Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Tue September 27 2016

TravelPulse Test Drive: Car2Go

Car Rental & Rail | Scott Laird | September 27, 2016

TravelPulse Test Drive: Car2Go

Photo courtesy of Car2Go

It’s easy to understand why car-sharing services are popular in urban areas. Residents in cities who might normally rely on public transit but occasionally need a vehicle for short periods depend on them. Visitors to large cities who might be more comfortable driving for some trips also find them useful.

After my successful test drive of ReachNow’s service in Seattle, which offers BMW and Mini vehicles and now offers pickups and drop-offs at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport and recently expanded to Portland, Oregon (but not the airport), competitor Car2Go reached out and offered a test drive of their service, which relies on Smart Cars. It just so happened, I was visiting Portland and they offer airport pickups and drop-offs in Portland, so I took them up on it.

Even though Portland has good light rail service from the airport to downtown, and the hotel I was staying in was right across from one of the stations, it’s also a slow train, so I thought I’d see if I could fare better with a vehicle. Picking up a vehicle with Car2Go is easy at Portland Airport—just call the AirPark folks and they’re right there – they’ll even take you right to the Car2Go section.

I probably wouldn’t have had much difficulty if I was already familiar with the Car2Go service and with Smart cars in general. I’m 6’9” so whichever car I’m driving, there’s already a good bet I’m going to be uncomfortably cramped, and I’ve driven subcompacts with less room than Smart Cars, so that’s not really an issue. The drawbacks I noticed were somewhat more practical: you need an engineering degree to get into the trunk, and the instinct of a stock car driver to know what response you’ll get from the accelerator.

It took several minutes to get into the trunk, after discovering there is a release neither inside the vehicle nor an apparent one on the key fob. I don’t recall exactly how I got it open, but some research after my ride indicates that you’re supposed to hit the unlock button on the key fob twice.

Smart Cars are also really jerky on the transitions between gears, so they’re not good for freeway driving – in at least one instance I was coasting and hitting the accelerator but not getting any response. Parking, however, once I found it (heart you, Portland) was understandably easy (the Smart car is just eight feet from tip to tail).

On the return journey, the closest car was more than eight blocks away, and I had luggage, so I took the train.

The Takeaway: Car2Go allow pickup and dropoff at airports, which was news to me.

The Pleasure: For those who have rented cars solely for transportation to and from the airport, this is a much easier, faster option, without the expensive pain of city center parking.

The Pain:  Unintuitive controls, rough transitions, hair-raising freeway drives—but those familiar with Car2Go and Smart Cars will already be familiar with all of these.

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