Great Driving Roads | Hyundai Venue N Line to Gargoti - Patgaon Highway
No, rising early is not something I enjoy doing and when it is a Sunday, the morning is best left for a dreamy doze. But, I'm also proud to call myself a petrolhead and Sunday mornings, for us petrolheads, are best reserved for the #ThrillOfDriving. We car guys appreciate the little things in life like taking a nice drive in our beloved machines. That is the definition of freedom for us. We can get through a long week by just fantasising about driving, but it's the weekend that we impatiently await in order to go into the full-send mode. As a result, a Great Driving Road is critical to us because it serves as the foundation for our method of healing.
It is for that very reason, I enjoy what I do. A year and a half has passed since I set foot into the world of motoring journalism. A way of life that pays me to not only drive the best cars but also help other petrolheads identify the best driving routes in the country for the Great Driving Roads series, curated by this very magazine. The road that we’re featuring this month has been newly constructed and connects two serene towns of rural Maharashtra. Gargoti and Patgaon. It is the first part of a future project that would ease transportation from Kolhapur to Kankavli and ultimately to Goa, India's holiday capital. It is a road that deserves your attention, the next time you are planning a drive or a weekend getaway.
Kolhapur is one of my favourite places in the country. It is known for its laid-back demeanour, carefree environment, and the finest chicken curry you'll ever eat. We always stop at Kolhapur to eat some oh-so-spicy yet oh-so-satisfying food, and then continue on our journey south. And with the newly finished Gargoti-Patgaon highway, we now have yet another reason to visit Kolhapur. All thanks to a friend of evo India, Dhruv Mohite, who suggested we visit and explore this breathtaking region. State highway 120, as it will be known ultimately upon completion, is just an hour away and is definitely worth the detour if you too are driving down south.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. B-roads are the lifeblood of Maharashtra. They give you a connection to the outlying areas, which are where the state's true essence lies. This road network is continually being improved by the government, and when paired with the state's magnificent scenery, it provides some of the best driving roads in the country. The Gargoti-Patgaon road is a brand-new illustration of a fantastic B-road. A 30-kilometre stretch of recently resurfaced asphalt that will definitely bring out the racer in you. Fortunately for us, Hyundai generously loaned us the Venue N Line for this drive. It’s the second car under the Korean giant’s N Line brand that promises the thrill of driving, and we were happy to oblige.
Patgaon is a hill-station which is the go-to weekend getaway for people hailing from nearby cities and towns. And if you’re a history buff, you’ll know that this region is historically significant. Kolhapur and the towns surrounding it were inhabited by the Maratha kings and wealthy merchants as it served as the midpoint of the trade route. And Patgaon was where all of them would go in the summer to cool down. A couple of centuries later, that hasn’t changed. The summer and monsoon seasons are the finest times to visit this area because everything is at its most picturesque during those times. There are waterfalls cascading down the slopes, rich green flora, and not to forget the lip-smacking delicacies that the locals sell by the road. Now connected by the Gargoti-Patgaon highway, the town of Patgaon is a gem that's just waiting to be discovered.
Despite it being a mere 30-km long, the Gargoti-Patgaon highway takes you through wide open grasslands and even a tight mountain road at the end towards Patgaon. There isn't much traffic here, and you can really give it the beans because you can see far ahead at all times, and I'm so glad that I drove down the Venue N Line there. The Venue has always been the sportiest SUV in the sub-four metre class, and the Venue N Line takes it a step further with its tweaks. You might think that it is just a sticker job, with the eye-popping primary colour and red highlight combo that Hyundai offers it with, but that isn't the case. Although it shares the 1-litre turbo-petrol engine, which makes the same 118bhp and 172Nm when in the standard Venue, it is even better to drive. That is courtesy stiffer dampers, a weightier steering and disc-brakes at all four wheels. As a result, the Venue N Line feels more stable in corners. The heavier steering gives it a sharper front-end feel and the braking feels more surefooted. This is the right type of car to enjoy on a B-road, not only because of its good handling characteristics, but also because of its high ground clearance. If you encounter a pothole, that isn’t a problem for the Venue N Line. It tackles them with ease and never scrapes its belly anywhere.
A rally driver's slow-in, fast-out technique is the greatest approach to take advantage of tight twisties. This formula is properly suited for a turbocharged engine and the turbo-petrol unit in the Venue N Line is a gem. It has a good amount of low end grunt that pulls you out of corners. You enter a corner at a steady pace and ride that torque, out of it, all the way to redline, before you see the next bend to slow down and repeat the process. The mid-range is where all the fun lies and the Venue N Line certainly delivers on that front. Its seven-speed DCT is another area where Hyundai has excelled. A thing bespoke to supercars, up until just a few years ago, this transmission delivers fast and snappy shifts. The gearing is short and that helps the Venue N Line accelerate with a vigour. But this sporty drivetrain duo is also calm when you want it to be. 18kmpl. Yes, that is what I eked out from this powertrain driving leisurely on the NH4 during our journey to Kolhapur from our base in Pune. Hyundai has also given the Venue a sportier sounding exhaust, with dual-tips, and that just adds to the overall driving experience.
Although this region is fairly free of traffic, you have to keep an eye out for animals crossing the road, you have got to be careful and drive safely and well within the limits. Speaking of safety, the Venue N Line has a plethora of safety kit including six airbags, ABS, ESC and even traction control. Not only do these systems make driving safer, but also that much easier. On wet roads, like the current monsoon season, they make the car feel surefooted and give you the added peace of mind.
The Gargoti-Patgaon road is almost like the timed stage of a rally event. It is flawless with its smooth tarmac, has fast flowing bends and even a tight mountain climb at the very end for all the corner carving freaks. The luxury of little to no traffic can only be understood by a person who loves driving and the Gargoti-Patgaon highway lets you have it. To avoid traffic during a shoot, we often start our days super early to get those beautiful shots you've seen in this magazine. However, much to our surprise, the Gargoti-Patgaon highway appeared to be just deserted at any point during the day that we were there.
It is also beautiful to simply look at. A scenic backdrop plays a pivotal role in enhancing the beauty of a Great Driving Road and it is one of the first things to look for in one, and the Gargoti-Patgaon road scores full marks. This part of Maharashtra also doubles up as a hidden weekend getaway place. It is truly a gem that’s just waiting to be discovered. The next time you’re on the way to Goa or are going down south, turn off the highway and scout out this road, you will surely be in for a surprise. The locals here are friendly and because it's an area that’s getting developed by the day, the hotels and restaurants are also kind to your pocket.
The southern region of Maharashtra isn't the first spot that comes to mind while looking for a Great Driving Road. But it ought to be. We weren't even aware of the potential that this location had, to be very honest. All credit, however, goes to Dhruv. It's the highways to which people turn to for the ease of driving as they are faster and hence more practical. But nowadays, if you want to have peace of mind, with little to no traffic, the only option is to resort to the good old two-lane roads. This explains why new roads like the Gargoti-Patgaon highway are being built. Two-lane roads bring back memories of simpler times, when the journey was as important as the destination. People used to go on road trips to explore an uncharted territory and discover new places. Something that people in the twenty-first century appear to have forgotten as a result of their hectic lives and work loads. The Gargoti-Patgaon highway is not only a Great Driving Road, but also a throwback to simpler times. It will bring back your childhood memories and will also ensure that you are having a good time with whatever you are piloting. Once completed fully, it will undoubtedly provide an excellent alternative route for all the enthu-cutlets making their way to Goa.