In my review of a convertible Camaro last month, I concluded that for birding, you were really better off with something far more boring.
So I went to Florida again. And rented a different car. A more boring car. I am SUCH a giver.
And it was boring. Really, really, really boring. So boring that despite driving the thing for 7 days I couldn’t remember what it looked like and had to hit the trunk release to identify it every time I parked it somewhere that had more than three cars. So boring that I couldn’t remember what it looked like when stopped along a scenic drive to look at a clapper rail and attempted to climb into somebody else’s car to fetch my camera. Thankfully the owner of that car found it funny and/or weird but that’s a story I don’t really want to tell. (Sorry to that anonymous photographer for scaring you. Thanks for pointing out the clapper rail. It was a life lister for me, you know.)
So boring, in fact, that at one point I was parked in a lot and a cattle egret mistook it for a cow.
Now, normally I like the Nissan Sentra. In 1989 I learned to drive stick in a used Sentra that was my Mom’s daily driver. It was small, but sturdy, reliable, not too noisy, and got great gas mileage. This one? Made me miss that old Sentra.
Some of my quibbles were specific to the car I rented, I hope. It had over 35,000 miles on it which, unless you’re in bush Alaska, is pretty high mileage for a rental car: I’d thought usually they get put on the re-sale market by the time they get to that kind of mileage. So I suspect that maybe some of the people who put on some of those 35000 miles weren’t all that kind to this particular Sentra. Which might explain the seat belt light that never turned off. And the weird passenger seat air bag light that randomly turned on and off and I never did figure out what it was for. And the rattle in the dash that only went away when you were decelerating on a smooth roadway surface. And the super squeaky drivers side window. Really only the dash and the window were a problem for birding, and that just for the noise factor.
In terms of birding, I didn’t go too crazy with the birding field trips since the main reason I was back in Florida so quickly after my last trip was to be with a friend who had her baby last week. But I managed to get a birding trip in most mornings. The gas mileage was decent, it handled most of the dirt and gravel roads through various wildlife preserves and water treatment areas just fine. Visibility from the driver’s seat to the left and forward was good (to the right wasn’t as great, to the rear was abysmal. But all cars now seem to have abysmal rear views.) The turning radius was decent for some of those more rural roads I took it on when I had to do a multi-point turn in a small area to get it aimed back down the one-lane road I’d taken it down.
The trunk was sizeable—to the point at which if something had rolled toward the far end of it, I really couldn’t reach it from the back bumper without half climbing into it. We even managed to get a toddler’s car seat into the back seat and if you know anything about the way car seats and small sedans are built these days, that’s a minor miracle. So you could probably carry some decent optics in the trunk or back seat without having to worry about accessibility much and still fit a decent suitcase or three in there.
So clearly, for birding purposes, I need to rank it higher than the Camaro. And the space for hauling stuff really was impressive. But I just can’t get over the boring bit. I mean, I have a Volvo sedan as a daily driver. Cars don’t get much more uneventful than that. But if a car is going to be as relentlessly monotonous as that Sentra, it should excel in some area. And it just didn’t. It was adequate. So I’m going to give it a mid-range score. A 5. Not bad, but not great. I think it’s become my new baseline for the minimums of birding from a sedan.
Or would be, if I didn’t have to keep looking at a picture of it to remind myself what it looked like.