Ultimate Crossover Comparo: Urban Cross Vs I20 Active Vs Vitara Brezza Vs TUV300 Vs EcoSport Vs Creta Vs Terrano Vs BR-V - Overdrive
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Ultimate crossover comparo: Urban Cross vs i20 Active vs Vitara Brezza vs TUV300 vs EcoSport vs Creta vs Terrano vs BR-V

31 Dec 2016  /  6
Correspondent

If there is one thing I love as much as cars, it’s music. And I mean real music, from the good ol’ days when a song had actual musical instruments, sensible lyrics and no Auto-Tune! So when I heard that Yngwie Malmsteen (one of the greatest guitarists in the world, in case you didn’t know) was going to headline at the Orange Festival in Dambuk, I had to get there somehow! But Bert wasn’t going to just let me saunter off from the office for a week when there was a ton of work to do for the year-end issue. That’s when I had a light-bulb moment. Why not bring him along – on work, of course. Considering our work was to drive cars, it made it all the more easy to get him on board.

Orange Fest Compact SUV Comparo (4)

If we were to get out of the office for that long, we needed something big planned – something bigger than just one car or one segment. So just to be safe, we picked eight cars from three segments – the Maruti Vitara Brezza, Mahindra TUV300, and Ford EcoSport from the sub-four metre segment; the Hyundai Creta, Honda BR-V and Nissan Terrano representing the premium crossovers; and to make things more interesting, we also added two compact crossovers – the Hyundai i20 Active and the Fiat Avventura Urban Cross. Why all these cars, then? Because these already popular crossovers are only growing in strength, and it was time to put them to the test and find out how tough these pseudo-SUVs really are.

The roads were a mix of lovely tarmac and absolutely no tarmac

The roads were a mix of lovely tarmac and absolutely no tarmac

The only issue, however, was convincing the manufacturers to give us their cars. The trouble here was that a Google search of the Orange Festival and Dambuk mostly resulted in images of a stranded bus that had tried crossing a river and trucks making their way across a rocky riverbed liberally sprinkled with boulders the size of watermelons. In no ways are we putting our cars through that kind of terrain, they said.

Orange Fest Compact SUV Comparo (38)

he drive through Assam was absolutely gorgeous with the morning mist and tea plantations

So we lied. A big fat one, at that! We showed them images of the fantastic Asian Highway 1 and the NH15 and cajoled them into believing that the roads are smooth, well paved and built by the BRO. And so they reluctantly agreed. Well, we weren’t completely lying. We were just, as I’d like to call it, not telling the whole truth. The road till Pasighat and the village of Siluk was fabulously paved. But only till there. Getting till Dambuk, well that’s a whole other story.

We ran through our checklist. Cars? Check. Challenging terrain? Check. Exotic location? Check. Malmsteen… I mean, storyline? Check, check. And last of all, we need a baseline one which to work all our tests. Since each car is mechanically different from one another, we needed a common thread that binds them together and lends a neutral and homogenous aspect to the tests. This is where tyres play a crucial role. CEAT Tyres in the last few years have been growing from strength to strength, thanks to better quality tyres that are equal to any other brand in the market. We needed durable, reliable and tough tyres that could handle the bashing, and CEAT Tyres have proved to be just what we needed in the past. We roped them in to give us that uniformity. So we fit every crossover with a fresh set of treads from CEAT Tyres. So safety? Check!

We began our 660km journey from Guwahati in Assam rather late and considering it gets pitch dark in the North East by 5 pm, we halted at Tezpur just after crossing the Brahmaputra River. The next morning we were back on the road by 4 am, and the next thing you knew, the sun was peeping out from the horizon. I think it’s high time India is split into two time zones! It was a spectacular sight watching it cast its light on the morning mist hanging low over the paddy fields. And I had a spectacular feeling with my windows rolled down and the song, β€˜Going Up The Country’ by Canned Heat blaring from the speakers. It’s this special feeling that I get when, as Canned Heat says, β€œI’m goin’ to some place; I’ve never been before.”

Orange Fest Compact SUV Comparo (34)

Orange Fest Compact SUV Comparo (16)

By the time we crossed over into Arunachal Pradesh and reached Pasighat, it was around 4.30 pm and almost dark. With a local lady warning us that all we’d find ahead was jungle, we tanked up and hit got back on the road. We had around two hours of driving to do, and the route from Pasighat was an empty, well-paved ghat section. Just when it seemed like the drive was finally getting over, roughly 45km ahead the highway just disappeared into a broken, single-lane road for a couple of kilometres. Soon we reached a boom barrier blocking the road. To the right was an eerie-looking dirt road going downhill and disappearing into the woods. It looked like the kind of road you shouldn’t be driving down at night, but we had no other choice. Since I was a little ahead of the convoy, I was alone too. I put on my brave face and continued onward into the darkness until the forest opened up to the vast open space of dry, rocky riverbed.

When we go on a drive as long and as trying as ours, only the safest and toughest set of tyres make the cut. So we went to CEAT Tyres and got each of our cars a new set of Czar Sports or Gripp LNs. These tyres were awesome on the long smooth highways and the sweeping ghat sections, with plenty of grip at high speeds. Even when the roads literally disappeared close to Dambuk and we drove through the slippery and rocky terrain, they were impressively robust and grippy. Despite pushing the cars hard through punishing roads, we didn’t face a single puncture.

When we go on a drive as long and as trying as ours, only the safest and toughest set of tyres make the cut. So we went to CEAT Tyres and got each of our cars a new set of Czar Sports or Gripp LNs. These tyres were awesome on the long smooth highways and the sweeping ghat sections, with plenty of grip at high speeds. Even when the roads literally disappeared close to Dambuk and we drove through the slippery and rocky terrain, they were impressively robust and grippy. Despite pushing the cars hard through punishing roads, we didn’t face a single puncture.

After about an hour of being bounced around in the car, I began to wonder if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. Fortunately, I saw two motorcycles heading towards me. As I stuck my head out of the window and tried to flag them down, I saw what looked like deer antlers tied to the back of bike. For some reason I thought it was an animal head trophy like the ones you find at old resorts in the jungle, and continued waving at him and asking him for directions to Dambuk. He half-heartedly nodded in the direction I was pointing at and continued onward. Only then did I see that it was the head of a killed deer, still dripping blood. I immediately shoved my head back into the car and rolled my window up when the second motorcycle, carrying the rest of the deer – skinned and all – passed by. I quietly drove till the end of the riverbed, which wasn’t very far off and decided to wait till the rest of the convoy caught up. Passing those hunters made it clear we were deep into the wilds of Arunachal Pradesh! Fortunately, the rest weren’t too far behind and Dambuk wasn’t too far ahead. We got there in time for dinner and were soon out cold in our cosy tents.

Orange Fest Compact SUV Comparo (13)

We ate such good oranges in Dambuk that we had to bring some home!

The next morning was an early one – or as early as our bodies would allow, at least. The sun revealed our beautiful campsite placed right next to the Dibang River, with mountains on one side and what seemed like endless flatland on the other. We set off towards the riverbed we came through to find a place to shoot photographs, when one of us – I won’t say who (cough Alan cough) – got a bit over ambitious and tried to venture into the shallow water in the TUV300. The sand and stones were so loose that as soon as the car entered the water, its tyre were half sunken in. Nothing we did could get the car out. Fortunately though, there was an off-road competition being held along with the Orange Festival. We managed to convince one of the marshals to come help us out with his 4X4 Maruti Gypsy. The surface was so loose that even the Gypsy began digging itself in when he tried pulling with a tow rope. It was starting to get late and we were worried we’d miss the one thing we came all this way to see – Malmsteen. Fortunately, the Gypsy was also equipped with a winch that slowly but effortlessly pulled the TUV out. We were free and we immediately went back to catch the concert.

The team tried its luck at getting the TUV out. Needless to say, they didn’t succeed.

The team tried its luck at getting the TUV out. Needless to say, they didn’t succeed.

The venue had a lovely setting with the stage and stalls set on a paddy field surround by hills dotted with orange orchards. While we waited for the show to start, we found ourselves some delicious food – pork, chicken, chow mein and rice – prepared with that unique flavour that I can only describe as North Eastern.

Eventually, the man of the hour emerged and immediately there was a quite a big crowd around the stage. In fact, even the chief minister of the state, Pema Khandu, was there just for the show. There isn’t much else I can say to describe the show other than it being spectacular or amazing or mind-blowing. And even that doesn’t do it justice. I never thought I’d be this happy to see a bare-chested man in a leather jacket and leather pants performing live on stage. Malmsteen is a thoroughbred old-school rock and roll musician right from the way he walks, talks and shreds his guitar. For someone who never thought he’d see an old-school performance like that, it was a real privilege to be there. He even played some BB King, which personally, was my favourite part of his show.

Orange Fest Compact SUV Comparo (5)

Yngwie Malmsteen is considered one of the greatest guitarists in the world. He is an old-school rock star through and through, right from his theatrical performance to his guitar playing

Post the awesomeness that is Malmsteen, we headed back to camp both fulfilled and yet wanting more. We spent another day around the beautiful campsite and headed to the festival for the final night where we ate some more excellent local food and watched the local bands perform. It was time to head back to Guwahati the next day and with the festival over, I could focus all my attention on the other half of my story – the cars.



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