A city car. If you had to take the ethos of the Renault Kwid and put it down in to three words, it would be that — a city car. You see, it’s compact and is perfect for our city’s crowded streets while simultaneously being spacious on the inside, making it great value for money. The suspension is pliant and tuned to rough it out over the horrendous roads our civic bodies leave us to tackle. All this, combined with a frugal engine means it is just that — the quintessential city car. However, at evo India, we’re not sticklers to convention and so we wanted to take the Kwid out of its comfort zone. From the urban jungle in to erm… the actual jungle. We’re going to be taking the Kwid to the Indian hinterland, to explore the country and to see how this little car holds up when it is far, far away from home.
Our destination this month? Lonar, a small village some 380km from our base in Pune that is properly in the Maharashtrian hinterland, in the district of Buldhana. The village isn’t exceptional by any measure (we’ll get to that in a bit), but what lies just outside the village certainly is. That picture of the Kwid next to that crater on the first two pages of this story? Well, that crater was formed some 50,000 years ago — not too long by geological standards, but eons ago if compared to the fleeting lifespans of us humans. If the scientists who have been poking around here since this place was discovered in the early 1800s are to be believed, a massive meteorite struck the earth at great speed and created this hole in the ground. A 1.8km wide hole to be precise, and a little under 500 feet deep. It also happens to be the only hypervelocity impact crater in basaltic rock (the stuff the Deccan plateau is made of) in the world. Now that’s quite a big deal — geologists from all over the world come down to study this unique formation. It’s a shame that not too many people know about it, even though it’s in our backyard.
Getting to Lonar from Pune involves a mix of highways and smaller village roads. First, you’ve got to take the infamous road to Ahmednagar, notorious for its heavy (and unruly) traffic and make your way outside the city of Pune. The Kwid is in its element here — darting though the gaps, and making quick progress through the lumbering trucks and buses. The Kwid has got a nice stance — almost SUV-like — and it looks large in isolation, but it is actually rather compact and will surprise you with how small a footprint it actually has. As you head further out of the city, the traffic thins out and you’re met with some lovely surfaced four-laned roads en route to Ahmednagar. The Kwid we are driving is the same one from our longterm test fleet, and comes equipped with a 1-litre engine. It will do acceptable speeds on the highway, and seems to be comfortable on this highway run. A car with some sort of long distance ability is something you need when you are exploring the hinterlands in a country as vast as ours.
Soon enough though, this highway comes to an end and you’re sucked in to the chaos on the outskirts of Ahmednagar. Navigate through all that, head out on to the open road again, only to find yourself scuttling through the traffic around Aurangabad. Bypass Aurangabad, and you’re back on the highway, albeit a crowded one. It’s only after you cross the town of Jalna and pass the village of Dusrabid, that you turn off the crowded highway and get on to the proper interior roads. These interior roads were just what you’d expect — badly surfaced and narrow, but with some spectacular views around. Now the Kwid is way out of its element — no traffic to weave through, and dart past. However, I soon found out that it is surprisingly capable even in the middle of nowhere. That tiny size has an advantage in the open as well. The roads are so narrow that two cars can barely fit abreast — one generally needs to put two wheels off the tarmac to get by cleanly. However, the Kwid is narrow enough to pass by most vehicles without getting its boots off the tarmac. Also, the soft suspension helped even out the bumps that these roads are filled with. The roads vary from smooth to uneven to unpaved — that’s rural India for you — but the Kwid chomps them all up with ease. It gives you peace of mind, knowing that the hatchback has decent ground clearance, and should be able to take on most of what these interior roads can throw at it. A low riding sedan out here would have been a nightmare.
Eventually, the road leads you along the crater’s edge and you can see the lake on the inside. The lake is interesting as well. It is extremely salty and alkaline, and is home to some extremely rare forms of microbial life. The area surrounding the lake is teeming with wildlife and birds, and is a hotspot for enthusiasts and photographers. Drive a little further though, and you enter the town of Lonar.
Lonar is a typical rural settlement, somewhere between a village and a town. Its got some hints of being a town — with a number of schools, and shops and eateries but still has the DNA of a village. It is teeming with cattle and pigs, that roam freely on the streets, and the town isn’t particularly clean either. There are a number of temples in the vicinity, and quite a few inside the crater as well. In their defense, I’d be pretty religious too if I knew a giant rock fell to Earth from space, not too far away from my home. However, the village isn’t really significant in any way, apart from its proximity to the crater it shares its name with. Meanwhile, the Kwid was causing quite a stir amongst the residents as we drove through. Out here in the middle of nowhere, they had never seen a small car that shouldered such style, and they made sure they caught a second glance. Some youngsters even chased us down to take photos with it, so they could ‘get likes on Facebook’!
We spent a day at Lonar before making our way back to Pune. The boot of the Kwid comfortably swallowed luggage for three people, plus all the photography and videography equipment we were carrying with us — that 300-litre boot (which can be made 1115 litres with the rear seats folded) certainly is handy.
The more I thought about it, the more sense the idea of having a Kwid to drive around the countryside made. It is a small car, but it has the style and the space on the inside and it can take the beating our roads mete out on a regular basis. It makes sense for someone living in a small town like Lonar. It is affordable, easy to use and the perfect upgrade as your first small car. So not only is the Kwid the quintessential city car, it’s the quintessential countryside car as well!