It was about 10 years ago and I didn't have a license yet. The days when driving was a dream. The days when a spin in my uncle's Omni was all I knew about driving. Yet, when I asked my brother in law the keys to his SX4 for a spin, he just threw it into my hands. My brother and I took it for a spin and were blown by the power on tap. The steering was almost direct, a bit understeering but the sense of control it gave was well, confidence inspiring. That was in 2008 or 2009.

Under unfortunate circumstances a quick visit required to be made to Mangalore, we had the same SX4 at our disposal. The car's odo now read a astronomical 181864 KMS. Despite having an issue here and there the car was in a good condition overall, I've seen worse on cars with lesser odo reading.

So, the drive began at Sanjay Nagar in Bangalore at about 12:10 and we (two cousins and I) expected to pick my brother from airport at 12:45. We reached the airport much before that and I was trying to drive as slow as to reach late in the last few KMS. Obviously, it didn't work. After circling back and forth and waiting in the pickup area, started from the airport about 1:15. By now, I had gotten into groove and the car felt familiar. Possibly the crossover roots which was also shared with a Fiat helped. With a slightly high seating (the car has height adjustable driver seat), and a good steering, it almost felt like a Linea.

Despite being an old car, the 1.6 L petrol engine was in its elements. The gear ratios are well sorted and speed breakers could be mostly taken in second gear. The car pulled cleanly from 60kmph in fifth gear but I preferred to take it up to 80kmph in fourth and then shift. The engine has almost a diesel like pull, well, almost.

Somewhere around 3:30 we crossed Hassan and the first break a few kilometres later about 225 KMS from the airport, all done in just less than 2:30 minutes. The softer seats were troublesome but back was well rested. My brother now took over after a tea break. Roughly 4:00 PM or 4:10 - and about 6:45 we had descended the Charmadi ghats. 7:15 or 7:30 we were at our destination. The aged suspension and a slightly softer setup meant a little body roll but it was largely controlled.

On the way back I drove up the ghats and was quite impressed again as I didn't need to shift gears often. The narrow roads on the ghats I largely took in fourth at about 50 to 60 KMPH on flatter roads, and second and third mostly during the ascent. Heavy traffic meant we slowed up, and at places we had to stop due to roads getting blocked leading to a train of vehicles lining up. As usual novice drivers who were tailing the vehicle ahead too closely meant lesser opportunities to overtake. And obviously a few opportunistic drivers trying to prove their mettle meant that they cross your lane due to a vehicle coming from the opposite lane. But no close calls thankfully. On the way back I shared driving duties with a cousin. Her lack of experience as well as both of us being tired meant that the drive back took longer. But it was quite fatigue free.

I also got to experience the music system which was quite good. The AC kept us comfortable but didn't bog down the car. The car came with ACC and electrical adjustable mirrors, ABS, four power windows with central lock, and a well built interior with spot on ergonomics. It's probably one of the better Maruti's I have driven. But as with all better Maruti's, this car didn't sell too well. Somehow I feel the car was ahead of its time and our market wasn't mature enough to embrace it. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the circumstances leading to the drive, it was a drive which will be etched in my memory for long.

I didn't make an effort to save fuel or even monitor the FE. But a 850 odd km drive approximately required less than 60 litres of petrol. Which meant that FE stands at about 14kmpl with four onboard and no luggage. Not bad, eh?