Getting around Tobago in an SX4

2009 Suzuki SX4 – 4WD

For someone from a Nordic country, Tobago is “Fantasy Island”. The cars, however, aren’t much to talk about …

Tobago belongs to the West Indies and is a wonderful place for vacation. The island has many fine beaches where you can see flying fish on the water, hummingbirds in the trees and crabs at their burrows on the beach. Mango fruits are virtually dropping down on you as you relax in the shadow. At the beginning of September the water in the ocean keeps 30 degrees Celcius (86 F). You hardly notice as you walk into it.

With only 300 square kilomtres land, you can drive all the roads in one day. Most roads are narrow, steep and winding, with a general speed limit of 50 km/h (30 miles per hour). Driving is on the left – a remnant from the time under British empiricism. Tobagonians are known to drive in the middle of the road. Many of the roads are in real bad shape, with pot holes big enough to rip a wheel off, or chrush the tyre instantly. The locals know exactly where to take it easy. We don’t…

Most Tobagonian car buyers choose a white Nissan Tiida, Sunny, or a Toyota Corolla – small 4-door saloons (sedans) with automatic transmission, air conditioning and the smallest engine option. When these vehicles eventually are handed over to the younger generation, they get styled up with adhesive window film and fat Monster wheels. Since the cars here have low mileage and are not prone to rust, I’d expect to find some great vintage cars – but were unable to find any.

Traffic on the main road. In the foreground: Nissan Almera (front), Nissan AD small affordable station wagons that are affordable and very popular here. They are also available in a more lavish version, called Nissan Wing Road Wagon.

Traffic on the main road. In the foreground: Nissan Almera (front), Nissan AD small affordable station wagons that are very popular here. They are also available in a more lavish version, called Nissan Wing Road Wagon.

None of the major rental car companies are established on the island. Yet it is safe to rent a car everywhere. Our tiny rental company had some pretty new Suzuki Jimny-jeeps. They blend well with rainforests and sandy beaches, but with four tall Norwegians they were unfourtunately a little too tight inside. We chose a 2009 Suzuki SX4 – 4WD, 1.6 petrol 107 hp with 4-speed automatic.

Suzuki SX4 – “Grandma Duck’s car”

SX4 is not a bad choise on the narrow, steep, winding roads through the rainforest. Inside, I felt quickly at home behind the wheel. I got a little 90’s feeling right away. The radio seemed to be retrofitted, perhaps stolen at one time. But the Clarion stereo gave surprisingly rich sound whenever the radio waves were with us.

Suzuki SX4

Suzuki SX4

Performance-wise, I felt that the car behaved like a typical American compact. Comfortable for the class, but a little vaguer road feel than I recall from other Japanese cars from the same period, like the Nissan Sunny / Sentra / Almera and the Toyota Corolla. Around the sharp hairpin bends, visibility were almost blocked by the thick A-pillars. I had to lean over to the middle to get an overview. The combination steep slopes, 4 adults, 107 none-turbo-fed petrol-horses with a conventional type automatic did not leave much to driving pleasure. Ever so often, the transmission had to shift down to first gear in order to retrieve its breath. Anyway, everybody sat comfortably and had a nice view through the large glass surfaces. And, as I mentioned, there was plenty of power in the radio to fill the cabin with easy reggae-like rhythms.

Back in Norway, I see that Suzuki dealers still have outgoing SX4 in their model program. If we replace tropical rainforests and beaches with Norwegian fjords and mountains, I think the SX4 still would do well. I believe SX4 “Classic” is a safe secondhand car, as well, preferably gasoline models with 120 hp or diesel. If you are lucky, you’ll find one with low mileage.

Maybe Grandma Duck’s old car?

Crab and dumpling - delicious!

Crab and dumpling – delicious!

Fantasy Island

Fantasy Island

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