Zip-less Rental Cars
When renting a car, I am hardly an auto snob. Though I'd love a GPS to help me navigate foreign roads and an iPod hookup for my road-trip soundtrack, my only real requisites are four tires and at least two doors. I don't need a roof or a European pedigree, and I don't mind singing along to the radio. However, as I learned during my recent trip to Albuquerque, I do require an engine with at least some pony power.
To keep costs down, I always hire an economy car. (I usually pay $15 to $19 a day, depending on the destination.) Economy cars are basically the bottom feeders of the auto rental food chain. They usually have four cylinders, two less than the compact, and are touted as being good for narrow city streets. However, no one (except the Hertz agent I called post-rental to ask about economy vs. compact cars) mentioned that the Kia Rio is miserable, even treacherous, on interstates. (The Kia is a popular economy car.)
To wit: While driving around ABQ's freeways, I nearly had to press both feet on the accelerator to keep up with the granny drivers in the right lane. The car sputtered and gasped as if it suffered from asthma -- and I was only driving on a negligible incline. At times, I thought I was going to roll backward. I would have felt safer riding a tricycle.
I believe the car rental companies are remiss in not informing travelers of the toy-car quality of their economy vehicles. Perhaps they should ask the driver where he or she is planning to go, and how fast they expect to drive, and assign the car model accordingly. As for me, from now on I will also rent a truck to pull my Kia. Unless, of course, anyone can recommend an economy car with kick?!?
By Andrea Sachs |
August 28, 2007; 11:54 AM ET
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