Unlike most of my other blog posts, this one is not based on fact but in emotion. It is about something I have rediscovered after having the opportunity to experience it more frequently; namely driving. I am sure I am not alone in thinking this but the myriad aspects of driving, whether through a narrow, twisty mountain road, or through an urban sprawl, or on a wide expressway, or even a karting track, are in itself satisfying and deeply gratifying endeavour.
The slight resistance in the accelerator pedal, the bounce back of the clutch, the thunk of the gear shifting, and the purring of an engine, this is what the thrill of driving means to me. It’s about all the feedback that the car offers from the steering, the tyres, and the chassis. Sure in most everyday cars, that feedback is muted and difficult to relate to but it still exists. This is one reason I loved the first generation Tata Nano. It was just so raw all over, from the gruff two-cylinder engine, to the stiff suspension (later models had better sound damping and were more pliant), it felt like the ideal car for a amateur enthusiast.
The connection to the car through the feedback offered turns into a somewhat oxymoronic emotion; a controlled freedom. That is you have the freedom to go where you want and the control to do that in the manner of your choosing. This rather unique emotion is accentuated further when driving rapidly or on a good road. Naturally, the adjective rapid is subjective as 60mph (96kmph) is about 6mph short of the Nano’s top speed while 60mph is almost pedestrian for many larger cars.
This brings me to my next point which is: affordable cars have limits within easy reach making them fun-to-drive in everyday situations. Similar to the situation I mentioned above, taking a medium corner in a decent sized car with over 100bhp at 60mph isn’t a big deal, but try the same with a 37bhp, top-heavy car like the Nano and it is much more challenging. Hence it is much more fun.
I’ve been driving around primarily in a Hyundai Grand i10 (sold as the i10 in Europe with 100mm shorter wheelbase) for the past month and while it definitely isn’t a performance car by any margin thanks to the numb steering, soft suspension set up, and small 83bhp 1.2-litre engine, as with the Nano, its limits are easily reached even in the city. It makes pottering around so much more exciting than a larger more powerful car. Most overtaking manoeuvres require a blip of the throttle and a downshift making engine work to deliver power. Every corner and roundabout has the potential to make the i10 stand up on three wheels (locally and colloquially called tripoding).
In essence, this post can be surmised with this sentence: Whether you are tripoding a Nano or drifting a Jaguar F-Type, driving is fun for people like us irrespective of the car thanks to the emotional connect or the bond that we form with it. The thought isn’t really logical or rational, but then not everything has to be.