Home / Features / Hyundai Great India Drive – Part One – Exploring the City of Palaces


We set out on the 2020 edition of the Hyundai Great India Drive in the all-new i20 to explore the southern region of our beautiful country.

The word ‘progression’ has been used in its multiple facades through the birth of civilisation. Rightfully so too, without the yearning for the said word we wouldn’t be the city slicking, moon visiting, techy souls we proudly call ourselves today. However, even though ‘rightful progression’ has never been too clear cut considering the history of our kind, we do find the world actively striving towards a truly better co-existence.

As part of this year’s Hyundai Great India Drive, we shall cover two stories of ‘progression’ with the first being about the Korean auto manufacturer’s brilliant all-new i20 hatchback. The second would be the saga of our beautiful nation with its kings, queens, colonialization, our current situation, and a thought for the future too. This “tense” affair shall be covered by our journey from Pune in Maharashtra to a trip down the compass starting with Mysuru (erstwhile: Mysore), the palace city of India, onward to the freezing hill station of Udhagamandalam (erstwhile: Ooty), and finally finishing at a gem in our midst, Fringe Ford.

But, first things first. A look at our chariot, the all-new 2020 Hyundai i20, is a must, especially in its redone avatar. The new i20 is draped in a sporty futuristic coating as far as design is concerned. Sharp lines start with those striking headlamps and front grille and flow through the car showcasing its now very sporty stance. Throughout our journey we found the new i20 to be swirling heads around gawks of yearning for the new kid on the block. These were followed by several questions about the new i20, by a shocking number of people too, honestly making it the most asked about a car I have experienced during my time as an auto-journalist.

Our journey started from Car India’s good ol’ hometown, Pune from where we set off in the wee hours for a 900-kilometre drive to the city of palaces, Mysore. Now, here lay a number of tests for both the i20 as well as its inhabitants. Would the car be viable for the said journey, considering that there would be four souls and no less than fourteen pieces of luggage? Well, the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol motor, though small on paper, had us happily enthralled with its performance. Also, we were given the iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission) gearbox that truly helped when road congestion reared its ugly face. Fun fact: with the iMT transmission, stalling wasn’t ever going to be an issue which would help some folks on those steep inclines. As far as the luggage is concerned, we can confidently say the new i20 has a little room to spare. That is quite impressive for a hatchback, but, what impressed us further was how the car behaved at full brim.

The new i20 is still a comfort-orientated machine like its predecessors, but, now a proper drivers car as well that stays flat through the twisties. At full brim, with luggage and humans, the suspension still seemed to be well-damped keeping it sharp and lively through the multiple superb hilly routes in the southern part of our country.

Mysore, ah, the city of palaces as they call it, is quite a beautiful little city. Friendly and polite seemed to be the theme of the folks, an attitude that pleases every traveller the world over. We started our exploration at the famous Mysuru Palace. This beautiful home of the Wadiyar king was rebuilt to its current beauty after the old palace succumbed to flames in 1897. The palace has many architects attributed to its beauty and staunchly promoted its secular standing by openly claiming its Hindu, Muslim and Gothic influences.

The Wadiyar kings have been well-loved in the region especially for their work towards the people. The 24th king, Krishnaraja Wadiyar for example is responsible for the start of several educational institutions, medical facilities, as well as giving electricity to the people of his reign. The Wadiyar kings also had quite an inclination towards the mighty elephants with the animals playing a major role in the naming of gates, rooms, and monuments. However, pretty sure about how we felt with the number of tusks playing a role in the palaces’ vanity. But, Mysore isn’t only about the palaces. This city has something that we motorheads relish, yearn for, and love. Brilliant hill roads.

Chamundi hills are a motoring enthusiasts ‘happy’ dream, however, rash driving is a strict no. The i20 shone here, keeping us well planted on the narrow roads and keeping us out of the way of any over-enthusiastic oncoming traffic. With regular stop-off areas, Chamundi hills do play host to families or friends coming in for a quick picnic while taking in gorgeous views of Mysore. After our time here we set off to explore Balmuri Falls and the area around it. This region is quite tourist-friendly, with many little shops along the route selling snacks and beverages of all kinds. Families, youngsters, couples, all spent their merry time in and out of the water making the place quite lively.

Mysore indeed has a host of activities in and around the city, catering to the historically inclined as well as the youthful adventurer. For us, however, it was time to hop back into our i20 and leave the city of palaces as we had an appointment with a queen. The queen of the hills to be accurate, Udhagamadalam, Ootacamund, or just Ooty.

The route leading up to the hill station took us on some stunning roads up and down hills, on one-lane highways, and also through tiger reserves and forest land. The climb up to Ooty is a long very twisty route that can have the motion sickness sufferers among us (me) in a state of pure panic. However, at the wheel is where
I was and our i20 scuttled up that mountain with ease and confidence, replacing any thought of motion sickness with a ‘let’s do it again’ attitude. The tall gearing of the i20 made sure that gear changes were minimal and the car always seemed to have a fair bit of ‘go’ at hand. We found on the highway that power kicks in at 2,500 revs and continues to its red-line above 6,000 rpm. What this meant on the speedometer, third gear went from 55 km/h to 145 km/h. Yes, this does depend upon the slant of the road but the point is there to see.

Back to Ooty. First mentioned by the Brits in the early 1800s, Ooty was hailed of being the more Swiss-like than even other European countries. Even though population numbers have vastly increased from the 1800s and Ooty is a lot more populated, the hill station still does have huge open forest spaces that do have striking similarities with the Alpine, chocolate-loving, politically neutral country.

The British built many structures in the hill stations that served as government buildings, libraries, educational institutions, and personal homes. Unfortunately, due to our current situation with Covid, these places have been shut to the public for understandable reasons. Having said that, Ooty does offer some spectacular views of the valleys below. These valleys are either home to tea and coffee plantations or forest land, each offering their own blend of eye-pleasing visuals.

We leave you here for our first part of the Hyundai Great India Drive 2020. Up next we continue our exploration of Ooty before moving to the piece de resistance of our journey, Fringe Ford where we put ourselves and the i20 to quite an interesting test.


About the author: Zal Cursetji



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