Another rental choice


Samsung's SM3, left, and the Geely CK.
  Mention Samsung, and Canadians and Americans will think of cellphones, sewing machines and microwave ovens. In other markets, however, including as close as Cuba, Samsung also stands for cars, as I learned when I inquired about the make of a rental sedan bearing the designation "SM3 LE16" on its deck lid.
    So which, I asked, was better  the Korean-made Samsung, or the Chinese-built Geely CK parked alongside?
    "Samsung," came the prompt reply. "Renault engine."
    Well, close.
    Samsung began building cars in 1998, just as the Asian financial crisis took hold. Two years later it sold a majority stake in its auto division to Renault in a deal that included the use of the Samsung name until 2020.
    But rather than containing any Renault parts, the rather characterless sedan I saw in Cuba was actually a rebadged product of Renault's global partner, Nissan, dating back to the early 2000s. And looking at it, it did resemble a 2002 Altima.
    Not that there's anything wrong with a 2002 Altima.
    Since 2009, by the way, Samsung has offered a new SM3, this one based on the Renault Mégane. The older model, however, remains in production as the SM3 CE (for Classic Edition).
    Not sure if you can rent the new SM3 in Cuba, but if you're willing to go up the price ladder, I do notice that Samsung's SM5, based on the Renault Laguna, and SM7, a cousin to the Nissan Maxima, are available. Both look like quality choices.

SM3 has a Nissan 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, CVT auto transmission.

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