My Rental Car Upgrade is a Kia Soul?!?
When I arrived at the Hertz rental car facility not far from where I am based — this is a local location and not near a major airport — I only had to wait a few minutes before the person behind the counter was finished with a customer.
I had already reserved a compact car for my road trip of two weeks, which should have sufficed. When I rented a car from Hertz in Calgary earlier this year, I received an upgrade to a Chevrolet Cruze, which I enjoyed, as it was fully loaded.
My Rental Car Upgrade is a Kia Soul?!?
“Your car is a Kia Soul,” the person behind the counter told me as my paperwork was handed to me.
“A Kia Soul?” I asked. “What the heck is that?!?”
“It’s the rat car,” said another person who was in the facility.
“What?” I asked.
I do not watch much television; but this is apparently one of the commercials to which that person was referring…
…and they are supposedly hamsters — not rats — in an advertising campaign which has apparently been around for at least nine years.
The look of disappointment must have been apparent on my face, as the person behind the counter tried to assure me. “We upgraded you to the Kia Soul. It really is a good car.”
Another employee vouched that this was indeed a good car as the first employee went outside to prepare it for me.
I took a look at the car. The design is ugly, in my opinion; and even though it was classified as an intermediate class of car, it looked like it was too small. I would have rather had that Chevrolet Cruze. I mean, I am practically going to live in this car for the next two weeks during my road trip around the United States. I want to listen to music. I want convenient storage space. I want room — especially as I plan to have passengers in the car at various intervals along the way during those two weeks.
All right — before I arrive at a definitive conclusion, let me at least check out the car for myself while the employees of Hertz were doing their final preparations for my rental.
The car may seem small on the outside; but it was also taller than many cars — I found that plenty of room was available for me — even after I spent the bulk of two weeks sitting in that seat; and I never complained about being uncomfortable while driving this car.
Still, I needed to take a look inside…
…hmm…there is both a USB port and auxiliary jack for my old .mp3 player. That will work nicely.
Cruise control: check. Rear window wiper: check. Variable windshield wiper speeds: check. Huge glove compartment: check. Adjustable driver’s seat: check. On-board computer to calculate average miles per gallon, distance range until empty, and two custom odometer settings — amongst other indicators: check. Large touch screen to view my playlists and songs: check. Storage in the center console as well as doors and trunk? Check. Foldable rear seat in case I needed to expand hatchback space? Check.
I found out that I clocked a total of 5,292.4 miles during my two weeks driving around the United States, thanks to one of the two custom odometer readings. The onboard computer allowed me to see such information as the distance remaining until the fuel tank was empty; and the average miles per gallon in gasoline consumption — as well as the ambient temperature outside of the vehicle.
Features were available which I did not even use — such as Sirius satellite radio; and Bluetooth connectivity to my mobile telephone. If you use this feature, be certain to delete your information from the system before returning the car. The controls on both the steering wheel and the center console were rather easy to use and understand, in my opinion.
The glove compartment itself was one of the largest I have ever seen in a car — and that is not including the compartment which was at the bottom of it. Reaching the back of the glove compartment from the driver’s seat was literally a stretch for me — and I am not a short person.
In addition to the glove compartment, storage areas in the front cabin are located in front of the automatic transmission stick; inside the center console under the armrest, which flips up; and in each door panel.
I liked all of the controls available to me on the steering wheel — especially if I wanted to control my extensive playlist of songs, as I was able to keep my eyes on the road while doing so.
In addition to the sound and volume of the horn being a joke when needed, one complaint which I did have about the car is its lack of power. Whether I pressed the gas pedal or had the car on cruise control, it would jerk forward and shift down a gear abruptly and emit a loud grinding noise to get up to speed — especially when ascending up grades…
…but the fuel economy averaged somewhere between 25 and 30 miles per gallon. The range of the fuel tank averaged at approximately 390 miles depending on how much fuel I was able to put into the car. Topping off the tank is usually not recommended for three reasons; but that range felt like I had to stop more often to fill up the fuel tank.
I am not an audiophile; but I found the sound system to be very good to excellent, thanks to the front and rear speakers — as well as the ability to independently adjust treble, midrange sounds and bass. I enjoyed listening to the music I played in the car, as music in important to me whenever I travel. Although road noise was not a major impediment to my driving experience, it was noticeable at times.
The front seats recline, adding to the spaciousness in the front of the cabin — unfortunately, to the detriment of the comfort of passengers seated in the rear seat.
Passengers seated in the rear seat have the option to pull down a center console which has two cup holders built into it. When the center console remains hidden in the seat, three people could squeeze in if necessary.
If I needed room to expand the hatchback area, I could pull down the seats in the rear of the car — but I never did need to use this feature.
Speaking of the hatchback area, a lid — shown on top, which doubles as a temporary shelf when the car is stationary — covers the cargo area. The floor of the cargo area has a door which — when lifted — reveals three extremely convenient spaces to place belongings out of sight. I used these three handy spaces throughout my trip for items to which I did not need immediate access. Additionally, notice the notch in the separations between the three spaces, in case a long item — an umbrella as one example, perhaps — needed to be stored there lengthwise.
Once I became aware of the Kia Soul, I could not believe how many others there are currently on the road around the United States.
The car proved to be a workhorse as I drove around the United States; and although I would still prefer renting a Chevrolet Cruze, I highly recommend renting the Kia Soul based on my experience, as not once did I regret renting that car or wishing that I had a better car — even though the Kia Soul is simply not my type of car. It was comfortable enough and fully loaded for what I needed; but the lack of power and smaller fuel tank may be an irritant to some renters.
All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.