Category Archives: Rental Car Rodeo

Rental Car Rodeo – 2018 Hyundai Elantra from Budget – DIA January 2019

Hyundai Elantra in the Colorado MountainsBooking a rental car is always a crap shoot. You go for the best price and choose the rental car company that you feel will give you a decent car though often you have no idea what you will get once you show up at the lot. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and this time it worked out just right.

Reviewing rental cars in this column is a great way to see how cars survived in the tough life of rental service, one of the toughest lives any vehicle can endure. Life as a rental car is not easy, and one that is in the wide open high plains of Colorado often explains high mileage in the short lifespan, which was the case in this rental.

Budget Car Rental was the company that we booked with for a recent trip to Colorado. We needed nothing fancy, just a car big enough to carry three people for five days in the mountains. We find that booking through AutoSlash, a Priceline company, gets a great price, often better by about fifty bucks per rental. And using an upgraded American Express Card provides a better per rental price for insurance, which we have used, and swear by, thankfully not on this trip.

Denver International Airport

DIA Denver International Airport in the snowWe arrived at DIA on a Thursday afternoon, just a snowstorm had coated the landscape with a light dusting, making the many young skiers that were heading up to the mountains thrilled. On the very packed rental-a-car bus, those skier dudes were hoping for F150’s and hot muscle cars, which made me think you guys are driving up to where there will be a lot of snow, Oh yes, that is what it is like to be young, remembering one trip out getting a Jeep was my goal in a Colorado rental.  When we arrived at the counter, being a Fastbreak member, they had a very clean 24K mile 2018 Hyundai Elantra SEL in Electric Blue with beige cloth interior ready to go for us. Surprised that it took longer to wait for the bus than it did to stand in line for a car.

Snow Covered Hyundai Elantra
Snow is a constant in Colorado, and the Hyundai had no problems with it.

Budget had the car cleaned off and all we took a walk around and did our best to disable their tolling device so we could use our own Express pass as we did not want to pay for their daily usage charge plus an inflated toll rate.  The car was remarkably clean and dent free, inside there were a few stains on the seats and headliner, and the faint smell of cigarettes, even though there is a sign on the window saying no smoking.

 

Driveability

20190129_085718This Elantra was made in Hyundai’s Alabama plant and went into rental service about 11 months earlier. With 24K miles on it in under a year, this was going to be an excellent subject for a review.

Hyundai Elantra with Nexen TiresOur first leg of the journey was about an hour on the Tollroad and I25, where the car exhibited tire noise from the P205/55R16 Nexen Tires mounted on 16-inch alloy wheels. The Elantra handled quite well and was still very tight and rattle free after a year’s worth of rental use and 24K miles. The SEL’s Blind Spot Detection (BSD) was very handy and quite accurate, and in a car that you are unfamiliar with it comes in handy. The 147-hp 2.0L 4-cylinder engine performed well with three adults in the car, and the 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC® and Active ECO System gave us over 32 average miles per gallon in real-world driving.

Hyundai Elantra SEL Windy conditions as we drove along the open roads did buffet us around as this is a light car, but not so bad that it made the car uncontrollable. The 4-wheel disc brakes provided confident stopping power. And being it was January in Colorado we got to drive in various snow conditions. Not deep snow, but three to four inches of slush. This is where the Nexen PRIZ AH8 tires all season tires did just fine, even with the mileage on them. Occasional the front-wheel-drive did experience some tire spin, but nothing that got us stuck or in trouble.

 

Things that impressed:

 

  • Impressed that at this price point the Elantra has individual tire readings on the dash tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS.)
  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist came in handy
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines gave us a large image when backing up.
  • AM/FM/HD/SiriusXM Satellite Radio/MP3 Audio System with 6 speakers and kudos to Budget for having the SiriusXM Radio activated beyond the Complimentary 3-month trial subscription.
  • Bluetooth®hands-free phone system with voice recognition recognized the phone and set up quickly
  • Smartphone/USB and auxiliary input jacks were handy for using as a power source. Though I am not a fan of Android Auto, so I did not put that into use.
  • Heated side mirrors in snowy conditions, a great plus.

Hyundai Elantra DashThere were very few things that bothered us, other than having to reach out and grab the wide opening large front doors on this four-door sedan. And the tininess sound of the door closure, and we never really found a way to open the truck without using the interior trunk release or the keyfob trunk release button.

Overall

Hyundai Elantra has a wide swing for the front doorHyundai makes a great car for the price point, well styled, great fuel economy, roomy in both the passenger compartment and the very large trunk.  And seeing how well this Elantra has held up under the tough conditions of being a rental car, we were impressed with that build quality as well as fit and finish.

This is a vehicle we would recommend buying new, and if pre-owned, doing some research, not sure that a used rental version would be a good value, but if the price were right, and you needed solid transportation, then yes indeedy!

The Hyundai Elantra has a base price of $19735 with $885 freight – plenty of offers   For 2019 The price has increased to $19400 plus $920 shipping – $20,320

Words and Images by William West Hopper

 

We reviewed the Elantra back in the summer of 2016 

Mechanical

  • Inline 4-cylinder with a 2-liter displacement 147 horsepower @ 6200 RPM with 132 lb-ft of torque at 4500 RPM DOHC 16-valve with D-CVVT with a Multi-Point fuel Injection (MPI) using regular fuel.
  • Front Wheel Drive (FWD) with a 6-speed automatic transmission with Normal, Eco & Sport Drive Mode Select and a SHIFTRONIC®and Active ECO System
  • Unibody Body construction
  • MacPherson Strut with coil springs Front suspension with front stabilizer bar and  Coupled torsion beam axle Rear suspension:
  • Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS)
  • 78 Ft curb-to-curb turning diameter
  • 4-wheel disc brakes
  • 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55R16 tires

 

Safety Features

  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist
  • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
  • Brake Assist (BA)
  • Advanced dual front airbags (SRS) with Occupant Classification System (OCS)
  • Driver and front passenger side-impact airbags (SRS)
  • Side-curtain airbags (SRS)
    (front and rear passengers)
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • Energy-absorbing steering column
  • Front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters
  • Rear LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)
  • Power window lock-out button
  • Front and rear crumple zones

 

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Drive Cool Cars, Join an Exotic Car Club

While you are behind the wheel of your SUV, you look over and see someone driving a great car, and say to yourself, “One Day?” That day could today with a local club. You can make that exotic car dream drive a reality.

Drive Society has Exotic CarsYes, you could be behind the wheel of any number of supercars for about the yearly lease costs of a luxury car. Without all the hassle of insurance, maintenance, and trying to fit it into your garage. Someone could toss you the keys then you are behind the wheel for a day, a weekend, or more.  Better yet, when you tire of that ride, you can choose another one, and be off on another adventure.

Drive SocietyArlington VA startup Drive Society can make such a dream come true. Be it a two-seater Mercedes-Benz AMG GT or a practical though still exotic sedan, like the Tesla S. Maybe you have a hankering for a classic American Muscle car, how about driving a ’69 Camaro or maybe a Ferrari 458 Italia? These are just a few of the current stable in Drive Society’s nearby garage.

Drive Society has developed a membership club where you purchase points which allow you to use them towards a day or more of driving any one of their nine exotic cars. And as a Drive Society Member, you get to be part of the group decision-making process of what the next car the club buys next.

Membership

Drive Society's Ferrari 458 Italia
Drive Society’s Ferrari 458 Italia

You purchase a set number of points at levels from $2000 for 60 points, up to $12,000 for 400 points. Each car is valued in a specific number of points to rent for the day, from 6 to 35 points. You spend those points depending on the car you drive. (Note the Ferrari is available only to the upper levels of membership.) Yes, there are some minor restrictions: mileage is limited to 200 miles per day, except on the Ferrari which is 150, and no you cannot take these vehicles to a track day, as all cars are for street use only. So for two grand, you can drive a Porsche for ten days and 1200 miles, or the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT for 3 day and 600 miles. For the first year, if you do not use up all your points, you will incur a $50 per month membership fee.

Insurance for physical damage and supplemental liability is included, your own auto policy covers primary liability while you drive the cars. Garage expenses, Arlington County personal property tax, detailing and maintenance expenses are all covered in the membership. For an additional fee, you can have your car delivered and picked up at the local location of your choice.

The Club

Drive Society DC's AMG GTDrive Society is a driver’s club, while it was developed for automotive enthusiasts, you don’t have to be a car geek to belong. Perfect for that Dad or Mom who wants to drive a cool car, but does not want to own one every day. Once you become a member, the minimum age to be a member is 28, you can rent a car and also have a say in the vehicles purchased and sold by Drive Society. Member’s business meetings and events are held regularly throughout the year and range from social happy hours (no driving) and trips to go-kart tracks to events designed for you to take out one of the cars, be it at a racetrack to watch a race or an auto festival.

The Cars

Drive Society has a collection of nine interesting cars. Porsche’s, Tesla’s, a BMW, a classic Chevy, even an AMG and a Ferarri. In talking to Alex Schaffer one of the founding partners he shared that these are not brand-new cars, due to the immediate depreciation costs that new cars (even exotic ones) experience once they roll off the dealer showroom floor. Some are limited production models that were hard to find at dealerships when they were new. Drive Society scours the country looking for great deals on great cars, buying at auction, from private owners and collectors. They bring them back to Arlington and register them in Virginia.

Foundering Partners

Alexander and Danielle Schaffer, a husband, and wife team with young children founded Drive Society after both working in federal contracting positions with Information Technology companies. Following Alex’s passion for Sports Car Club of America – SCCA racing, the two of them have developed Drive Society filling a niche of supporting a passion that people have for automobiles. Taking the car sharing, exotic car rental and fractional auto ownership business model to the next level. While car clubs are often formed with members who own individual cars, this provides members who may not have the opportunity to own dream cars to actually have use of cars they would never own outright. Sharing the expenses and responsibilities with other members, as well as the fun of driving them.

Katie's Cars and Coffee in Great Falls VA
Katie’s Cars and Coffee in Great Falls VA where you will often find Drive Society showing off their rides.

You can find more about Drive Society either in person at any one of the Washington DC area automotive gatherings or online at their website. If you are an automotive enthusiast or just interested in the concept, I would suggest talking to Danielle and Alex in person and seeing the cars that Drive Society manages yourself sometime soon. You can find them at local events like Katies Cars and Coffee, or Carsfera Auto Festival, and other events nearby.

Queer4Car's William West Hopper and Matt Rihl
Queer4Car’s William West Hopper and Matt Rihl

Words and Images by William West Hopper

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

 

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.