Hooniverse Asks: What Current Production Car Most Smells of Rental Car-itis?

rental-car-sign
Are you familiar with beige? Yes, I do mean the color, but I also mean the concept that the color implies, that of prosaic averageness of which no one aspires. If you’ve ever been in a standard issue rental car, you know what I mean.
Rental cars are, on average, the most boring editions of the models from which they spring. You may pine after a Mustang GT with the competition package for you own ride, but that V6 convertible you rented in Maui was ripped from the bosom of pony car greatness and cast into the gaping maw of unrelenting mediocrity.
Here’s the thing though, while some rentals are crap versions of otherwise respectable cars, there are others that are just plain old crap cars! That’s what we want to catalog today, the cars and trucks that you can buy that are imbued with the stench of the rental fleet despite not requiring ever being near an airport. What do you say, what current production car is most rental-like straight from the factory?
Image: Nerdwallet

42 Comments

  1. “but that V6 convertible you rented in Maui was ripped from the bosom of pony car greatness and cast into the gaping maw of unrelenting mediocrity.”
    The old Mustang V6 maybe…
    I was going to blame it on Rio, but the Kia Rio is actually surprisingly nice now.
    The champion is the Nissan Versa sedan. This is not a good car to drag through high-altitude mountain passes. Maybe at sea-level it’s a good enough car to get you from an airport to a hotel. What do you expect for $10,000?

    View post on imgur.com

    1. We just rented a Sentra, and that upper model had trouble with even a slight incline, so I can’t even imagine how bad one of these would do.

    2. Agreed, I think the old stereotype of the V-6 convertible Mustang being some kind of rental car bottom feeder is nothing but ignorance at this point. It has 300 HP, looks great and the top goes down, only a spoiled auto journalist would consider it a downgrade at the rental counter.

      1. Agreed. The old one was, what, a 10 year old design? The new one is just a Chrysler Dodge Dart, I believe. The Dodge Dart is a good car, if a tad expensive and I am sure the 200 is just as good.

    1. New one, too. They’ll probably undercut the Accord and Camry for the big rental companies. It’s the first thing which came to mind. Even before the Altima, Versa, and Captiva.

    2. Having just had one of these as a rental a few weeks ago, I wholeheartedly agree.
      It wasn’t a bad car – but it was as though Chrysler did their level best to make it as just slightly above middle-of-the-road as possible, which is a shame because it’s there’s definitely potential there for it to be a really good car.

    3. In 200S guise, it looks pretty decent. With the four-cylinder and hubcaps, it looks like it needs a barcode in one of the windows from the factory.

    1. I always defend this Saturn Ion / Opel/Vauxhall Antara, Kroean-German mutt. It had the same drivetrain as the Equinox, but got about 6 miles more per gallon. It’s the smaller CUV GM is woefully lacking until they can bring the new Buick Envision / Opel Antara stateside,
      Here it is in White Sands on an epic Marfa, Texas to Denver road trip. I estimate I have driven the Captiva over 4,000 miles in 4 rentals. If it wasn’t a fleet vehicle, I would own one now. The wife loved it.

  2. The Cruze fits the bill perfectly. The thing about the Cruze is that it’s a really good car for what it is–so most of the ones you see aren’t rentals–but the lack of a high-performance engine option means that it just can’t shake off that robe of beigeness.

    1. I’d love to see Chevy bring back a visceral revvy 4-cyl like the old Quad H.O. and stick it in the Cruze with a 6-speed manual. I just can’t see them being able to sell it.

    2. That is indeed a great example. I like how you can choose all these variations if you buy one like 1.4T, 1.8, and 2.0T diesel, manual, auto, a few bright colors, some dull colors, all sorts of neat gizmos inside or more spare if you prefer – but if you simply went by what you rented it could be disappointing.

    3. I had a Cruze rental for about two weeks a year or so ago (GM warranty repair on my truck). It reminded me in a good way of my old 1987 BMW 325 E30, about the same size, and about the same level of power, maybe more. Handling wasn’t bad, but I didn’t push it too much.

      1. I rented one in an area with fun roads, the handling is okay but the steering is a bit numb and light, I wished it was a bit better there. My passengers, who are both very cautious drivers, already thought I was driving too enthusiastically so they probably didn’t.

      2. It felt like the 99.5-05 A4 Jetta to me. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    1. The Impala also. I’ve rented two in the last year, one with 50k miles and one with 4 (four), so I’ve gotten to experience the thing both brand new and broken-in. Miserable, soul-less things.

      1. Yea, the first car I thought of.
        I’m in Vancouver and I don’t think I’ve seen a single Impala that WASN’T a rental, and damn few of those

    2. My company fleet has a handful of new Malibu Turbos – I picked one up from Oshawa and drove it downtown recently, it was actually quite quick and pleasant, in the same manner I assume a late-GM-period Saab 9-3 would’ve been.I’m sure the naturally aspirated versions really need the $19,995 asking price I’ve been seeing, along with heavy rental usage.

    1. I imagine you can easily drive one off the lot with the manual and no option for a smidge under $10k. Maybe popular in QC for the same reason base Accents are?

        1. You can finance a new car longer than a used one and I would imagine most people buying a Mitsubishi are lucky to get an interest rate below 20%. Excepting the Evo and a few odd balls, Mitsubishi’s main competition in the US is the Buy Here Pay Here lot.

          1. Came here to say this. 84 months finance, yo!
            But yeah, an SX4 is way better than a Mirage. My uncle had one and he loved it until it met its end being T-boned by a red light runner.

          2. But then, you could probably get a decent Kia Rio or Hyundai Accent for the same payment, and they’re much better.

          3. People that end up with 20% interest rate on car loans aren’t know for making good decisions.

        2. Hold up.
          23 city MPG?! Does it have a four barrel carb on it which leaks at least 8 MPGs out of it?

  3. Dodge Challenger SE V6. Within the rental environment, this car constitutes an “upgrade.” To the rest of the world it’s the bottom of the barrel. Who but a rental company would spec a fully optioned Challenger WITHOUT the V8? It could maybe be a hairdressers car I guess, except that hairdressers don’t want a two-ton behemoth not named Mustang.
    http://images.dealer.com/autodata/us/640/2014/USC40DOC191A0/USC40DOC191A021001.jpg

    1. Be truthful, will that “hair dressers” car outrun what you currently drive? None of the V-6 pony cars are really dogs with 300 HP on average which was solidly V-8 land just 3 or 4 years ago.

  4. Maybe my standards are low but the few Camry SEs and even the old dreaded 200 didn’t seem that bad to me. They got me where I wanted to go, in relative comfort and good milage. That’s about all I ask of a rental. I might buy a Camry if I had reliability problems, but that hasn’t been a problem for about 10 years now.

  5. We’ve rented a surprising number of cars in the past year or so, so I’m just going to run down the list. Pretty much all of these fit the don’t-stray-too-far-from-the-median dynamic that seems to be a requirement for a vehicle to be in a rental fleet.
    – Nissan Altima (both the 2- and 4-door models): about the best thing I could find to say for the 4-door was that it was kind of big, and at least the 2-door’s rear quarter blind spots didn’t kill us (but not for want of trying). Other than that, both were utterly unremarkable appliances.
    – Nissan Sentra: as much of an appliance as the Altima, but in a smaller package with a less-responsive CVT. And steering. And suspension.
    – Toyota Corolla: in my fiancée’s words: “this is the car that Cathy from the comic strip ‘Cathy’ would drive.”
    – Hyundai Elantra: more interesting than a Camry, but in the way that bubblewrap is more interesting than packing peanuts. Couldn’t really find anything particularly bad to say about it, but by the same token couldn’t really find anything that stood out about it, either. A Perfectly Acceptable Transportation Appliance.
    – New VW New Beetle: seemed like an odd choice to have in the fleet, but I really can’t understand why anyone would buy one of these instead of a Golf or Jetta. It wasn’t a bad car – but it felt contrived, not really possessing any of the qualities that have endeared the original Beetle to so many.
    – VW Golf 4-door: again, not a bad car. Seemed perfect for rental duty in fleet trim. It struck both of us as being the perfect car to send your daughter (and specifically your daughter, not son) off to college in.
    VW Jetta: much like the Golf, perfectly serviceable as a rental in fleet trim. Better dynamically than the others in the group, but nothing about it really stood out as exceptional. Likeable in a mildly-indifferent way, but was the only one of the group where you didn’t feel like you needed to justify why you were driving it by telling people, ‘it’s a rental’.
    Chrysler 200: this should have been a better car than it was – but it just wasn’t. It’s like they built it to be only slightly above middle-of-the-road and left it at that. Which is a shame, because the car felt like it had unrealised potential to be really good.
    Chrysler Town & Country: ended up with this one after the car I had actually rented was given to someone else and it was this or walking. What can I say; it’s a minivan. Box on wheels, nice enough interior, reasonably comfortable, and reeking of being the point where the remainder of your life has been resigned to never doing anything interesting again.
    There are a couple I know that I’m missing on this list, but those are the standouts – in as much as rental cars ever really stand out in a crowd.

      1. Hah! To be fair, I left myself open to that. Let me clarify: having kids – no problem with that. But if that means a minivan… I’ll pass, at least on the minivan.
        My fiancée and I have already had this discussion and established a ‘no minivans’ rule along with a shortlist for acceptable Family Trucksters. Real Jeeps or other 4x4s are OK, as are pickups. But in the car category, it’s a mix of Citroen DS / CX / BX / XM breaks, Peugeot 404 / 504 / 505 / 405 wagons, potentially a first-gen Taurus wagon (got my first US licence in one, so have some sentimental attachment there), or possibly one of the last Buick Roadmaster wagons from the ’90s.

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