Category Archives: Rental Car Rodeo

Kia Forte – Inexpensive does not mean Cheap!

Kia Forte
Kia Forte

A family trip jet-setted us to HOT-Atlanta for a weekend with the kids, grandkids (other people’s not ours,) and extended members of the family. We needed basic cheap transportation for the four-day weekend trip to get us from the ATL metroplex out to the ‘burbs, and something to get us around what seems to be endless strip malls and traffic-packed interstates. Did I say we did not want to pay a lot for a rental car?

20171016_140657-ANIMATIONBooking a mid-size car through Priceline’s Autoslash we ended up with a Kia Forte from Avis. The Forte was a simple high-milage rental car in Rent-Me-White. I like to review cars with a few miles on them, as they represent what the car will be like in the hands of a consumer well after it rolls off the showroom floor. The only cars that have a rougher life than a rental car are the cars that have been used by members of the media.

West Coast Customs Kia Stinger
West Coast Customs Kia Stinger

Just the day before this rental, I had been in Kia’s performance sedan the Stinger. Yes, the two cars are different but in many ways quite similar. Kia builds a well-made vehicle no matter if it is their top of the line, middle of the road, family van, or the most basic of transportation.  The Forte is that middle of the road vehicle, and it performed well for our southern family weekend.

 

The Kia Forte

Kia Forte

This small four-door sedan is easy to get in and out of, has plenty of trunk space and gets very decent fuel economy. Plus it is easy to drive. The downside was that it sounded tinny when you closed the door and that the center dash display screen was small and did not give a clear view of the backup camera when in reverse.

 

 

Highs:

Kia Forte EngineThe small exterior size gave it great maneuverability, especially in Atlanta’s never-ending traffic. While the 2.0 liter, DOHC, 16-valve I-4, Atkinson Cycle engine was adequate, putting out 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm mated to an Electronically Controlled 6-Speed Automatic Transmission w/ Sportmatic® front wheel drive provided, it was not a gas guzzler providing just under 30 mpg in normal driving.

The large interior size was comfortable for 2 adults and our luggage. While we did not use the back seat for passengers, things got tossed in there, and if need be there was adequate space for a short trip guest.

Four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch wheels, and projector beam headlamps all provided for a good command of the road. While the base Forte is not loaded, it has plenty of standard features like heated rear mirrors, that make driving safer and more comfortable.

 

Lows:

Kia Forte GrillActually, the only real low for me was the small size of the center console screen where the backup camera display showed.  Other low though at this price point it is negated as it was an entry-level vehicle, is the sound when the door closed and that if you needed power you had to plan on flooring it at the right time knowing the powertrains limitations.

 

Interior:

Kia Forte Rear SeatWhile the interior is basic, the tough fabric was easy to clean and appeared durable. Interior plastics were pleasant to the touch, knobs and controls were well placed and felt as if they would not break off when you used them repeatedly. The rear seating area is complete with a fold-down center armrest with cupholders. The trunk space was easy to get items in and out of and had plenty of space.

 

Overall:

Kia Forte Right SideFor a clean looking, well-designed four-door sedan at an entry of sub $17K price point this vehicle had all the safety features and driveability one could ask for. With Kia’s Ten Year, 100K Mile Warranty this purchase is a no-brainer for basic reliable transportation.

We vote UP on this Rental Rodeo Ride as a contender.

 

William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger
William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger

Words and photos by William West Hopper

 

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The Audi Q3 – Surprise it is an Alamo Rental

The Audi Q3 is the smallest of the Audi SUV lineup.
The Audi Q3 is the smallest of the Audi SUV lineup.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a long winter weekend with friends in New England’s epicenter of Sailing, Newport Rhode Island. Since we were where hanging out at the elite New York Yacht Club, it seems right to book a luxury car through Priceline’s AutoSlash, which Alamo stated would be a Cadillac or similar.

 

Alamo Rental Car Logo

After a grand welcomed to the top level of PVD Airport’s rental car garage, though by an Alamo competitor, we walked the few steps to the Alamo area and were once again welcomed with the offer of an Audi sedan or SUV as our luxury car.

 

 

The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.
The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.

The choice was the SUV, which turned out to be a Q3. While I have driven both the Q7 and Q5 variants, I have not been in a Q3. Alamo escorted us to the vehicle with a personal walk around offering to help with our luggage. Was this because we were renting a luxury car? Turns out, this is how Alamo is treating every customer who rents from them. Upon our return, again, we received a personalized, by name, welcome and “How was the Q3 for you?”  To add to this excellent level of service, an Alamo employee drove us, in our car, directly to the airport terminal. No need to unload and navigate the long walk with our luggage.  Big Kudos to Alamo Rental car for that kind of personalized service.

 

Now about the Audi Q3

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The Audi brand name alone is what must classify this as a luxury vehicle for Alamo. As the Q3 rented from them was an un-optioned base model, even with the S-Line nomenclature that appears on it. The $2100 navigation function was not included, which left the center screen a selection of menu options. Having just the Audi logo would have been better than the un-informative sub-menus that were displayed.

 

The Q3 is the smallest of Audi’s SUV line up, Q5 and Q7 being the larger kin, has a sticker price according to Audi’s website of $32,900 plus $975 destination, taxes registration, and title. Upgrades available are the $2900 Premium Plus package and the $2900 quattro® all-wheel drive that Audi is so well known for.

 

Audi Q3 sported an S line emblem on both the front fender and rear door threshold.
Audi Q3 sported an S line emblem on both the front fender and rear door threshold.

This rental did not have the paint upgrade ($575 for a standard color, up to $3900 for an exclusive Audi Paint color. Nor the $1000 Audi Sport Package, which includes Audi Drive Select, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, or 19 inch 5-double spoke offroad design wheels with 255/40 all-season tires. No sport seats, either!  Both optional packages require the $1350 Convenience Package, which includes the Audi Advanced Key (front doors and tailgate.) Auto-dimming interior mirror with compass. And a power tailgate and decorative aluminum satellite design inlay on the interior. All those options would have made the Q3 even better than it already is.

 

Q3's rear seat while comfortable was a tad tight to get in and out of.
Q3’s rear seat while comfortable was a tad tight to get in and out of.

While the Q3 is comfortable, it is small. Easier to get in and out of due to the SUV’s height, though rear passenger egress was tight as was rear storage. The standard Xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights were nice to cut through the February fog and rain.  While it seems the now standard on most vehicles, a rear-view camera and acoustic parking system did help in backing in and out of tight parking spots.

 

The Q3 was equipped with a 16-valve Double Overhead Cam turbo-charged fuel injected 2.0 TSFI Engine. This cast-iron engine block with an aluminum head four-cylinder (1,984 cc displacement, 82.5cc bore, and 92.8 stroke) produces 200 horsepower @5100 to 6000 rpms, and 207 lb.-ft torque at 1700-5000 rpm. Mated to a six-speed Tiptronic® automatic transmission. The Q3 has a 0 to 60 mph speed in 8.2 seconds. Which was a bit anemic for Rhode Island’s fast moving I-95 traffic.

 

Fuel Economy for our short under 100-mile drive, a mix of highway and in-town driving, was unimpressive at 18.63 mpg on premium 91 Octane gasoline. But for a 2-wheel drive and the short driving we did, not amazing. Averaging -20   City 20 Highway 28 estimated with a 16.9 Gallon Tank I did expect better for this small car.

 

Audi Q3 hatchback design allows for cargo area access.
Audi Q3 hatchback design allows for cargo area access.

I found the handling of the Q3 was a little numb, which surprised me for an Audi with front MacPherson struts and four-link rear suspension. Unlike the Q5 which is more nimble. The fully galvanized steel unibody with an aluminum hood and tailgate gave the Q3 a feel solid. Running on 235/50R18 all-season tires mounted on 7-inch wide wheels gave it a solid grip on the wet roadways. Steering is tight, and I did not notice the power dropping off with electromechanical power steering when the engine shuts off at stop lights. Braking was fine with the 12.3” front ventilated discs and solid 11.1” rear disc brakes.

 

Interior Accoutrements

Leather seating surfaces were nice, though without reading the website, I might have thought they were faux leather.  The 60/40 split folding rear seat made the useable but tight cargo area better (16.7/50.3cu ft, cu ft, rear seatbacks up/folded down.)

 

Audi's Q3 cockpit is well appointed and comfortable to be the driver in.
Audi’s Q3 cockpit is well appointed and comfortable to be the driver in.

Even in the dreary weather, it was nice to have the panoramic sunroof over both the front and rear seats. The three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with tilt and telescope manual adjustment was comfortable to hold onto as was the leather-wrapped shift knob.  I always like ambient LED interior lighting, and today you need the power outlets.

 

I missed pushbutton start on the Q3, for an upscale car having to get the switchblade key out and put back every time seemed so old-fashioned. While our trip did not encounter freezing temperatures having the heated windshield washer nozzles is a great help.

The Q3 came with a spare tire, which is rare in small SUV's.
The Q3 came with a spare tire, which is rare in small SUV’s.

The Audi Concert Single CD player Radio with MP3 capability was confusing to operate, especially while driving. Having the BLUETOOTH® and voice control system did make it easier.

 

While this Audi made for a great rental vehicle, stylish and well sized, with decent handling. If I were to choose one as a daily driver, having more optional equipment would make me happier. Though after driving the Q5 and the SQ5, I would upgrade to one of them, preferably the SQ5.

 

he Dashboard controls and switches on the Audi Q3 are easy to understand and navigate.
The Dashboard controls and switches on the Audi Q3 are easy to understand and navigate.

This Q3 is made at Audi’s production facility in Spain and has a 4-year/50K Mile Audi New Vehicle Warranty and comes with 12-month / 10K mile no charge first scheduled maintenance.

Check out the Audi Website for more info on the Q3 as well as their other SUV’s. Audi dealers are plentiful and very customer focused like Alamo was to us when I rented this car.

 

Queer4Cars is always big on getting deals when we go shopping, for anything. Check with organizations you belong to for their buying service options, from your insurance company or financial institution to the warehouse clubs. When local auto shows happen, always stop by the booth of the brands you are interested in and request them to send you more information. Many times you will get a monetary incentive opportunity to buy a vehicle because of this.

 

Photos and words by William West Hopper.

 

The Humble Four-Door Sedan, the Nissan Sentra

Nissan Sentra SV a frugal and dependable car
Nissan Sentra SV from Avis Car Rental

While brand new cars are exciting, it is only that once. We want a car to be able to wow us after the passage of time and thousands of miles of driving. That is where our 2016 Nissan Sentra SV from Avis Car Rental comes in. On a recent January road trip from Washington DC to Detroit MI, this mid-level car average everyday 11-month old car intrigued me, as to how good it was after 22K hard-driven rental miles. And I was more impressed with it at the end of the 1200 mile trip than when we started

 

The Nissan Sentra SV provided great average fuel economy.The first thing that you notice is that the Sentra’s 1.8 liter 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine Front wheel drive with Xtronic CVT® (Continuously Variable Transmission) is just as peppy as you will need. Fuel mileage averaged 28 mpg, this car shows you get better economy at slower speeds. I saw 25 mpg in fuel consumption when average speed was higher v/s 30 mpg at a slower pace.

 

Nissan Sentra's dash is clear and easy to reach and understand.
Nissan Sentra’s dash is clear and easy to reach and understand.

Ride comfort was fine, handling was not like a sports car, but it is not one either!  Cabin noise was acceptable without squeaks or rattles no matter driving the interstates or streets of downtown Detroit. Modern touches were there, push button start, keyless entry, a rear camera, and Bluetooth connectivity that in the past would have been expensive add-ons for any car, and unavailable in a lower priced mid-line model such as the SV.

 

Nissan's NissanConnect Bluetooth systems connects the apps in your phone to the car's entertainment system.
Nissan’s NissanConnect Bluetooth systems connects the apps in your phone to the car’s entertainment system.

The Nissan Connect program that connected a phone to the audio system through Bluetooth was available on the Sentra. While a USB plug connected to an older iPad, never seemed to connect to the device. Even an old school single disk CD player was part of the built in entertainment with a decent sized 5-inch screen.

 

 

 

The Nissan Sentra had plenty of trunk space for all the gear you may want to haul.
The Nissan Sentra had plenty of trunk space for all the gear you may want to haul.

Overall Impression: While this is a basic 4-door sedan, it was powerful and efficient, as well as comfortable for a long drive.  Technology may not have been over the top, with the basics of what you need, and nothing more. Interior space was plenty as was trunk space. Complaints, for the purchase price of this vehicle it would be a great buy providing the technology and safety that one needs.

 

 

This vehicle was rented by me and not provided as a press vehicle, and this review is my personal opinion of the Nissan Sentra SV.

William West Hopper bundled up for a winter road trip in the Nissan Sentra SV.
William West Hopper bundled up for a winter road trip in the Nissan Sentra SV.