Rental Car Review: 2021 Suzuki Vitara

2021 Suzuki Vitara

For Christmas 2023, the family and I rented a house on St. Lucia for a week of warm weather, and bonded with a rented Vitara.

I’m not sure that this was a 2021. Since it is not a USA vehicle, there is no label in door jamb indicating date of manufacture. The insurance and registration documents in the glovebox described it as a “silver” 2021 Vitara. As you can see, it is not silver. Maybe those documents belonged to another car in the company’s fleet.

It seemed older than a 2021, but that may be owing to a rough life as a rental on the island. It looks good in the pictures, but the hood, front bumper, left front fender, left front door, liftgate, rear bumper, right rear quarter panel and right rear door had all been repainted and not very well.

St. Lucia plates have four digits, and maybe a letter or two (or not). Our car also had two soccer (futbol) balls, and the EU style GB name, though I never saw that on any other plates.

There was a good color match, but the finish on these panels had alternating areas of orange peel and runs, sanding marks, and bondo. The hood bounced and moved all around, with each bump. Maybe some adjustments to the latch would help that.

With about 41,000 indicated miles, it rode well and pretty quietly when there was a road (more on that later). Not sure what engine it has either, but the Suzuki website indicated it is probably a 1.3 liter or 1.6 liter four cylinder gas.

Helpful reminder label on the dash from the rental car company.

The vehicle was well equipped, with automatic, “All Grip” all wheel drive, LED running lights, General Motors grade A/C (it was 90 degrees F during the day), rear camera, blind spot monitoring, and the like.

There were cheap touches, such as the entire dash being hard plastic, including the black top which would have to be padded in a USA version. The floor covering was more like felt than carpet. The rear hatch was misshapen where hands would slam it closed, due to the thin gauge of the steel. Doors creaked and moaned when opening and closing.

I couldn’t decide if the body color section of the dash and rings around the vents was factory, or done later. The Suzuki website depicts the dash as having a fake carbon fiber pattern. The steering wheel looked to be in good shape under the vinyl add-on cover, which was flaking apart.

House on St. Lucia

We were very happy with the house for the five of us. It had three large bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pool, and many outdoor spaces. It did not have windows or solid doors; what look like windows and doors above are just screens with wood louvers inside. It was up a public road that was quite rough, and mostly one lane wide, with a lot of blind curves. We were the last house on the long and steep road.

The Piton mountains on St. Lucia

We did have a great view of the Pitons from the deck, though!

Pitons (Saint Lucia) – Wikipedia

Man on the beach in St. Lucia

We had to traverse a mostly one lane road to get to the beach at Anse Chastanet, about 20 minutes away.

Grocery store in St. Lucia

It was a similar distance to the Massy grocery store in the closest town, Soufriere. This road was a mix of dirt, gravel, just plain rock, and areas of pavement here and there.

Massy Stores SLU

As for the paved portions……describing it is a challenge. It was like someone took five gallon buckets of cement, dumped them and spread them by hand. Very, very rough is the end result. Dirt would have been preferable.

The grocery store was an interesting experience, a mix of the very familiar and the less so. The only vegetables I recognized were carrots, broccoli, and celery. The meat case was full of cow and pig body parts I didn’t recognize (I pretty much stick to fish anyway), but the rest of the store was familiar products and brands. The Piton beer brewed on the island was very good.

Piton Beer

We cleaned the store out of the Tostitos and Pace salsa. The wine selection was vast and inexpensive, all things considered.

There was lots of good car spotting everywhere you looked. Older Toyota Harriers (our Lexus RX) were pretty easy to find, as were Toyota Hi Lux pickups. There were a few Chevy Colorados in our travels (some left hand drive, some right hand drive), and a lone Dodge Avenger. Taxi services that cater to tourists were heavily third generation (2000-2006) Lexus LS sedans, and fifth generation (2003-2010) BMW 5 Series.

Suzuki Vitara rear

I’m not sure about the low, center red lens. Maybe a rear fog light? We saw other Vitaras with a black plastic plug there.

The Vitara seemed very competent for these rough roads, always getting traction in some pretty steep uphill sections fully loaded down with five adults. On hilly sections of highway though, the car downshifted often carrying the five of us. If I had to guess, I would say it has in the area of 125hp. It would be strained to keep up with traffic on I-95, or hilly I-81 through Virginia.

The gas mileage worked out to 27.7 mpg, very good for the type of steep hills and low speed use we encountered. The speed limit on the island is 40mph in most places. After five days of driving, it took 28 liters to fill up for about $80.00 East Carribean dollars, which is 7.4 gallons for about $27.00 USD.

For all it’s shortcomings, the Vitara would probably be a great fit for the American market right now, with new car prices and interest rates rising. It is a competent all wheel drive small SUV, that could surely undercut most others on price.

You can tell where a lot of the cost cutting was made, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that the Vitara simply gets the job done. The fact that we saw so many Suzukis here speaks highly of how well they hold together over the long run.