I was telling the woe of it to my boss when I came in. (My boss, Jonathan, is Scottish and also drives a 2003 VW Jetta.) He knew exactly where I was coming from. As he put it so well, the rental cars you get in this country have very spongy suspensions. Its like being completely disconnected from the road. I find it disconcerting. That combined with the lack of power and the boat-sized body make for a very disconcerting driving experience. Did I mention the huge turning radius? Gah.
I never used to think of myself as a car person. I barely got my license before I graduated high school, hardly drove my mother's old '74 buick for the couple of months that it was mine, and then left for MIT. I spent a decade completely without a car, which was fine. Now that I'm driving, though, and married to a man with a sports car and a Road & Track subscription I find that I am a complete car snob. I'm a snob in that I know what matters to me in a car and I am uncomfortable when I don't have it.
The frustrating thing about the rental situation is that I'm sure they think they're giving me a good car. They price rentals on size. They probably think the rental is comperable or even better than my car. Its bigger, after all. In a society that is crazy about SUVs its not so suprising that they may think that. The thing is, I don't want bigger. My car is plenty big enough, if anything too big. (I bought it thinking I would be putting kids in carseats in the back soonish... but that's a whole other topic.) My car has other qualities that I find much more important. It has a very resonsive engine, a tight turning circle, a suspension that lets me feel in control, and it is very easy to see out of in all directions. It is easy to parallel park -- I shocked a couple of car salemen by insisiting on parallel parking the cars I test-drove. I understand that there is no way a rental car company can understand all these variable and provide me with something similar, but is it too much to ask that they not compare cars on size alone and assume that all four-door sedans are the same except in size?
Maybe what I'm saying is that I am a European car girl, and thus its just hard for a place catering to the US market to please me.