Look, I’m not a particularly fuel-efficient driver, and I’m the first to raise my hand and admit it. I’ve tried, once or twice, I promise, and sure, I could probably make it happen if I really had to. But in everyday driving, it’s just not my style. It’s too much effort; too much tedium. My very, very patient colleague Rahul Kakar once brought a Renault Lodgy from Delhi to Mumbai using just about half a tank of diesel. I’d have probably given up by Gurgaon.
What doesn’t help is my commute, which is like Kryptonite that feeds on driving enjoyment, which, in turn, is every petrolhead’s super-strength. It’s 80 percent traffic, some of which is of the crawling, 5kph variety, so it’s something I try to get over with as soon as possible. Subsequently, on our fuel efficiency record cards, there’s always a pretty dismal number next to my name, because if I’m not stuck in traffic, I’m making the most of not being stuck in traffic, if you know what I mean.
The thing is, a routine has started forming on my commute, and I’ve accepted my fate. I adopt a Zen-like state of mind and embrace the traffic; flow with it, if you will. And that, as it turns out, makes for much better fuel efficiency. I tanked up the Baleno recently and was astonished to see it had done 542km between fill-ups! That’s an astonishing 15kpl! I whipped out a calculator in disbelief and a few frenzied taps later, realised it was right. I then spent half an hour interrogating the entire Autocar India editorial and testing team to see if anyone accidentally filled it without me knowing, and didn’t log a record. Nope.
What I did find out is that it did go on one leisurely highway run between those fill-ups, and that will have definitely driven the number up by a kpl or two. But the truth is, it nudges past 12kpl on my commute every day. And this is a petrol car, lest we forget. Two things make this possible. The
first is the weight, which at 890kg even for this top-spec car, is a full 75kg lower than the cheaper Swift. The second is the engine – this is quite possibly the best all-rounder in the naturally aspirated 1.2-litre class. It’s so tractable low down, it can handle your 5kph crawl in second gear without a fuss.
And keeping me entertained during the crawl is the superb colour-screen between the dials
that gives you so much information. At first I thought it was gaudy and gimmicky, but I’ve soon realised that trying to bump up the ‘real-time fuel-economy’ number is an immensely fun game – it’s also the reason I’ve been subconsciously working on improving my fuel efficiency. The only annoyance is that the ‘distance to empty’ readout disappears once the yellow reserve fuel warning light comes on – that’s when you need it the most!
I’ll stop here, simply because it’s the longest I’ve talked about fuel efficiency in a single stretch of my entire life (what have I become?). For the kind of driving I’m resigned to daily, however, this newfound light-footedness of mine is a great gift, especially after the recent petrol price hike. And so is the Baleno; it’s comfortable, spacious, feature packed, and now fuel-efficient in my hands too.