Note to self: Do not floor it. Note to self: Cars passing you is okay. When you are on the highway, in an ultra marine blue Toyota Liva freshly minted out of the factory, it's an ultimate bummer to have to drive it like a cabbie, an old chap if you must. Why are we putting ourselves through so much torture? A couple of days before the official launch, Toyota invited journalists to Bangalore to experience the diesel avatars of the Etios and the Liva. During the presentation the Toyota spokesperson, with a smile, announced the ARAI claimed mileage figure for both the cars â" 23.5kmpl. The smile was forced. Just a couple of days back before our test drive, Tata had announced a mileage of 25kmpl for the Indigo eCS. Last minute frantic changes in the powerpoint presentations and the creatives would have followed, resulting in a lot of sullen faces after Tata's timely declaration. I smell a bandicoot. We are very sure they were looking to impress us by claiming the best mileage in the segment. Alas!
Why are we going on harping about the fuel efficiency bit? Because 23.5kmpl is really commendable. But we never take anyone's word for it. We anyway needed to get the Liva for testing so then why not drive it down from Bangalore to Pune. But you see nothing that we do is purely for fun. There's always logic behind everything we do. Okay, most of what we do. So we decided to see if the Liva would make it from Bangalore to Pune on a single tank of fuel. And, in one day. The second part wasn't tough. The first had Team OVERDRIVE engaged in sweepstakes with most of them naysayers. The Liva has a tank capacity of 45 litres. The distance to Pune from where we were holed up in Bangalore, according to Google maps, was 838kms. Which meant we needed a fuel efficiency of 18.6kmpl to make it to Pune on one tank. Game on.
Now the Liva diesel comes only in one variant the GD. And Toyota has taken no-frills to an extreme with this model. The car which we had was fitted with an after-market Toyota optional body kit which included an all-round skirt and rear spoiler which costs approximately ` 30,000. This does give some spunk to the external appearance. But on the inside, among other things, it doesn't have a tachometer or a music system, both of which were very important for this trip, the latter more crucial of course. Rishaad wasn't exactly kicked about two guys making small talk for 800kms. So the famous Indian jugaad mentality came to the fore. We got ourselves a car laptop charger, a small but spirited USB speaker and we were all set.
The mother of all mileage runs began early in the morning. We wanted to escape the early bird traffic and get to the safety of the highway as quickly as we could. We tanked up at the first fuel pump we found, Rishaad shaking the car vigorously to make sure every possible drop of fuel went into it. Now we were asked to be gentle with the driving so that we could give the car a chance. This of course meant digging into an empty reservoir of patience but it had to be done.
The absence of an rpm meter meant that we had to shift gears as soon as we even thought that we heard the engine rev. And the first stretch itself was testing to the core. It was 53kms to the NH4 and littered with potholes and some lazy vehicles. This meant planned shifting and patiently waiting to overtake the cars and trucks ambling along. While taxing, the soft suspension of the Liva came to our rescue on the bad stretches. Going over potholes didn't rattle the spine or chatter those teeth. This stretch took us quite a bit of time and we were worried that we won't be able to make it to Pune by midnight.
Throughout the first half of the journey, there was constant calculation going on, about time and about fuel. The digital fuel indicator on the Liva has eight bars. Considering the total distance this meant we had to cover about 105-odd kilometres on each bar. We decided to check how much distance had been covered by the time the indicator showed four bars remaining, indicating now that roughly we had consumed about half of our fuel. This would give us a rough idea whether we would make it or not. Driving and math, multitasking in full swing. Once we hit the highway we were at peace. We knew we could make up time here. Now, till this point we were able to restrict the top speed to 80kmph because of the traffic and the roads that hadn't seen a road roller in ages. But when faced with the clear and present danger of a long stretch of concrete with hardly any traffic keeping your right foot in check is a huge task. But while we were struggling, the Liva didn't have any problem being tamed and more importantly its 68PS was constantly producing the power when we asked of it during overtaking. The steering gives you a healthy feedback and you feel confident switching lanes or dipping into a corner at a decent speed. There are moments when you feel a disconnect with the steering especially when taking a turn but not enough to complain.
The first bar in the fuel indicator dropped after we had travelled 267km. But this is because we had filled it to the brim (Remember Rishaad muscling in the fuel). Seven more bars to go and 571kms to go. And we went back to our fuel and time calculations. We were able to cover a lot of distance on the highways in spite of religiously, with the unquestioned devotion of a priest, keeping the speedometer needle to the left. We would stick to the middle lane, turn up the music and just cruise. All that was left for us was to bob our heads like rappers. Come to think of it, it would go with the car's colour. This steady speed, no-rev quick gear shifting, minimal overtaking was a completely different feeling compared to the usually more aggressive mode we adopt when behind a wheel.
The swanky new car Liva attracted a lot of attention, especially one informed toll booth attendant who got very curious about the mileage when he came to know that this had a diesel mill. We had a pretty uneventful (read lots of braying along to the songs) drive till we got very excited when we reached 419km on our trip meter. That indicated that we had crossed half of our journey. We had only used up two bars of fuel so far and that was very promising.
We set off again and status quo was maintained till we crossed Belgaum. Now at this point we were still only three bars of fuel down but since we were not making up enough ground, the second part of our task, to get to Pune in a single day, looked like becoming quite a stretch. We decided to push the car a little but with extra care taken to ensure minimal braking and gear changes. We maintained our speed between 90-100kmph. But then as we neared Kolhapur, the empty highway suddenly became crowded and we couldn't adopt cruise mode anymore. We had to drive like we were in a city and the mileage run went for a toss. By this time we were confident that we would make it on a single tank but time was becoming a concern because we were also stopping to take pictures. So we cut loose. High revs and quick acceleration was needed to eat up the miles quickly and we obeyed. We encountered rain in some parts but not enough to make us slow down.
While driving through the cities, the 170Nm of torque across a wide range of 1800-2400rpm meant that overtaking was achieved with minimal gear shifts. Its linear power delivery meant that we could crawl through traffic with ease, without having to come all the way down to first gear. And after we entered Pune we encountered quite a bit of traffic in terms of the masses of people out to visit all the Ganpati mandals possible and the mandals themselves which had encroached upon roads at will. This is where our concern went back to the fuel efficiency. Because of our heavy right and left feet we now suddenly only had a little more than a single bar of fuel left and we still had about 50kms to go. But we decided to push the car to see if it would actually fall short. But that didn't happen. We reached the office building with the last bar blinking. This meant that were would be a little less than five litres of fuel still left in the tank.
The Liva had actually done it, in spite of us dumping the mileage mode for the last 300kms coupled with the maddening traffic which we got in Pune. It was 2200hrs when we reached. We had started at 0700hrs. Fifteen hours of driving and the Liva still had fuel left. The trip meter showed that we had travelled 849.5km. We filled up at a pump to calculate the mileage and we were pleasantly shocked at the figure - 21.1kmpl. Again, in spite of the unforgiving last stretch that we put the Liva through.
Everyone at work was surprised to hear that we made it with such ease. 45-litre tank, 850km? Check.