We will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in January 2024, and in a run-up to this landmark moment, we will share with you some unique stories that capture the essence of Motoring World, through the remainder of this year. To start things off, we found ourselves in a Hyundai i20 N-Line, searching for some grin-inducing motoring fun.
Away from the bustle of onlookers near the low stone railings of the highway overlooking the sangam at Dev Prayag, we were sitting inside said Hyundai i20 N-Line. Parked on an empty bridge, and with a clear view of the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers that make the mighty Ganga, we were just soaking up the moment. We were around 300 km from Delhi, but more importantly, we were about to head back to our hotel, located about 32 kilometres away in a different direction — and in these 32 kilometres lies the essence of this story.
When the opportunity arose to talk about the thrill that driving great cars brings, the i20 N-Line was the ideal choice. It’s the perfect hot-hatch, with enough practicality to go about your daily life; here, the idea was simply to drive it to Dev Prayag because the roads, especially after Rishikesh, are stunning, both in terms of scenic beauty and tarmac quality. We set off early from Delhi to avoid traffic, but as luck would have it, the weekend meant that half of the city was also heading towards Uttarakhand. What would have been an easy 6-hour drive transformed into an ordeal that lasted 11 hours, and had it not been for the superb Bose audio system in the car, the experience would have been worse. Running desperately late, the only respite came once we crossed Rishikesh and the traffic thinned out.
The 1-litre, 118 bhp Turbo GDi petrol engine and that sporty exhaust helped us gleefully and rapidly make up for lost time. The car was in its element, and we needed no more convincing of its performance lineage. The stiffened suspension and sharper, more responsive steering unit have done wonders for the driving dynamics of the i20 N-Line, making it an absolute joy around corners.
Dev Prayag arrived soon enough, and the sangam was as beautiful as everyone says it is. There is a magical beauty to the place, and being petrol-heads, you can trust us that this comes not from a mythological POV, but from our devotion to the god of speed. This was not our destination, however – that lay another 32 kilometres away towards Pauri, the headquarter of the Pauri-Garhwal region. The sun had already begun its descent into night, and a long patch of broken, single-carriageway mountain road was made worse by the heavy trucks transporting material for a nearby tunnel project; still the N-Line was more than equal to the task.
Once we got through this section, the roads instantly became better. It was already pitch dark, and we could see a mildly concerning thunderstorm building higher up ahead. We upped the pace, putting total faith in the driving dynamics of the car, with its LED projector headlamps offering superb illumination in the pitch-dark valleys and the numerous blind corners. It took us another seventy five minutes to reach our destination. Though the darkness of the night meant we could not soak in the views, we were sure of one thing — the roads had been simply outstanding.
The next morning, we woke up to spectacular views; the clouds hovered just below our room as they floated around the dense layer of pine forest that surrounded us. We were at a height of almost 1800m above sea level and the air was pristine, rejuvenating us with every breath. Honestly, we would struggle to do justice to this place with mere words, but then, what came afterward with the N-Line — a sunlit day on these roads — left us speechless. It was as if a rally car mode was activated in the car, and the pace at which it pounced upon corners, one after the other, was intoxicating. The burble of the sporty exhaust reverberated across the silent valley, almost like a hymn being sung to the automotive gods.
Spiritual is not a word you would normally associate with driving, but the experience really was close to it. In a rare moment of silence, when we parked the N-Line on the edge of a cliff to soak in the view of the rapidly ascending clouds, we thought about the significance of the Dev Prayag sangam. In a way that’s similar to how the turbulent Bhagirathi meets the calm Alaknanda to form the Ganga, the i20 N-Line sits at the confluence of the standard car’s comfort, features and practicality, and an N-Line’s exciting nature.
Honestly, the i20 N-Line might just be the perfect (and only) hot-hatch we have in the country. We are so impressed with what it is capable of when it meets the right roads that we’re hard-pressed to find fault with it. In the hands of less spirited drivers than us, it would definitely be more docile and frugal — but when was the last time that approach worked on a winding mountain road, paved almost like a racetrack?