In addition to our literal “adventures are not all pony rides in May-sunshine” experiences on this trip in which we dealt with incessant rain, we had another rather disappointing component of our trip. That was that our car, a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, was… pretty terrible!
While it wasn’t as literally underivable as the Tezzari Zero Ariel and I dealt with in Bermuda a few years ago, this “SUV” was definitely below average. But it was really the (lack of) service at Europcar that made this such a miserable experience.
Let’s start with the car, which we were told was “an upgrade” over what we initially reserved. I had my doubts when we arrived at Keflavik airport (after a truly miserable travel experience), and actually asked if we could upgrade to a Jeep Grand Cherokee size SUV, knowing we would be spending much of our experience in the car. They said they didn’t have any, and after a 4+ hour delay at JFK and everything else we just… went with it.
The car (as opposed to the SUV it was supposed to be) was brown, which instantly led to us nicknaming it “the doody car” – which Jacob thought was hilarious, but in reality really wasn’t so funny! First of all, it barely fit two suitcases in the trunk, which meant the rest of our stuff was in the seat next to Jacob’s car seat. It made seeing out of the rearview mirror a challenge, and meant we reeeeeeally felt every bump we hit, which was not great, but far from the worst driving experience I’ve had.
No, the real issue with this car was that despite being a “hybrid” – the gas mileage was absolutely TERRIBLE. Maybe this was just a function of driving on somewhat unpredictable Icelandic roads, but we had to fill up on gas literally every single day. The maximum range the tank had was about 500 kilometers, which… come on… a “hybrid” car with less than 300 miles on a full tank? How small was this thing’s gas tank?! Also annoying was that when we got the car, the tank wasn’t even totally full – the range showed about 400+ kilometers, which I assumed was the max and didn’t discover you could fill it a little past that until the last day of the trip.
Making matters much – and I mean much much much – worse was that the gas gauge was nearly useless! Not only did we have to fill up on gas every single day, but the range calculator would regularly go from 50, 60, even 80 kilometers left, down to zero with no warning. And the gas gauge itself would drop from around 1/6 of a tank left, to zero with no warning too. This was pretty critical on days we had to be at a certain place at a certain time. Sometimes stopping for gas means you need to skip doing something you want to do, especially if you have to go off your planned route to find a station. And in Iceland, that definitely happens!
There was also this crazy issue where the car would make these really shrill beeps anytime we went a certain amount above the speed limit. “So don’t go over the speed limit,” you might say… but there was no rhyme or reason to it at all! Sometimes if I went just a few kilometers above the speed limit the car would go nuts, while other times going 20 KPH above the speed limit did nothing. There were also times where the car thought the speed limit was not the same as what the signs said so there was almost no way to know what the damn thing wanted me to do! I mean look, I’m all for safe driving, but when the speed limit is 50 KPH, and you go 54 by accident and are treated to your car screaming at you, then you slow down, and when the speed limit goes up to 70 KPH and you speed up a minute later… and the car starts screaming you AGAIN, especially when your kid and/or pregnant wife are taking a nap… that’s not a great experience!
We called Europcar to ask if there was any way to disable this “feature” but we were told we needed to bring the car in for it to be addressed. Oh, did we want to waste a half day of our extremely limited time going out of our way to get a different car, transferring all of our stuff out and into a different car? No, as a matter of fact, we did not.
Also “did you try googling the issue” was a thing the customer service person actually said to my wife on the phone. Amazing.
(we had, in fact, tried googling the issue)
Eventually a few days into our trip, I realized that if I lowered the volume AS THE BEEPING WAS HAPPENING, it at least muted it, even though it would interrupt/silence the music that was playing for the rest of the trip. Google, unfortunately, was no help.
The last issue I had with the car, that probably is not specific to this specific model (which really is pretty terrible so stay away anyway!) was that the wheel alignment was absolutely shot. The car perpetually pulled to the right, so much so that I was fighting it the entire time. This wasn’t great, but probably a reflection on the poor maintenance by Europcar, more than an issue with the car itself. Still, the small size, screwy gas gauge, incessant beeping, and awful gas mileage make this car a definite AVOID at all costs.
But the final straw that led to this review/rant, was our experience returning the car.
We got to the airport about three hours before our flight. The Europcar return was absolute pandemonium. Cars packed together like sardines, no one directing traffic at all, and in fact no explanation of what we were even supposed to do. Finally I just ditched the “doody car” so as not to hold up all the people who came in behind me. I was immediately boxed in by multiple other cars behind me and on both sides, with no employee to be seen.
I went into the trailer to talk to the employee… who was… simply beyond obnoxious. First he told us that there was no shuttle and that I should drive my quite pregnant wife to the terminal and then come back. I pointed out that we were boxed in completely and he said he would move the cars out of the way. Really? That would take forever!
He then came outside to take a look at the car and immediately said he would be charging me for bringing the car back without a full tank. I told him we actually received it without a full tank and he demanded I show him pictures as proof. Like really? Do people lie about that a lot? Whatever. I then told him about the wheel alignment and gas gauge issue, and he said “oh you can never rely on the gas gauge” and I was like “actually no, you can, that’s the point of a gas gauge.” He told me I was wrong. And he didn’t care about wheel alignment issue at all. I asked him if we could at least have a break on the gas issue since we had all these issues and he said no. I then mentioned the issue with the speed beeping and he said “well you should have called us.” I mentioned we did, and he snapped that I should have “just brought the car in to get it exchanged.”
At this point, I kind of lost it a bit and told him the car was a piece of garbage and they should be ashamed to rent a car that has these kinds of issues. I also pointed out it was RIDICULOUS to say to someone that you can’t trust the gas gauge. I’ve rented literally over 100+ cars in my life and never had that kind of issue. When I told him that he said “oh yeah? I’ve rented millions of cars!” which… wow… ok man, good for you. At this point there was a line of people behind me and all I wanted to do was get out of there. I kept saying, “please just charge me for the gas so I can move on with my life” and the Europcar employee just kept saying I was rude and bad and so on and so forth. Which… I don’t know, ok, maybe? But so what, I already agreed to your terms, just let me go so I can make my flight! He just kept badgering me over and over again about what a jerk I was to raise these issues, and all I kept saying was just charge me and let me go.
Finally he charged my card, and I left. The people that ditched their cars behind us were still waiting for service, and more cars kept arriving and backing up into the road. Just a total disorganized, logistical mess. Ariel, Jacob and I then walked with our suitcases to the airport, which wasn’t that big of a deal, as it was only a 5 minute walk or so, but man if it had been raining, that would have suuuuuucked.
Also the time we wasted with this character meant we had less time to get through the multiple security checkpoints they have in Iceland (what’s up with that by the way?), which meant we had to rush to our gate. Ariel didn’t even have time to get water. Usually dropping a rental car off takes a few minutes. You hand the keys over, the attendant looks it over and tells you you’ll have your receipt emailed to you (or prints it out) and that’s that. But no, not with Europcar in Reykjavik. There you need to justify why you brought the car back with a 10% less than full tank and be treated like an asshole for bringing some pretty important safety issues to their attention.
In the final insult, on our walk we saw a shuttle going from the rental car parking lot to the airport. Whether it was a Europcar shuttle or Hertz, either way, the moral of the story is – do NOT rent a car from Europcar at the Keflavik airport in Reykjavik! And if you have a choice between a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and basically every other SUV, choose the other car! It’s a bad car, and an even worse rental experience! What a disappointing end to an otherwise incredible trip in a country that we were utterly enchanted by.
Verdict: An annoying and obnoxious use of the time you are given. Don’t do it!