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KONKAN ESCAPADE
Weekend getaways to the beaches are something we always look forward to. What better way to do it than on our Car of the Year
Words Bunny Punia
Photography Sanjay Raikar

It had been months since I drove down to the west coast beaches of Maharashtra. A weekend was coming up, devoid of any photo shoots and it seemed to be the perfect time to head out. Sanjay and Ravi were quick to nod their confirmation and joined me for a short trip. As it is, all three of us stay like bachelors in Pune and we thought it would be better to have fun on the road (and off it) rather than just watching movies. We chalked out a two day plan but the only thing remaining was the car. Right away, Aspi made a few calls and voila, Honda was generous enough to arrange the City for us. The City had impressed us on various factors like comfort, cabin quality and ofcourse the fuel efficient and powerful engine. So, we decided to also gauge the car on a real world fuel economy basis on this small two-day trip.

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There are reasons enough why the Honda City was our ‘Car of the Year’. Time and again it has proved to be a genuine all-rounder.

Our route plan included the best and worst of roads. But first we had to tank up the City to the brim at the petrol pump we usually fill up from. Aspi was there to give us a few pointers on how to get the best from the car without sacrificing on driving pleasure. The onus was definitely on saving fuel but that didn’t mean we were going to stick to the left most lane at a speed slow enough for trucks to overtake us. We left from the gas station at 11:30 am and being a Saturday, the traffic wasn’t too bad. However, the trick of keeping an eye on the real time fuel bar and the tachometer made sure that the display showed an average of 16kmpl in the city with the air-con on. Soon, we were on the multi-lane expressway, where I decided to stick to 90-95km/h with a cautious right foot on inclines. At these speeds, we could hardly hear the engine spinning. Sanjay made sure good music kept us in the mood while Ravi did the calculations and noted down important information like time, distance, fuel economy etc.

Tank fuelled, trip meter set to zero and we were ready to roll…

We took a brunch break after the first toll booth of the expressway. Just a pointer: stop at the food court next to the petrol pump as it is much better and most importantly cleaner as well. After a heavy brunch consisting of missal-pav and juice, we were off. Blame it on my lack of concentration or our constant chats, but I missed the Khopoli turn off, hence we had to drive all the way to the second toll naka where the staff was kind enough to let us crossover to the other side and continue our drive towards Pali. This way, we were able to bypass Panvel and Pen and of course save a lot of time and distance as well. The road to Pali is a simple state highway, and being devoid of traffic, it is a pleasurable drive with plenty of scenic views as well. This route after Pali continues to the Goa highway where we took a left to Pugaon, 11km away. We stocked up on some supplies (read water and snacks) before leaving the NH17, taking a right to Roha. By now, the fuel economy had risen way above 20kmpl though I wondered if the narrow and twisty roads ahead could help us maintain this figure. However, the low end torque and a very tractable engine meant I could keep the box in fourth even while maintaining 35-40km/h on the speedometer.

Murud arrived exactly after 200km. Note the fuel gauge even with real world driving.

The City impressed us with its suspension enroute Murud. Typical small town roads meant potholes were numerous but the car soaked them all on most occasions. I had to be cautious not to have the underbelly touch mother earth while overtaking slow moving traffic as it meant going off the road. Soon, we were close to Murud. At exactly 200km from Pune, we entered the beach town around 4 pm. The fuel economy had not dropped significantly when we were struck by the magnificent first view of the beach. Driving straight onto the coastline, we were surprised to find it almost deserted. That turned out to be a blessing for me as it gave me a chance to indulge in a few antics on the beach, though for a short period of time. Later, we strolled along the coast line, devoured local delicacies and simply lazed about on the sandy shore. When the sun was ready to go down, we decided to head further towards Janjira to get some shots of the majestic Fort built in the middle of the sea. The small broken hilly road to Janjira offers one of the most scenic views of the Konkan coast. We spent an hour there where we could see the coastline extending into the distance and stayed there till the sun disappeared into the horizon. The night was spent at a typical small motel and we couldn’t resist trying out some local sea food including prawns and Bangada (Mackerel) fish.

Only if the City had a higher ground clearance! The same river as seen on the opposite page.

The next days plan was to return back to Pune via the long route. We got up lazily and resumed our journey post breakfast. We drove towards the Goa highway again, joining in at Talashet. Poladpur was another 50km from where we were to take a left to Mahabaleswar. The small roads had taken a toll on the Citys efficiency and 330km into the drive, at Poladpur, the fuel gauge was almost at the half mark. Worse still, from sea level, we had an uphill drive to Mahabaleshwar situated at an elevation of 4400feet! There was little we could do about it and hence decided to enjoy the scenic views instead. The route to Mahabaleswhar has a good share of tight curves, devoid of long straights. After paying the toll at the entrance of the city, we drove to the market, parked the car and decided to have a walk around. This town is known for strawberries and we just couldnt resist them. Our idea was to stay away from the usual tourist hot spots like the Venna lake and all the different view points. Instead, we stopped over at Panchgani for butter milk and strawberries. A word of advice: bargain hard with the street sellers as I managed to pick up a kilo for just seventy bucks!

The beauty of the West coast is the spectacular view of the sun going down into the horizon.

I had hoped that the downhill section from Mahabaleshwar to Wai would help bump up the overall economy but as luck would have it, we were in the middle of a long queue of slow moving cars and buses. It was only when we joined the NH4 that I was able to keep the motor spinning lazily with the speedometer needle around the 90km/h mark. By late evening, we were in Pune and encountered heavy traffic. There was nothing else we could except hope for the best. What had started as a relaxing weekend drive was now turning into a kind of game. Finally, exactly 500km later we were back at the same petrol pump. The City took in hardly 25 litres of fuel, translating into an overall real world economy of more than 20kmpl! Not only does the City shine in terms of being a very comfortable companion for weekend drives like this, but it also scores very high for being light on the pocket. Factoring in the narrow state highways and numerous small hill sections we encountered en route plus running the air-con on full blast, this kind of fuel economy is by no means a small feat. And if we at CAR India can manage this, so can you!Tips on getting the best fuel efficiency:
1Keep an eye on the real time fuel economy bar.
2  Keep a light foot on the accelerator pedal.
3Though the best fuel economy is achieved at speeds of around 60-65km/h, on the highways,  even cruising at 90-95km/h can reap benefits.
4  Make sure the tyres have the recommended pressure.
5  Make use of torque on inclines. Don’t just stomp the pedal at low speeds in high gears.

 

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