1100 kilometres of asphalt – some welcoming, others not so forgiving – across three states, four cars, two scheduled night halts reduced to one and nearly 30 hours of relentless driving. In short, a perfect test for a car that is emerging as the winner of 2013.
The best way to really get under the skin of a car, unearth its hidden vices and put to test its obvious virtues is a road trip. One that is exhaustive on the human body as also the machine and which offers a variety of terrain – from carpeted tarmac to craters on the moon.
Along with six other motor heads, we decided to submit the Honda Amaze through the gas chamber. Why the Amaze? Because it is a Honda, a company that never tires itself of proclaiming its credentials as a quality car manufacturer. Also, because Amaze has its first diesel engine, something that is not quite its forte.
Driving on the usual western ghat sections between Delhi and Goa, or the boring stretches up north around Delhi or even the narrow roads in the South was a passé. Everybody has done that numerous times over. We decided to head to the East and experience some sections where we thought we will find roads untouched by modernity.
After a night’s stay at Vizag, the second largest city in Andhra Pradesh and one that has India’s oldest ship yard, we headed out northwards early morning towards Puri, the best known beach destination on the Eastern Coast. A journey of nearly 500 kilometres running parallel to the coast, it ordinarily takes 7 hours to get there. There were an awful lot of surprises though.
For one, getting out of Vizag was a painful exercise that cost us a good hour and a half. On leaving the city, the highway opens up and you get some of the cleanest stretches of road you can get in India. Which exposed almost entirely, the one big problem that the Amaze has… noise.
With endless stretches of glitch free road ahead of us, we throttled the vehicle mercilessly. At various points of time, all four cars were going bumper to bumper at speeds touching 140kmph, the maximum that Honda allows the Amaze to run. One wonders why a car that has a 1.5 litre engine underneath its hood and 100 horses pushing it ahead should have a top speed that is so low. The answer lies ahead.
Every time, the accelerator was floored, the engine noise seeped into the cabin. No amount of careful or careless wheeling around changed that opinion.
Judgment One: This car is indeed noisy.
But at the same time, the stability at high speeds and the confidence that it inspires there is unmatched. Which is why we could go bumper to bumper without a care in the world.
We also realised how deserted the NH5 or as the navigation device would constantly say, the Asian Highway 45, really is. For miles on end at least inside Andhra Pradesh there are no good eateries to be found. An indication of how rarely people travel on these roads.
And there are speed breakers too the kinds one would find only in this part of the country. Willy nilly in the middle of nowhere and in traffic so sparse, you would encounter a jam. A jam that would clear out just as inconspicuously. After encountering such mysteries that may cost you between 15 to an hour of your life’s precious time, a couple of times we finally realised the cause. Whenever political parties need to honour or felicitate somebody in small villages or hamlets in Andhra Pradesh, they encroach the highway, set up chairs, pull up banners and carry on with their festivities. After a good show, the gathering disperses matter of factly in double quick time. As if the traffic chaos around, does not matter at all.
The surroundings change somewhat the moment you enter Odisha. There is more traffic on the road and there are quite a few eateries for the starving. The best part of that is all of them serve and cook very good fish and mutton. The chicken is untrustworthy though as one of the members in our gang realised.
The road stays more or less as faultless. Even though we had heard there were a few stretches in Odisha where work on the Golden Quadrilateral was incomplete, we never encountered any such patch. The most exciting section is when you hit Chilka Lake before turning right for Puri. As the world’s largest fresh water lake, it is a sight not to be missed. Too bad we reached while the sun was setting which restricted the time we could spend there.
Heading out of Chilka, we committed hara kiri. Instead of following NH5 and taking a longer detour via Pipli, we followed the navigation map that gave us the shortest route. Only, that it wasn’t quite the shortest in the real world. Turning right from Bagheiput towards Nua Jagannath Sadak we immediately felt like we had reached moon. The road deteriorated with every passing kilometer to the point that maintaining a speed of even 15kmph was a task.
However, it was a test of the vehicle in conditions that can be found only in India. Through the large craters and over the nonexistent roads, only sporadically did we scrape the floor of the vehicle. And even at the end of the 2 hour ordeal, only the drivers were more relieved. The car remained unfazed.
Judgment Two: The suspension of the car has been well and truly tuned for Indian road conditions.
Whatever little time we had to rest our battered bones after 9 hours of driving on day 1, we had to be ready to resume our journey in the morning the next day. Our destination this time was to head to Digha, a fast emerging coastal weekend destination just across the Bengal border.
The distance was a mere 350 kilometers but it was a dark continent for us as we had no prior information on what road conditions await us. To make matters worse, half of the group wanted to visit the Sun temple, which meant a detour of around 70 kilometers. Coming so close to the world heritage site, there was no way we could have given that a miss.
The road from Puri to Konark and then onwards to Cuttack was the most challenging of the whole trip. We had to leave the national highway after just a few kilometeres and let the two lane state highway assault us. The road was narrow with the oncoming traffic on your face but it was very well paved and allowed us to maintain a pretty high speed. It was surprising because nobody had expected such well made state highways in a state that is one of the poorest in the country.
After a brief stop and a hearty meal at Konark we headed towards Cuttack, the second largest city in Odisha. It took us almost the entire day to get there and while we were lucky to bypass Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack was unforgiving. We got stuck for another two hours meddling with the chaotic stop go traffic of the city. As always, the car did not flinch.
On the outskirts of Cuttack, we had to stop for our first refuelling. We had done nearly 665 kilometers in one full tank of 35 litres. Considering the conditions and when the air conditioning was working full time, we got an astounding mileage of 19kmpl. And that is the reason why the top speed of the car is not 170 or 180 kmph though I would presume it is more than capable of it. Higher speed is directly proportional to lower fuel economy. Where would you drive faster than 140 kmph anyway?
Judgment Three: The Amaze diesel gives you an economy that is as good as you can get. Driven sensibly, 20 plus is a given.
By the time we left Cuttack behind, it was early evening and with over 200 kilometers still to go, we were destined to spend the night driving. The road though was kind on us and thin traffic ensured that we were cruising along. We reached Balasore in a jiffy and with the clock striking 10, we stopped over for dinner and a grand idea emerged – of subjecting the car to the extreme test and driving through the night directly to the City of Joy. That meant another 250 kilometers and 5 hours of driving.
With a full stomach and the lure of Kolkata, we took the plunge. What followed was a race with just one pit stop at Kharagpur. We were hell bent to test both our capabilities as driver and the durability of the vehicle. By the time we reached Kolkata it was 4:30 in the morning. The car had been on the road nonstop for over 19 hours. And it never did give us a problem. Not even a niggle.
Distance: 1153 kilometers
Fuel consumed: 64 litres
Fuel economy: 18.01 kmpl
Top speed: 143 kmph
Engine : 1.5 litre IDtec diesel
Max power: 100 PS@3600 rpm
Max torque: 200 NM@1750 rpm
Verdict : Honda passes the diesel test.
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