Driving at night, either all by oneself or accompanied by a special someone, is one of the simple pleasures of life that we have perhaps little time to indulge in. We are not talking about a long, all-night expedition. Rather, the accent is on looking for the unfamiliar in the familiar, of rediscovering your own city, and of seeing it in a different, well, light. It helps, of course, if you have a car capable of enhancing that pleasure.
Last month, as the rains took a breather, and on a night that was preternaturally still, we got into a Honda Civic and pointed its elegant nose at the darkness around us. Ahead of us lay roads, landmarks and milestones that looked different in the indigo night. Our first stop was at the nearly 200-year-old Asiatic Society, which is home to over 1,00,000 books and has probably the most famous steps in Mumbai. A wan moon dripped a dim light on the surroundings, as we moved out.
Back to the future: That fastback design is among the many elements that places the Civic in a league of its own.
The Civic, Honda’s highest-selling car globally, is a futuristic-looking sedan, and night only serves to accentuate its distinctive fastback design: the tipped-forward chrome grille that meets the upswept LED headlamps; those bulging wheel arches, and that curved coupé-like roof at the back – each of these are visual delights. What rounds off the picture – and delightfully at that – are the 17-inch diamond-cut alloys the Civic comes with. These also highlight its attractive stance, as we discovered when we tarried a while at that incredible South Mumbai landmark, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The Civic and CST in one frame makes for a nice picture: purposeful modernity made of steel and bristling with technology juxtaposed with a structure made of sandstone that is over 130 years old.
Freeze frame: The Civic’s purposeful modernity is juxtaposed with the venerable CST’s Victorian-Gothic architecture.
When the sun goes down
Ballard Estate, one of the very few planned parts of Mumbai, is a ghost precinct after sundown. You can drive into and out of lanes lined with colonial architecture on both sides, without encountering anyone. It is so quiet that one wonders if this is indeed Mumbai. Rolling the windows down is a good idea while you are here, because the quiet, quaint estate keeps many secrets.
We were, for example, surprised to learn that back in the day, Ballard Estate had a railway station from where trains would leave for places as distant as Peshawar. Ballard Estate, in its serenity, is also a good place to reacquaint oneself with the Civic’s well-packaged interiors. A lot of people have termed it exceedingly sporty with ample infusions of luxury; and that is, indeed, true. Among the things that will immediately come to your attention are the seats that meld comfort and support;
and the impeccably and thoughtfully designed centre console that complements the Civic’s trademark cockpit-like feel. Drivers ensconced in the eight-way powered seat will also appreciate the long armrests and thoughtfully designed storage spaces, which make for an ideal blend of luxury, utilitarianism and technology. It’s not just enthusiastic drivers who are floored by the Civic; the same goes for his or her companions in the back seat as well. They will be the first to comment on the impressive rear legroom the Civic has on offer.
Shadows of the night
Even a city as frenzied as Mumbai pauses to catch its breath. That is when things slow down, when the noise dissipates and the roads empty out. Lying ahead of us is the iconic Marine Drive, and this is as good a time as any to push down on the throttle. Most Honda drivers choose a Honda because of the way the engine feels: alive. It is no different when it comes to the 141hp petrol motor that our car is equipped with. Tap the accelerator and the Civic is off the mark in no time at all, and you won’t be able to wipe that smile off your face, as the Civic blurs the Art Deco buildings on one side and the sea on the other on a desolate Marine Drive.
Calm before the storm: The Civic prepares to devour Marine Drive.
Honda’s CVT gearbox is up there with the best, smoothness and responsiveness being amongst its defining characteristics. It is not just an ace at compressing distances on empty stretches of tarmac, but its alacrity and the linear power delivery it offers also render the Civic a great negotiator of the urban traffic crawl. The Civic swallows SoBo in very little time, and the Sea Link comes into view. Once we are on it, it’s just the sea below, the cloudy sky above, and calm inside the car. Someone once said that driving fast in a good car is a lot like meditating – and it is true.
Sea it to believe it: The Bandra-Worli Sea Link is an iconic Mumbai landmark; as is the Civic for Honda, globally.
Disappear into the darkness
One look at the Civic – and the way it sits nice and low – and you’ll know that it will be tough to beat when it comes to ride and handling. This car has its dynamics all sorted, and has been acknowledged to be a leader in its class when it comes to ride and handling. Enthusiasts will love pushing it around corners, thanks to that low stance; and on a twisty road, the Civic, which has a well-balanced chassis, is in a league of its own.
The ride complements the Civic’s handling, but the suspension also ensures that the Civic’s occupants have absolutely no reason to complain when it comes to comfort. Mumbai’s roads are infamous across the country, but the Civic elegantly dismisses even the nastiest bits of tarmac. As the Civic comes to halt in your parking lot, you step out and – despite the impression it has made on you time and again – you try and consider it objectively. You realise, as the first rays of light seep through, that this is an executive sedan that wins both heart and brain, alike.
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