Maruti Suzuki Fronx Drive Feature: Switch to Plan B

Christopher Chaves Updated: January 02, 2024, 06:16 PM IST

There are parts of North India that I've visited before and would do anything to go back again. Himachal Pradesh is one state for starters. Fantastic just before winter sets in, because you have the liberty to wander about. Make it there too late and you'll be snowed in, which can also be quite an experience, but not as exciting as wandering through the majestic mountains, breathing in the crisp mountain air while taking all the glorious sights and sounds in.

My better half had never had the chance to visit these parts of the nation before and was mighty excited when I told her that we would be driving there in a Maruti Suzuki Fronx. Explaining that a Fronx was to her took little time. In short I told her that it's a good-looking, comfortable, fast and blue hatchback-size car with cool features like a heads-up display and 360 degree camera setup. She's not into cars, and that's pretty much sums up the Fronx in short.

The hype about our trip increased with each passing day while blitzing from Delhi to Manali with a stopover at Chandigarh. We had 10 days to explore the mountains and no confirmed plan. Play it by ear – we said. Because of work commitments, we had, in fact, set off on our tour of Himachal early November, which is quite late because some of the roads are shut around this time of the year. Moving up through the Atal tunnel from Manali to Koksar village, the men at the police check post told me that if we went toward Kaza we'd be snowed in for three days because of an approaching storm.

We had originally planned to do a loop around the Kaza, Hurling, Pooh, Tapri, Rampur and spend a couple of days at Kasol before driving back down to Delhi. But just that conversation with the policemen at the check post made us revise our POA. A quick look at the map on the Fronx's 7-inch infotainment screen. A couple more questions fired the policemen's way and we opted to head off in the other direction.

Time for an impromptu plan B. Delhi - Chandigarh - Manali - Jispa - Leh - Kargil - Srinagar - Jammu - Amritsar – Delhi. The prime loop of things to see along the way. The pristine and freezing-cold riverbed at Jispa. The stunning monasteries around Leh city. The Kargil war memorial at Dras. The alluring gardens and lazy boat rides at Dal lake, Srinagar. The temples of Jammu. The aura of the Golden Temple and mouth-watering delicacies of Amritsar. Amazing how the plan came together in the matter of minutes. That's what happens when you're in a pleasant, comfortable space. That's what the Fronx has to offer you. Exposed to all the varying weather, landscapes, cultures and cuisines. What a wonderful trip it turned out to be! It was a brilliant plan. A more than a decent tour of the north.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing. Especially past Jispa, where the Manali – Srinagar highway was an absolutely shambles with tones of truck traffic kicking up dust everywhere up the dusty rough rubble-road. Thankfully, the Fronx's suspension made it tolerable even the ground clearance and hill-hold came to the rescue in these parts.

There were times of sheer delight too when the crossover hatch stuck to the road like glue through the winding roads up past Tanglang La. Even with the reduced oxygen level, at the pass at 17,450ft, the four-pot 1.2-litre engine had enough strength to power through. But we had to slow down towards because of ice on the road.

I wasn't sure of what to make of the Fronx at first. An SUV-themed hatchback didn't seem to make a great deal of sense to me. I mean, pick a lane already. It's mechanically identical to the Baleno, but is an obvious standout on its styling. It is quite easy on the eye though, which is great, and its design language bodes well with the bigger fashionable SUVs from the Nexa stable. By the end of the drive, I could tell that it's more than a Baleno on steroids. It's a stronger mix of power and practicality. A prime example of form meeting function. Perfect for plan B.

Words and Photography - Christopher Chaves