Quite a few years ago now I wrote about the hire cars that I had used during my time in North America. It felt like a fun thing to do, seeing as I'd managed to squeeze in a raft of models in a short space of time. Long time reader Jonathan (and precursor to this very blog) noted that he was glad I hadn't reviewed his car.
I have a new role within work, and it's meaning a lot more travel than any other time in my working life. This is a good thing - the new role, the subject of which is coming up in a coming post, is interesting, but the travel can be tiresome. I'm trying to get it all out of the way at the start, so I can move to a more remote role.
Because of the location of my house and the office transport links are woeful. Last year I took the train to the head office and it was a long and difficult journey with three trains on the way down (of which I missed them all due to a late first train of the morning) and then on the way back it was busy and didn't get a seat. Then there's problem that the train station it's self is a 25 minute drive away. Instead, hiring a car is quicker, more cost efficient, and is far more felexible.
There have been a lot of cars since. Recently, loads of them. Let's try and begin with the last ones I remember. I'm excluding all of the Canada hires - the VW Passat, Kia Optima, Ford Escape, Buick Verano, VW Jetta. Actually, let's indulge one Canada hire.
Dodge RAM 1500
As usual with weddings Connie and I's went a little pear shaped a few times along the way to a successful series of nuptials. One was the day that everyone was getting into town for the wedding our hire car wasn't returned to the place it was supposed to, in time for us to obtain it. We were due to do some running, meeting friends and later family. Dan, the manager of the branch of Enterprise, who has become a close friend with all the coin we drop anytime we go home, has always done me solids - giving me a choice of car, upgrading almost everytime - this time, he gave us a loan of the Ram 1500 truck for the day until our car arrived, for free, free of gas usage too. It was fun having my friends rocking up in a big truck.
Seat Exeo estate
This one car was nice enough, and I used it to go across the country on a camping weekend, but it really made us want a large estate car, which lead us to getting the Passat. In turn, this meant that my UK hiring days were over until 2016. It was a nice car if a bit dated, but the loading space was impressive.
Back in July 2015, whilst the world around me was blowing up, someone crashed into the Passat. In order, I had a telephone interview on the Tuesday, was offered a face to face interview on the Wednesday, was made redundant on the Thursday, was crashed into on the Friday, had a hire car on the Saturday and drove to the office I now work in on the Monday, with a job offer that afternoon, and we had selected a new house by the Thursday. The insurers, who knew it was a no fault claim, told me not to drive and got me an Astra estate. It was a massive boon - we put around 1500 miles on that guy between the trips up and down to Cumbria over the two weeks our car was away, and it gave me a nice story to tell the team once I started.
Hyundai Santa Fe
When hiring a car for work they offer you an Astra as standard, but I prefer automatics so I've yet to have an Astra. The first car I got was this massive SUV and it was simply insane - one of the biggest cars I've driven but was very nice inside and was quite easy to park thanks to all the cameras. I don't know if it was a nice car, as it was pretty unwieldly despite all the assistance, but it looked smart.
I didn't know that you could get Infiniti's in the UK and when this car was dropped off I was surprised. It was until very recently the worst car I'd driven as a hire since the Chevy Spark, as it was heavy, low, dark, difficult to see out of, and generally just underpowered. It was a dark car to drive down south in, and I was happy to give it back.
Mercedes Benz C200
When this showed up I was amazed - it was the smartest car I'd ever driven. I had this for two weeks to so it wasn't a quick hire. It was amazing on the motorway and went like the clappers when you put your foot down, but as a saloon model it had a terribly unuseful boot, and there just wasn't that much space in the rear due to the bucket seats. Additionally, the infotainment system (all the media and stanav stuff) was pretty useless, controlled by a big dial and touch pad area, that even after two weeks I still didn't know how to use fully. Still, I was sad to give it back.
My dad owned an Insignia for a few years and even loaned it to us when the Passat had it's Great Brakes Failure of 2013. We also had hired an estate version at one point too. Anyway, the car was low and big and pretty boring bar two very impressive features - one, was the tank. I had it filled up before I left and travelled around 270 miles in it with barely denting a quarter of the tank. When I filled it back up the trip computer said I had 800 miles in the tank ready to go, making it perfect for pulling on the motorway. Secondly, it was the first time I'd came across Android Auto. I plugged my phone into the car to charge and it offered me an amazing series of interfaces for using Spotify, Google Play Music, Tunein Radio, Google Maps, and even read my WhatsApp messages back to me. Very impressive.
Holy shit. I thought the Spark was bad, but this was just terrible. It had a tiny touchscreen, an even worse set of controls for the heating, sounded like a van under the hood, rattled on the motorway, and had no space in the front for me to find a good position to sit. And to top it all off, this was meant to be my semi-permanent car! I drove it down south and an enginer management light came on, which meant I had to trade it in. Thank christ.
My sister bought a new 208 last year and I remember thinking I liked the look but it was just too small for my tastes, which means the similar but larger 308 should do the trick - and it does! It has a nice ride, great fuel economy, nice driving position, good technology built in, and has a pretty enourmous boot. There are three major draw backs though - the dash controls are non-existent, and replaced with a touch screen for everything. That's fine, but only if the screen was fast, well designed, and easy to use, all of which it isn't. There are afew neat tricks, but not enough to make up for the fact that I have to take my eyes off the road to change the temperature of the AC. The second is that it is blooming tiny in the back, with barely space for car seats never mind an adult. And thirdly, since I've got it the additive management system light has been on, something that has yet to be sorted out by the hire company.