On the road again

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As auto journalists, we spend a lot of time evaluating cars and clocking up the digits on the Odo. But every once in a while, we get to indulge the car enthusiast in us. One such time is Honda’s Drive to Discover (D2D), now in its 11th edition and an institution on the automotive calendar.

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For this 11th edition we drove from Bengaluru to Kochi via Coorg and Wayanad, and en route got to experience Honda’s sedan line-up of the Fifth-generation City, the recently launched City e:HEV and their sub-compact, the Amaze …

My first ever

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… which was the first car I drove on my first ever Drive to Discover in 2013 (wow, I feel old!). Then, the Amaze was new, the 1.5-litre diesel engine was new, and my journey across my home state was a new experience for me. Having hit a decade in this line of work earlier this year, the last few months had been waves of nostalgia with finding my old work.

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So, when I held the door handle of the petrol VX manual City that we drove on day 1 of D2D 11, I was taken back to the exact moment of that 2013 summer in Chennai, where a younger me laid eyes upon the Honda Amaze that I drove for that journey. This was a sure sign things were going to be good.

Day 1: All roads lead to Madikeri?

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Our destination for day 1 was the hilly town of Madikeri in the Kodagu district and we left at once post the flag-off. Between us and Coorg was 281km of driving, which was not a sizeable amount to cover but turned out to be a pretty large one as we drove through the city. Despite having some lovely roads, the traffic was a nightmare and added at least two hours to the drive.

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Our reward for patiently navigating through Bengaluru’s traffic was a four-lane highway with hardly any traffic on it. I swapped places with my co-driver Gajanan who was on his first ever Drive to Discover and the look of joy in his eyes when he saw the empty highway said it all.

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The drive to our lunch stop in the town of Channarayapatna was uneventful. We got the City set in sixth gear and with the cruise control enabled, it was smooth sailing for most of the way. It was so smooth, in fact, that we decided not to dig into any of the packed snacks and instead reserved our refuelling for some traditional Karnataka Oota. Swapping seats also gave me a chance to poke around the car a bit and I was quite impressed with the way Honda had managed to step up the fifth-generation City. Be it the interior quality, space, or driving experience, the City reminded me why sedans still have pulling power in our SUV-crazy market.

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With the lunch done, we set off for Coorg. We had to turn off the highway and switch to the two-lane back roads. As we covered the kilometres, the sun began to set and the signal bars, both on my phone and the temperature, dropped gradually. Having kept a leisurely pace, we arrived well after the entire convoy. Our night stay, the Windflower resort, was an oasis of green even in the darkness and treated me to steaming plates of Pork curry that sealed the deal for this to be a successful day of driving.

Day-2: KA-12 to KL-12

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The warm sun after a rainy night felt joyous and was made more so by the fact that Honda handed us the keys to its latest weapon— the City e: HEV. This was to be the leisure day of our trip as we would drive less, see more, and eat even more! After a quick breakfast, we left for Wayanad, more specifically to the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary. The City e:HEV came alive on the windy back roads that descended from Karnataka to Kerala, offering just the right amount of punch to not have us drop our pace at all.

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While the tourist in me had been getting the fill until this point, the car enthusiast in me got the kicks navigating these roads in the hybrid City. We did have some issues with ground clearance over some of the rougher stretches but hey, you can’t eat your cake and have it too, right? Despite the enthusiastic driving, the e:HEV stayed true to itself and we averaged 21kmpl.

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In passing glimpses, we caught massive tea gardens, quaint homes, stately homes, and little villages. Each of these sights reminded me of my days in Ooty and also put into perspective why I had so many classmates from this region in my time there. As we crossed the border, the signs switched to Malayalam, the number plates to KL, and it just got greener and greener as we inched closer to Wayanad.

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At our lunch stop, the manager of the restaurant had one look at my face when I asked for a recommendation and got me one chatti chor. I admit to crying a little when a large plate of boiled brown rice with three types of fish, fried prawns and shrimp, papad, fritters, and two types of curry was placed in front of me.

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After stuffing our faces, we set off for the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary for an afternoon safari. We managed to spot some owls, peacocks, and a massive elephant in the distance nonchalantly bathing itself but for most, the only sound we had was the clatter of our safari vehicle’s diesel engine. We did get to spot some deer on the way back but it was mostly uneventful and we wrapped up with a cup of Boost and fresh Pazahm poori.

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With the day’s agenda completed, we quickly hauled ourselves to the Saptha Resort, our night stay where we wrapped up the day with a magic show by a local artist that made quite the clown of all of us with various cards and sleight of hand tricks.

Cheta, which way to Cochin?

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While the last two days had been about the hills, day 3 was a drive down the coastline all the way to Cochin. Our morning began with a descent down the hills, all on two-lane roads. In fact, for the rest of our day, nearly 400km, we travelled only on these two-lane roads while watching the scenery change from hilly greens to coastal greens. The quality of the roads was fantastic but the same couldn’t be said about the traffic on it, which made it quite a chore to overtake. This was further compounded by our Amaze petrol automatic’s lack of punch needed to make the quick overtake on the narrow roads.

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Nonetheless, we took it in our stride, munched the kilometres, and enjoyed all the sights and sounds of the journey. Having lost the convoy, we decided to forge our own route and visited a beach to catch a sunset. About a 100kms from Kochi, we stopped at a “Hot Chips” to buy some local snacks including a large number of Banana chips of various flavours. We arrived in Cochin at a relatively late hour but were still greeted by a large amount of traffic, thus ending our trip exactly the way it started three days ago.

Discovered and stunned

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The theme for this year’s drive was ‘Sedan Stunning’ and we did get stunned by the beauty of rural Karnataka and Kerala while sitting in the comfort of our sedan. With the hills and coast being so close by, the change in scenery too was quite a contrast in some ways yet a continuation of the same in others. However, road discipline was something we desired, especially on many two-lane roads across Kerala. We had the most fun driving the Honda City e:HEV with its hybrid powertrain offering the best amount of punch on the tightest and twistiest roads that both Kerala and Karnataka threw at us. It could do with better ground clearance but that’s just me nitpicking here.

Photography: Gajanan Kashikar & Honda Car India

Stats

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Distance covered: 730km

Photos and videos taken: in two-digit GBs

Food eaten: Way more than I should have

Average fuel efficiency over all three cars: 15.6kmpl

Also read/watch

Honda Drive to Discover 4

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