With all of the hills and dirt roads, SUVs with manual transmissions rule the streets.
If you haven't noticed, a lot of the news here is written with a focus on the United States. Occasionally we branch out and, say, talk about a French company like Citroen or Renault, but only if it involves the US somehow. Recently I had the chance to visit Costa Rica where the car culture is very different. Costa Rica does have some highways, but the area that I was in near Liberia was full of dirt tracks and rough roads that are covered in pot holes. To get around, everyone drives SUVs.
There are some people who make do with small hatchbacks, but I couldn't imagine that owning one would be very convenient when the potholes are knee deep. Although I did see the occasional first-generation Chevy Spark, along with Suzuki Swifts and Peugeots. Costa Rica also has plenty of familiar cars like the Toyota Corolla and the Nissan Versa. However, the far more common option in Costa Rica are SUVs. People drive both small and large SUVs that almost all feature some form of AWD. The roads get pretty bumpy, so having good ground clearance is key. Plenty of people use SUVs like the Toyota Rav4, Suzuki Vitara, and Hyundai Santa Fe, but you will find weird combinations that never made it stateside, like manual diesels.
There are plenty of cool trucks that we never got in the US as well. As I first stepped out of the airport I laid eyes on a Volkswagen Amarok, one of my favorite trucks in the world. Of course I also saw plenty of people driving the Toyota Hilux, made famous on "Top Gear" for being seemingly invincible and which seems like the perfect truck for conquering a Costa Rican back road. There were also plenty of oddities like the Nissan Patrol, Suzuki Jimny, and Toyota Prado Land Cruiser. The Prado was particularly interesting to me because you likely know this car as the Lexus GX. In Costa Rica the car is badged as a Land Cruiser and can be purchased with very basic options as well as a manual transmission. You can even get a two-door version!
We would love to the see the look on a Lexus owner's face after they found out that their $60,000 luxury SUV was no more than a basic off-roader sold in Costa Rica. I even got to see some classic off-road cars like old Land Rover Defenders and Toyota FJ Land Cruisers. If you are a fan of off-roading, you will definitely love Costa Rica. Most of the cars that you can rent have 4WD and manual transmissions. If you are weird like me, you will love it every time you pass by a classic Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser while the rest of your group is staring at the beautiful Costa Rican views.