FIVE THOUSAND KILOMETRES. IF YOU HAD told me back in April that I’d pull off a 5000km road trip before the year ended, I’d have laughed at you, picked up another bag of chips and gone back to binging whatever I was binging on Netflix. Back then, stepping out to the grocery store required more planning than a mission to the moon. And yet, I type this out having returned from doing exactly that — a 10-day drive across eight states. As the restrictions around the country eased, we started pushing the boundaries of what we could do. It started with single-day photo and video shoots in the hills around the evo India HQ in Pune. Food was packed from home since restaurants were still shut. Press cards and serious faces were flashed when cops chanced upon us. The roads were eerily empty — brilliant for our shoots, but unnerving all the same. Slowly, we began venturing further. Two-day trips. Three-day trips. Four-day trips. Just enough to bag the content we needed for a story and hustle back home. And then came the big one. The Hyundai Great India Drive.
The Great India Drive is now tradition — last year we took the Venue exploring the north-east. Unity was the message and football was the messenger. But this year was different. It was far simpler, far less complicated. It was about pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible as little as six months ago. About rediscovering the joy of a long road trip. The first two days were eventful, but unrelated to this story. They involved road blocks, a north Indian trucker fluent in Marathi, a missing yellow supercar with a flat tyre, and a boss that was hell bent on finding it. But those two days were mostly about covering ground — getting from Pune to Delhi as fast as we could, where the Hyundai i20 was waiting for me.
THIS ALL-NEW I20 IS A FAMILIAR CAR. I had been using one as my runabout for a month and found it to be comfortable around town — after all, that is where hatchbacks are most at home. But the i20 is capable of much more than that. It is breaking new ground — dismantling the image of hatchbacks being budget cars that are riddled with compromises. Questioning the rationale of them being stepping stones to something better, and instead showing that they can be an end in themselves. A capable car that can do it all, one that is worth aspiring to. But can the i20 really do it all? We were about to find out. But then, there were more road blocks.
Delhi’s borders were occupied by protesting farmers and while I’m not going to justify or vilify their actions here, we had to take a few detours heading out of the city. And that is worth mentioning because said detours took us over some narrow roads where people hadn’t the faintest clue of what road discipline was. This highlighted a facet of the i20 that I was already familiar with — great visibility. You have a good view out of the front and while you can’t see the edges of the sharply raked bonnet, you certainly can place the car with confidence. Extremely useful for sticking your nose in front of the swarms of motorists/pedestrians/cattle that will attempt to squeeze into the tightest gaps they find. Indian roads are just a big game of chicken and the i20 doesn’t yield.
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