What's with the bold ICOTY stickering on the red Swift, you may ask? It caught many people's attention and we had to explain it to them too. We were on this unique ICOTY (Indian Car Of The Year) drive to etch the letters SWIFT on the Indian map with the help of GPS trackers. The locals were impressed to know that we were there in their region to form the alphabet 'I' by driving from Nagpur to Jalgaon.
It's not surprising how popular the Maruti Suzuki Swift is in India. And it’s already been established that the Swift brand has always had an upper hand over its rivals. However, an astonishing achievement is the Swift brand winning the ICOTY award for every generation model. It won this award in 2006, then in 2012 and now its third-gen car has also won this title in 2019. No other car has achieved this. The drive itself, was organised to celebrate and mark this success in a unique way, along with motor journalists and ICOTY members from India.
Start from the geographical centre of India
The etching of each letter of the word SWIFT constituted a separate drive in itself and all the drives happened simultaneously. Our plan was to drive from Nagpur to Jalgaon, which is almost a straight drive on the map. We threw our bags and camera equipment into the boot and then were flagged off from the Zero milestone in Nagpur, which is geographically the centre of India.
In and around Nagpur
The Swift with its light steering, a compact footprint, and decent visibility makes for an easy-to-drive car especially within a city. And despite the time constraint, we could go across town and through neighbourhoods, which we wouldn't have visited otherwise. We wanted to quickly try some local street food and meet and connect with the local people. After all, they say food and travel are one of life’s greatest experience intersections. A couple of hours later, after satiating our hunger and taste buds, we visited some famous spots in Nagpur and then headed out towards Amravati - our next stop on the journey.
Out on the highway
A quick math made me realise that in order to reach Jalgaon while shooting and with detours, we might have to cover about 450km through the day. My guess was that one tank-up would be enough. And it was, even though we weren’t hypermiling. In fact, as the roads widened into a dual carriageway, we just stepped on and stayed on the throttle for most part. Now, the Swift might be a small car, but in its latest generation, not only is it a joy around corners, it also remains planted and stable at higher highway speeds.
The Swift is almost a cult car. And its owners, as it turns out, are its biggest fans! One such owner, amongst the many who were tracking our drive, specially came on our route to meet us. Interestingly, we discovered that his parents owned older-generation Swifts and when it was his turn, he too turned to the Swift, in its latest iteration. He also reminded us of what we had forgotten to take back. Something that Nagpur is world-famous for. Yes, the oranges that give Nagpur its moniker of the orange city. And with so many orchards around, it wasn’t difficult to source a few oranges, especially since there was an array of stalls along the highway.
Just for some driving thrills
The road turned into a single carriageway after the super smooth roads beyond Amravati. We encountered many diversions and this stretch was marred with potholes and speed-breakers. But thanks to this car's plush ride quality and comfortable seats we were happily cruising along without any fuss.
However, it was post lunch, when the straight monotonous roads became boring. We wanted a break and a barren field nearby grabbed my attention. It was the perfect place to kick up some dirt and snap out of the stupor induced by our midday meals. The light-weight Swift with its quick steering is good for driving thrills. What a refresher this turned out to be. Just have some quick fun and move on!
Oranges to Bananas
By the time we crossed Akola and completed half the journey, the sun had come down. Our overall speeds had also dropped due to bad roads. Nonetheless, it was amazing to drive the Swift into the sunset.
We reached Jalgaon late at night, but with the satisfaction of having safely completed the drive. And yet this hatchback ensured that even the journey towards the end was incredibly relaxing. What’s more, unwittingly, we had linked together two places with strategic importance to fruits. Nagpur as the Orange city and Jalgaon, as the banana capital of India.
Looking back at the journey I realised how true the Swift is to Indian sensibilities. For a majority of Indian car buyers reliability, value for money, efficiency and design are must-haves in a car. The Swift has always had it all. And now in its latest generation, it has brought back the added spunk of being fun to drive. No wonder, the Swift has won the ICOTY three times. But that’s not all, Maruti Suzuki has also managed to sell more than twenty lakh Swifts since 2005! That’s some achievement.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi