Hyundai Verna | Reiterating our focus on safety
The only reason my friends used to call me pre-lockdown was for car-buying advice. That has now changed to car-driving advice. They want to know how to be safe and if they can take their cars out and drive. Maybe on a Saturday evening to unwind, maybe a frenzied blast through the hills on a Sunday morning, maybe even just to get home which happens to be a few hundred kilometres away. You see, I have been out and about creating a lot of the content you have seen in the pages of this magazine. It has meant navigating a lot of red tape, in addition to taking care of myself and the people I work with. Call it experience, but I know a thing or two about getting around in the times we live. And this time I was heading out in the new Hyundai Verna.
Back on the road with the Hyundai Verna
The centre’s recent announcement about opening up inter-district and inter-state travel, means more people can get out on the road again! That is exactly when the calls started. “Is it safe to head out?,” asked Michelle, a friend of mine who wants to visit her parents who live 150km away on the outskirts of Mumbai. She was planning on renting a car and driving down herself, but I thought it best to share the tips and tricks I have learned with her before she heads out. And with the brand new Hyundai Verna parked in the garage, it was the perfect excuse to take it out for a spin as well.
“Always wear your mask”, is what most would assume to be the first tip on my list. But the checklist actually starts before you head out. You need to check your local laws and figure out whether you will be allowed to take the route you want to. The centre may have advised states to open up their borders, but it hasn’t been implemented everywhere yet. For example, as of writing this story we still aren’t allowed to travel out of the Pune district without an e-pass. Do your research — talk to people who may have attempted the route you are travelling on and get in touch with the authorities to figure out if there is red tape in your way. Always co-operate with the authorities – they have been out fighting on the front lines and are under far more stress than we are.
1.5-litre petrol engine in the Hyundai Verna
As I got comfortable in the driver’s seat of the Verna, I entered our destination into the on-board navigation. This is a location we frequent for our magazine shoots as it is fairly isolated and there’s no one around —makes it safe for our shots, with few interruptions. Which brings me to the second tip I have — make sure you practice social distancing. And if this means passing up a drive to a popular hill station in favour of something a little more remote, do so. A remote location will drastically reduce your contact with people, and this is essential to breaking the chain of spread. Michelle had never heard of this road I was taking her to before, and she was quite excited to see what it was like. I was rather keen too — this was the first time I was driving the new Verna with its 1.5-litre petrol and manual gearbox, and this is a route I know well. It provides a great combination of open highway, ghat roads, and then flowing narrow roads in the countryside. You get a whole spectrum of road surfaces too — buttery smooth for the most part, but occasionally properly rutted and a bit of everything in between — which is why we like bringing our cars to drive here.
Hyundai Verna is a properly connected car
One last check if we had carried everything that should be on your checklist — masks? Yes, we had them on our faces. An extra mask in case we misplaced one? Check. A face shield should we be required to head out in to a crowded place? Check. Hand sanitiser? Check — one bottle for each of us. Another thing I like to do is keep Google Pay on my phone. So every single transaction I make — be it for fuel, toll or even just a bottle of water — can all be done from a distance. The internet is a great enabler that has really redefined how we live in the lockdown. Right from how we work, meet people, stay in touch, get our groceries — the internet has ensured we can stay home without compromising our lifestyles. The internet has permeated into our cars as well — this Verna gets the Blue Link connectivity suite that offers features like vehicle tracking, diagnostics and even the ability to start your car before you climb into it! More relevant to us that day though, were the live traffic updates. It is surprising how many people were actually up and about on our roads!
So much of the roadtrip experience is about the food. And to that end — I always pack my own food. It does take away from the allure of the roadtrip slightly — you’re unable to immerse yourself in the culinary offerings of your destination. And when I whipped out my box of sandwiches, Michelle refused to eat one. Ever the pragmatist, she reminded me that the dhabas and restaurants have been as affected by the lockdown as we were. Most of these places are run by small business owners and we should support them in any way we can. Even if it means buying a few packet of chips, or even parcelling the food and eating it in the safety of your car. She picked out a stall where the vendor seemed to be wearing his mask properly and indulged herself in a sizzling hot local vada pav.
The last bit of advice I would give you is this: make sure you have fun. If the last few months have taught us anything, it is that life is short and we need to savour every moment of it. If you are lucky enough to be sitting behind the wheel of a car, and have a road ahead of you to drive it on — be grateful, and immerse yourself in the experience. Be responsible, and have a good time while doing so. Michelle took the wheel of the Verna and I could almost see a weight being lifted off her shoulders. After months, she was back to doing what she loves. I was mighty impressed with the Verna – the engine was refined, the manual gearbox complimenting its rev-happy nature and it was really composed over our roads. Michelle is no road-tester but she clearly enjoyed the car. “I really, really like it,” she said when I asked her for her thoughts, beaming under her mask. And being a designer, she approved of its looks too. Having been around since 2006, the Verna is one of the oldest nameplates in the Hyundai portfolio. It has evolved so much since back then — both in the way it looks, and the way it drives. This new Verna looks sharp, feels sharp and was the perfect car for that first post-lockdown roadtrip.