HYUNDAI CHASING THE SUN
Great road in the accessible northern backyard in an underrated enthusiast’s car
We go chasing the sun to Nahan in a Verna
I WAS TALKING TO A FRIEND RECENTLY ABOUT the most interesting topic for petrolheads – favourite cars. We spoke about German cars, American cars, Japanese and Korean, even Indian cars. Cars that are globally accepted as the best cars of the year were a part of the discussion, but the ones that topped my list as they did on the lists of the friends who take their cars very seriously, aren’t the best cars in the world. In our rather humble motoring hack lives, where we are fortunate to drive close to a hundred cars over a year (some times even more), the best cars in the world are the ones that leave you with the memory of a drive. It may roll like a Sumo wrestler in a kick boxing ring or take 20 seconds to hit the 100kmph mark, but if you’ve driven on a good road and seen a new place that’s worth clicking a picture at, the chances are, you will remember and like the car more. That’s the hard truth. The best car in the world for you is the one that’s liked and you will only like a car you’ve driven if you’ve driven it well. If you only drive a Ferrari to the grocery store every day of your life, what’s the point in that, right?
THE BEST CAR FOR YOU IN THE WORLD IS THE ONE YOU'VE DRIVEN WELL
So anyway, that long philosophical rant comes to this. It’s February 2018 and when I think of the cars I’ve driven over the past year and the lasting memories I’ve had with many of them, the Verna to Nahan drive brings a smile to my face. Most cars these days aren’t bad. Customer clinics and scientifically derived outputs have made the good but risky passion-dependent style of car making a thing of the past. You rarely find major hits or hilarious misses these days. In that, car makers are trying to balance out every aspect of a car’s character to find the right mix. Most new cars as a result do things well but don’t put a smile to your face. Hyundai on the other hand has been stung by criticism of poor handling cars in the past but excelled at several other aspects – engine, gearbox, comfort, features and price. This next generation Verna like the recent launches by Hyundai, ticks that vital dynamics box.
It’s the best representation of improved driving dynamics for a car in their fleet and I for one am glad to experience that. Engineers have ensured that it drives well around corners, the steering weighs up well, the suspension isn’t sloppy and the chassis feels nice and rigid when the forces aim to twist. The road up from Nahan is a series of mediumfast smooth corners where you can get into a nice flow as you pile on the speed. The stretch is full of switchbacks where you turn in and out in one fluid motion and here, a car that’s got good mechanical grip will make you enjoy the drive a lot more. It’s less tiring too as you aren’t fighting mass for speed. The rear suspension is stiff enough to give you confidence in corners but not horridly so for the rear passengers. The front end likes to turn in, the steering isn’t vague and the 1.6-petrol’s powerband is wide enough to hold a gear through a long curve. The engine revs to about 6500rpm and 121 horsepower is more than enough to make an overtaking move or light work of a hill climb.
There’s another reason we went to Nahan though. You’ve probably not heard of it because there’s nothing much to do there. The small town is in the foothills of the Himalayas, less than two hours away from Chandigarh and pretty much on no driving map to get to a more prominent city in Himachal. Not many tourists come to town and there isn’t much thoroughfare, which leaves the well paved twisties near this town a peach of a stretch to drive on.
The road you need to be on is the Kumarhatti-SarahanNahan road driving towards Kasauli. The 92km stretch has light traffic because Kasauli is so well connected with Chandigarh that this route is barely used. And because you’d drive on this road specifically to get to Nahan only, the roads take lesser beating, there’s even slighter dust on the trees lining the roads I suppose, but that might just be me looking at the positives of this place, because when the setting sun begins to glow on this beautifully serpentine stretch of tarmac, it looks like a golden ribbon tied around the mountain. The roads are wide enough and the tarmac isn’t covered in the shadow of trees till the evening yolk dips into the pan behind the next mountain.
Those fast fleeting moments as they often are when you try to chase the sun in the mountains are moments of motoring nirvana. With the revs of the Verna high enough to make every bit of that last light worth their time, we drive to nowhere. Turn in and turn out as the seat coolers warm our bums and the last rays of the sun warm our tyres. On that stretch, I was loving the way the Verna handled, how it surprised us with its newfound finesse and how a good day of motoring with a car that aimed to please its driver, helped itself into the list of the most memorable drives.
It’s a family sedan for crying out loud. It has been a while since we saw a car in this segment take to corners like that, and back then, all things considered in the Indian context, it was my car of the year. That it happened to win the ICOTY 2018 was just about right. Well deserved, and might I add, this Verna is going to give a lot of people a lot of happy memories. Chasing sunsets in a car that drives well is so rewarding. Life is all about catching sunrises and sunsets, the more of them you see, the better your life is. ⌧
Top: The road snaking along a tributary close to Nahan. Above: The Verna's tail lights look magnificent. Left: Dry riverbeds are excellent photo locations
Right top to bottom: The tacho of a petrol car gives great joy when you drive with a heavy foot; new set of headlights are strong and light up the road ahead; new Verna corners many times better than its predecessor