babyghia's dad went with my parents and some of the luggage. The rest of us got the courtesy bus to the hire car compound. Myself and babyghia had decided to get a bigger car (see what they offered). We had booked an 'Mondeo' (Ford) sized car and were offered a VW Passatt as well as a BMW or Mercedes. I choose the Passatt as VW's are nicer to drive than a BMW or Mercedes (I've driven various types from all three companies). Also, I didn't want the insulting label you get when driving a BMW or Mercedes.
Anyway, the Passatt was a top of the range model. Six speed manual with a big turbo diesel engine. The hire person gave me the once over of the car - it didn't have a key. The 'key' was a module that you inserted into the dash. To start the engine you held down the clutch and depressed the module for a couple of seconds - which was weird enough (I like a key). The module also locked/unlocked the car and boot/trunk. Even more weirdly was the handbrake, which was a switch. You could release the handbrake by pressing the brake pedal down and depressing the switch. The boot/trunk was huge - ideal for a rep and their demo stuff. The dash was nice and the display was useful enough. We didn't really like the built in sat nav (Emily was used more). The in-car sat-nav may have been more useful if we'd worked it out but even then - the ease of use of my old battered sat-nav beat it.
The handbrake was an issue for me the entire time. As with manual transmission the handbrake gives you a lot of help. I'm sure there was a hill assist somewhere but I could find it - I just hoped no-one stopped too close to me on an uphill as it caused issues.
Anyway, the car itself was nice to drive, clutch and gearshift was very nice and the engine worked very nicely and the turbo didn't have major lag. Disconcertingly, the car would tell me when to change up and down gears. Weird but useful and after I'd gotten used to it - handy. Being a diesel we got fantastic mpg (in fact the 'range' was higher after driving to Derby from Heathrow). We did a lot of driving in that car but I only filled it up twice - in a petrol car I would have filled it at least 4 time (probably more).
It took a while for me to get used to the car, the brakes were very good and I braked too hard quite a bit until I got used to it.
We had a couple of big issues with the car. The front seats weren't exactly comfortable. I have driven a few hundred miles in a car and not had any issue. From my nice Vauxhall Nova to my battered, underpowered but plucky Peugeot 106. The front seats in the Passatt made me want to get out and move within 40 minutes are getting in. For saying that this car is a 'rep' car I found that to be annoying. Maybe it was due to the 'seat heating' or something else - it just wasn't as comfortable as it should have been. The other issue was that the front of the car didn't seem to have as much space as it should have. Maybe the engine caused that issue but it just was missing there.
All in all, the car did a good job - it survived a lot of driving and was pretty good at working giving me the extra power when I needed it. It was just missing something in the comfort stakes. I could only describe it using a Clarkson line from Top Gear. "If someone gave me the car I'd love it, but would I buy one.... No".
One last thing - I couldn't resist it (not many could have). I spotted my dad looking at the back of the car when we were walking to their house after going out for dinner. Being me, I remotely opened the boot/trunk and made him jump. Mean, but not many could have resisted that :-D