away via the shuttle bus. All car hire companies are there and you have to wait in line for the same shared bus which I waited about 15 minutes for. Alamo is well seen inside the car rental Centre and a few kiosks and 3 counters. My check-in was very quick, with a very friendly female staff whom explained to me I should upgrade to an SUV from my booking since I mentioned I was driving thru Mount Rainer (my original booking was with a mid size car like a Toyota Corolla). She offered it for $20 then I said its out of budget and got it down to $12.5 for the upgrade. She also upsold the different protections to avoid damage and liability costs. I don’t recall the amount but it was around $10-15 or so. This means if you damage car or it gets stolen you have no liability. I always go with this to avoid any future hassles. I asked her about what car is more comfortable and ones to avoid, she suggested a higher wheel car and to avoid one type of Jeep. After this you go to the lot downstairs where I had the choice of line of SUV’s. Overall very good & helpful service and upgrade was after negotiation, very good and was worth it. Car Selection The SUV’s on offer including about 8 kinds, mainly Jeeps, Kia and my choice which was a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Car Review – Hyundai Santa Fe Sport The Hyundai Sante Fe was a great option for driving around the wilderness of Mount Rainer national park, a decent yet comfortable and powerful mid size SUV. Not specifically a luxury vehicle but did have some great enhancements to make driving a comfort, this included a decent rear view reverse camera as well front warning system. The car’s had some power especially on hills and straight line but not a car for accelerating around windy roads. The interior was nice though with comfortable seating and some functional power sockets and storage areas. Overall a great car for driving in the back country but not a vehicle to say have seriously fun driving at the same it was comfortable and long distance driving would be enjoyable. However its main purpose is to climb those hills at ease and making driving smooth in all terrain conditions. For the one day price paid (£58 /$73 ) it was worth the upgrade but obviously was not so petrol efficient. 250 miles cost me around (£20 / $25 ) Seating Seating was automatic and easily adjustable. Comfort levels were very good due to both sides having arm rest and curative was good. Especially the very one of the most softest head rest, almost memory foam it felt great on the neck. Controls The controls very easy were fairly easy to use, simple console monitor with media, radio, phone, clock, radio scan and set up. Bluetooth was very easy to connect to. Reversing also showed a good standard of screen view plus lines to indicate where wheels are, very helpful for reversing in parking lots. The touch screen format was easy to use for selecting music etc. THE AC was quite simple and basic, with dial format for fan and simply up/down for temperature button- not individual to each side but still easy to find buttons and fan speed etc. In terms of power there are two car power sockets underneath the console, a USB and AUX slots- plus room for your mobile phone. Gear stick was automatic and comfortable at ease to change gear say to reverse which some cars can be annoying but very clear on the Sante Fe. In terms, of the steering wheel this was slight weakness of car, whilst ergonomically comfortable, the controls were not set out easily and cruise control located on right hand side seemed unnatural to almost every other car I have driven with it being on opposite. I also struggled to figure this out to work, it certainly was not clear. On opposite side is the volume and media modes, this worked well. Below though is phone buttons and opposite side is the controls for the dash - this was not very easy to locate or user friendly. The digital display behind steering wheel simply showed temperature, mileage, speed but also can show music playing, maintenance of vehicle such as tyres and customizable settings. Another area that was weak is behind the steering wheel on right hand side below vent, barely noticeable is drive mode button for settings as well as turning anti skid. I believe the drive modes are all terrain, sport, economy etc- but since I only noticed this on the later day of my 24 hour car hire I did not test these functions. Another weakness is the window wipers, if like me you are used to auto function this was annoying to use but you can control the strength of the speed easily. I found the back wipers particular not easy to figure initially. Speed and Rev counters all displayed clearly but digital display of MPH on central hud between them. This was well lit when dark, also lighting was a high point of the car, very clear and easily adjustable. Overall simple controls to some cars with strengths and weakness but actually when actually driving these the simple format of this vehicle such as the touch displays made it easy to control while driving. Space and Storage Storage obviously is very much a strong point of this car with a large boot with cover for privacy plus the back part of the car both rear second door windows and boot windows all blacked out. Therefore putting a suitcase seemed very secure. You could easily fit two large suitcases and possibly hand luggage so a family of 4 with children would just about be fine as a rental. Other aspects of storage I liked was the console central area had a large box that can contain sat nav etc plus a smaller tray inside for say change etc. Above as well was a reading/sun glasses storage box. There was also a dash area for other items – seen below, like say your wallet or purse. There is also the standard cup holders and plenty of room on inside of door for documents. Driving Driving is best described as comfortable, smooth and easy to climb up hills and through forests etc. Slightly boring though on the interstate but then acceleration was generally ok. As mostly with SUV wide corners at speed can be a little edgy. Overall though I could quite happily drive for 500km in this vehicle as it is a comfortable drive. However its more ideal for mountains and wilderness places like my drive through Mount Rainer. Audio The audio had the following options: AM, FM, CD, USB, Line In and Bluetooth. Bluetooth was fairly easy to connect making the touch screen controls able to use from the HUD display. Sound control does have ability to position the sound in the car which was nice and seen on a Jeep previously. Treble, Mids and Bass are all bar based functions that you stretch along. Sound wise was actually fairly good though you did have to fine tune it to certain music types. However had no issues and enjoyed listening to some techno, classical and drum and bass music. Fuel Efficiency I drove around 250 miles and it cost me (£20 / $25 )therefore fuel efficiency is fairly good for the US on winding hill roads in a SUV. Mount Rainer is not a straight road, very much lots of curves and slow roads. So kind of hard to tell. Verdict The cost was £58 /$73 for 24 hours. The Santa Fe sport was a comfortable and simple car to drive with overall decent sound and functional for power with great storage options. It is not a vehicle to have fun but great for say skiers and hikers that want to venture out into the wilderness of Washington state. A vehicle I definitely would consider again.

Alamo – Renault Twingo

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. Car Selection 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 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. Controls 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. Driving 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. Audio 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. Fuel Efficiency 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. Verdict 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.

Alamo – Ford Mustang

Car Rental Company: Alamo Company for Purchase :Priceline Location: LAX – Los Angeles International Airport Alamo is one of the most efficient car rental companies at LAX. You simply get the bus outside arrivals – go to second island where there is a purples sign for car rentals and the buses are so frequent you wont generally have to wait more than 10 minutes. Staff are also very helpful in carrying bags onto bus. Once you arrive at Alamo, staff there as you enter building give you the option of using kiosks or a staff check-in. I personally prefer a person with car rental since I don’t have a US driving license and want to make sure all is checked correctly. Staff service on this occasion was fairly friendly, everything was all included on Priceline so there was no push for say insurance coverage or upsell. My booking was for a convertible- Ford Mustang or similar – I asked if they had any Camaros and his answer was only hard tops which would cost $11 more and initially went for this, he didn’t explain that Camaros are in same class of car so I assumed it was one up, my point was after my last experience, I prefer Camaros to Mustangs and assumed it wouldn’t be in same class. However once you get outside , friendly staff there direct you to the aisle of convertibles – all of which were Camaros, so I didn’t really understand what the upgrade was for. After checking some out they seemed dated and the fact that no mustangs were there and the sun was coming out made me think why did I pay for $11 upgrade when I could just use the Camaros there. Therefore, I returned and got the refund on it stating I am happy with any convertible. He explained the upgrade was for a hard top non-convertible Camaros which are more powerful. Sun was shining I was in Cali and just wanted a convertible – the only way to do it. The process at Alamo is just grab the car there is no walking around looking for scratches with staff and keys are in the car. Its same on return very quickly, I wish the rest of the world was as easy as that. Upon returning though back to the convertibles now all camorra’s 6 were gone within 20minutes and as I returned there was now mustangs appearing, all in one big batch. I headed for last but dull looking Camaro until this beautiful red mustang appeared and was immediately drawn to that. It just had a beautiful body finish and seemed a lot newer than the other mustangs plus the red I guess was a bit of a turn on. I took it over the Camaro. Overall I find the staff at Alamo always really pleasant and checking out was simple with staff wishing me a good day. You get your car and can be gone very quickly. LA is simply the best place of my experience to hire a car, but I would say avoid Budget where lines can take over an hour. Alamo and National (same) are the most efficient I have experienced never a long wait. Returning the car was also a smooth process, simply get out and the bus was there waiting to take passengers to terminal with arrival to the international within 15 minutes on a Sunday morning. Car Selection My booking was for a Mustang and as mentioned did have the option for a Camaro hard top for $11. The convertible section though all had Camaros, so initially I misunderstood the reason for the upgrade. When I arrived back after getting my refund the convertible section very quickly turned into Mustangs I guess before returning back to Camaro’s. I went for the Ford Mustang convertible, though I generally prefer Camaros, I liked the look of this newer Mustang. Car Review – Ford Mustang Convertible The car felt new and clean. The dash wasn’t quite as sexy inside as the Camaro a bit more plastic but some cool switches and actually very comfortable sports seating. This car was a very sporty version – since there was a lot of reference in the controls to track racing. It also was enhanced with a rear view camera, a easy to use convertible roof and quite easy to get used to controls. It was a welcome relief having an automatic as well since I was driving 100miles south down the free way near San Diego. The car controls were very multifunctional and the sound system and touch screen console monitor was a breeze to use. I was also very impressed when I found out I could use Apple car play with my iphone this enhanced the experienced greatly. In terms of actual driving very comfortable and smooth, good power behind it but doesn’t quite have the roar of the Camaro RS but acceleration once it kicks in, which is very quick, is strong and rapid. The roof down in the California sun going 80-100 down the 405 was amazing and the sound quality of the sound system was equally powerful and enjoyable- not leaking that much with roof down. I also liked the fact it had very easy to use cruise control which meant long stretches were easy to switch if you want to take a break of the accelerator and be more fuel efficient. However it’s the little things that also make the difference the various steering wheel modes, the speedometer and rev counter light changes at night white to deep red lighting – a nice sexy touch. Plus as you open the door the Mustang horse logo is displayed on the ground when you park up at night. Keyless engine start button controls also was very cool, even looking at the contouring on the large bonnet as your roar down the highway made the drive exciting. What I didn’t like about the car though is lack of auto functions, perhaps I am used to this with my Japanese car but auto lighting, auto wipers and auto stop, the last one did show the symbol but didn’t work. The drive for a short while without lights after sunset then realized, but when on very good clear lights and side lights are very good looking at front. If you happen to leave key in car lights will remain on to remind you. Overall though for the price I paid (£46) it was well worth it to experience driving a car like this. It is great for a couple or one person and possibly a young family i.e some young kids or short people in back is a good option even for long distances though I don’t think 3 full size adults with the one in the back won’t be comfortable for any distances. Just very limited room as you expect for a car hire. Seating Seating was automatic – it had up and down/ front and back and even lumpur support for lower back that really enhanced the driving comfort. The leather sports curved racing seats were also comfortable for least 3 hours straight- I got out and this is after flying 10 hours and felt no issues. The seat function is very easy to locate while driving on side of seat. This was easy to use while driving. However I did notice the passenger seat had manual basic switch controls. I also don’t think seating is good in the back for anyone older than 10, or taller than 5” as very narrow and compact- ok for maybe a short drive but not any distances. This is a sports car so obviously is not expected. Controls The controls had so many functions I am going to split it into three sections. Starting with the central console. The base has 4 switches – once pressed these come up on your dash hub between the rev and speedometer. The controls are as follows mode- Driving has 4 modes- Normal, Sports, Track (this activates the anti skid to off), and wet driving. I tried both normal and sports and there was only difference with acceleration but this was also with sports mode activated on gear stick. I think it wont make that much difference on a straight but is more for long winding corners. The car grips corners on freeways though very well in both modes. The next switch is steering wheel- you can have Normal, Sports and Comfort. I found the comfort mode too sensitive and prefer a harder steering wheel, sports is obviously more for track racing so is not that obvious but I found comfort to normal had some difference, comfort slightly more swerving on highway – so presumably more sensitive to movements. I preferred normal. The other switch is a hazard switch and the last one was traction control on/off switch. Next to this is the engine switch which was very cool- a push button start which make starting up the car nice and easy. Shutting down the engine is fine but unlike a key witch turning the car fully off like music and HUB computer requires leaving the car and locking it. Perhaps there is an easier way but that’s the only way I figured it out. The gear stick was very ergonomic and switch between normal and Sports mode and I also liked the + and – paddles on the steering wheel which worked well when on normal streets of LA. The AC was very easy to use with dial for each side, it worked well and temperature comes up very clearly on the computer display with a powerful fan- this is for each side plus a real bonus heated and cooler for seats- I only noticed this well with heater on when roof was down in the morning. It got hot. The main console monitor screen was awesome- the fact it had the source button and separate sound button to fine tune the sound made it very convenient when driving and playing about with sound levels. The multiple sound sources were easy to direct thru. USB (which there is a slot below so you can place your phone) and in the box compartment behind the hand brake so two in total) and Bluetooth. I initially used Bluetooth but once I connected my phone thru the USB it went into apple car play mode. This is the first time I have used Apple car play, I did really like the fact all major apps appear on the monitor, including phone, messages etc and it enables you to control music very easy on the screen plus Apple Maps so you turn it in to an easy to use GPS that was clear on a larger screen. However, I still preferred my Garmin, since a Garmin was able to tell me what traffic delay were ahead and alternative routes, something apple maps did not appear to do despite being connected to data. It was annoying that google maps did not come up but obviously its only apps part of Apple. However I still liked the fact you really did not need to use your phone since you can navigate everything around your phone thru the touch screen display. You can also control climate of the car as well. Now to the steering wheel- the phone volume control of music and mode were all very easy to use. The mode controlled the hub display between the speedometer and rev counter. The modes showed gauge detail – all statistics such as air/fuel ratio, vacuum, inside air temp and oi pressure. Obviously this is more for the track. Then there is a fuel economy mode which wasn’t really clear what it was showing me a color green and level etc obviously miles per gallon but not really understanding it that clearly at least compared to my Japanese car. There is a track app- this is just things for track like lap timer, brake performance and accelerator- again statistics. Driver assist which just showed auto engine- it was ticked but it didn’t auto turn off engine say at traffic lights so unsure how this works. I liked the cruise control- very easy to turn on and plus & minus your settings easily without affecting your steering. Even accelerating in certain situations will not cancel it out (like my car does) and will still resume back to your setting once you take foot off the accelerator. Other features I liked was the reverse park camera with clear lines making reverse parking very easy to just look at the screen. It also has a beeper to monitor around you and worked well. The Convertible function is ok – you have to turn a handle and then hit the auto button. It is something that you need to put gear box into park so if you do it while on a main road you can only do it at a traffic light that has a good delay on it- since it’s not that fast and if you go it will be stuck half down etc & you will feel like an idiot so it’s all about timing. Not long but as you get to traffic light that is at a larger junction and there is traffic do it then. Or obviously pull over and park up and do it etc. Overall a lot mentioned here but the car was very easy to figure out and get used to within a few hours. Obviously a lot is to do with track racing so irrelevant for a car hire down US1. Space and Storage Storage obviously is limited, one large case old style case or two of those newer style cases on wheels will just about fit in boot. A couple will just be ok but probably with hand luggage in back seats. Be careful with going fast down highway with roof down, I would not suggest putting back on seat next to you if your on your own put it on floor. Say if it’s a ruck sack and your bag is open it might blow paper due to wind out of it. If its on the floor mat its well sheltered. There is also two handy cup holders with grips just behind the gear stick. A small box is at back behind gear stick that can be semi used as an armrest. The box can safety keep your phone and the keyless control – its safe in there plus that’s where another USB socket is plus Car Power socket. Also both these are offered just below the console as well. Space is not great for back seats quite tight and side pockets as well you may just about fit a water bottle in but not much else. However the side pockets are well sheltered for say your wallet. One thing that was odd is the passenger seat front locker was locked with key only access- but the car had no key so it’s something the car hire company don’t want you opening I guess. Driving Very fun car to drive, acceleration kicks in very quickly and I was switching between sports and normal and shot off like a rocket. It doesn’t have the roar though but handles the power very well, it also handles corners superbly at high speed and very smooth with just general street driving and in traffic. Driving was 10/10 overall. I enjoyed every minute of it. Audio The audio had the following options: AM, FM, CD, USB, Sirius digital Radio and Bluetooth. Bluetooth was very easy to connect actually easier than a lot of cars paired fast. I didn’t realize about apple car play until you need to charge it and use the USB slot then it offers you apple car play so long you have SIRI activated. It changes the whole dash and is great. I am not sure of th full capabilities of it as I know when I test drove a Ferrari it was a vert expensive add on extra function. You need roaming if you not in the US so be wary when using things like maps on data charges- if your from the UK and have Three which allows you to use your home data then it’s all free. Back to sound quality – superb. The great aspect about the Mustang is the fact it offers a simple button on top with musical symbol in which makes you able to tweak the Treble, Mids and Bass plus sound positioning in the car. This you can do while driving so if like me you have a varied play list from techno, drum n bass, hip hop to some rock- you can very easily tweak when driving without any hassle all touch screen. Sound quality was excellent even with roof down you could feel the bass rumble and handle it well. I did pound it out and obviously it is better when roof is down but I enjoyed the sound very much. I would say it really picks up mids and bass more than Spheres so perhaps some new age music might not sound that great but who listens to that anyway and if your going to hire a car like the Mustang and bomb it down the freeway you need some energizing music to accompany your ride. Because of the design of the car with soft roof though it wasn’t as good as the Jeep I hired in terms of balanced levels but it still sounded fine. The jeep to be fair did have a square hard box design so sound bounced off each other better. But the jeep was far from as fun to drive as the Mustang. Fuel Efficiency I drove around 240 miles and it cost me $24 and this is driving at times at 70-100mph and playing with sports mode- so fuel efficiency is superb. I would go so far as saying if you like driving and want a muscle car go to LA, fuel and a decent car are both very cheap especially compared to Europe. Verdict The cost was £46 for 24 hours. Driving was exhilarating, sound was awesome, Apple car play was great to not get distracted while going thru your music and using Maps. Overall the Mustang love has come back to me to win the title between that and Camaro RS which I initially preferred after last driving one. Though the Camaro does have a roar and more classical look inside with overall in my opinion more bad ass look, this particular mustang was one sexy beast that was more functional and with pure driving comfort and enjoyment. One of the best cars I have ever hired. For the price and fuel efficiency it was very good value. Alamo again proved themselves to be awesome and efficient.

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.