The Toyota Innova Crysta has been the most comfortable people mover in India
It is too late to play around with the reasons for the lockdown and restrictions due to the pandemic but somehow my family had not visited Gujarat, our hometown since November 2019. A sudden plan came up and my family was adamant about a road trip. We could’ve gone in a train to make it easier but we chose to drive instead. And what better way to visit Gujarat for a temple run in the best people carrier India has ever got, the Toyota Innova Crysta! I had to go pick it up from the Toyota showroom in Mumbai where the car was checked properly and they kept an additional can of AdBlue for the road.
We were only 5 people travelling to Gujarat but having a bigger car is always a boon! The Innova however had a pair of captain seats in the middle row rather than a full bench. This meant that only half of the last row would be folded for luggage and we did exactly that. There’s not much luggage for a family of 5 travelling for about 5 days. But if you are travelling with your parents there’s always some unnecessary luggage and extra clothes added to the list. This, however, was not a problem at all since the rear seats fold up and provide ample room for storage. I had to make sure to leave some extra room as we were going to shop from our hometown.
Ideally, if you are heading to Kutch, you would actually prefer to take a stop at Ahmedabad but since I had the Innova, we got a little optimistic and planned to stop a little ahead. Everything was set and we left for our temple run, the stay for the night almost 650 km away. It had been raining like crazy for the past few months and the road conditions had become really bad. With the Toyota Innova Crysta gliding over bad roads, we crossed Maharashtra without any worries and maintained a good pace. The body-on-frame construction with a pliant suspension setup made the ride really comfortable.
The roads went from bad to worse as soon as we entered Gujarat. The complete section from Vapi to Surat had deteriorated like crazy. The average speed went from 80 km/hr to 40 km/hr and I had to literally drive to survive! Surprise potholes were understandable but surprise craters were scary. The situation in Surat was so crazy that I had to reroute through the city to avoid a 20 km-long traffic jam. The traffic was not a problem as I was driving the automatic variant of the Innova, it was the low profile tyres with 17-inch wheels. With the road this bad and having a fully-loaded car, if I drove any faster the wheels could be damaged.
The Toyota Innova is India’s most loved 7-seater MPV, you will see it everywhere!
The roads were pathetic up till Surat and it was the traffic after that till Vadodara. This didn’t slow us down much as by early evening, we were on the Ahemdabad Vadodara Expressway without any hiccups. At a constant speed of 100 km/hr, the Innova was comfortably cruising and for once after gruelling 10 hours of driving, we found the best-suited road for this MPV. Within no time we entered Ahmedabad but were stopped by the cops since the Innova had a Karnataka number plate. With all the papers checked and everything in order the cop got curious that driving all the way from Karnataka to Gujarat and going ahead, he was praising the Innova in muffled words.
We reached Taranga Vihar Dham, our stay for the night at around 9.30 PM which meant our average speed was just 54 km/hr. The mileage however was pretty decent at 11.2 km/l as we were driving a diesel automatic through traffic! Things were looking really positive for day 2 as the driving was less but we had a lot of places to be visited. Our next stop was at Bhadreshway Jain temple which is a little ahead of the most populous city in Kutch and named after Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhidham. The landscapes in Gujarat are almost flat, there’s not much greenery around but as you pass through various cities, it changes drastically.
Giving an example with a few pictures where one can see the largest commercial salt pan section over the Surajbari bridge. And the moment it ends at Sikharpur there’s lush green all around with humungous windmills! It is awing for anyone travelling for the first time or even the nth time. By this time since the roads had opened up, the mileage of the Innova shot up to 13 km/l. We visited the Bhadreshwar temple and had a tasty lunch there, post which we started moving towards my hometown. Since Kandla port and Gandhidham have become the centres for transportation, there are well-maintained 3-lane highways for us to enjoy.
Reached my hometown after lunch, rested for a few hours, and left to visit other temples as today was our only day in the Kutch district. While travelling through Kutch or most of Gujarat, one would notice a lot of animals and cattle roaming on the highway. This is a big problem as they have been left out on the road due to health issues or some other problems. They become the victim of roadkill due to heavy truck transportation which is very saddening. Next up was 72 Jinalay, one of the biggest Jain temples in the Kutch district and home to 72 Deris of Lord Mahavir.
The 2.4-litre diesel motor on the Toyota Innova is a bulletproof engine with excellent torque band and dependable frugality
By now the mileage had dropped a bit and we were back to 11 km/l since we were stopping every 15-30 km to meet our relatives and also visit the local temples. My hometown is in the southernmost part of the Kutch district and is very close to the Mandvi port. This is a must-visit for local shopping and we picked up quite a lot of things. The next visit was to Bhuj city to pick up some sweets and snacks for our home. Bhuj as a city has a lot to offer in terms of traditional items to various sweets and snacks but once you enter the market area, it’s chaos. Finding parking for the Innova was next to impossible but somehow once you see a spot, it is not too difficult to park!
Continuous rains did make driving in the night difficult but it was not as bad as the people and the cattle on the road. The low beam is a projector but the high beam on the Innova is halogen and that kept the visibility on par with the condition around. While all of our lunches were at the temples or at relatives’ places, we had our dinner outside. There is a food chain called Honest, in and around Gujarat that specialises in Pav Bhaji. We got to try it once and it was terrific. Even the normal restaurants in and around are mostly pure veg and still, they have loads and loads of variety of food to offer. With over 15 options in soups at one of the restaurants I noticed, if you are looking for a half portion you can order just a half!
It was time to head back with a pitstop to pick up dragon fruit and then to spend the night at Ahmedabad this time. Literally within 3 days, the car had done almost 1200 km without breaking a sweat. While we headed back I could say with all the shopping done, there was literally no more space left and this time the Innova was fully loaded! Yet surprisingly the abundant torque of almost 360 Nm from just 1500 RPM kept things moving effortlessly. For Gen Z, my cousin, the centre console didn’t have Android Auto or CarPlay and she was quite disappointed by it. But the cup holders right in front of the air vents were very useful to hold the phone or keep a bottle chilled.
After visiting a total of 15 temples in the last 3 days it was time to finally make a run for Ahmedabad. We reached Ahmedabad in the nick of time and got a chance to enjoy some savoury street food. If one gets an opportunity to visit Ahmedabad, street food like sev khamani, handvo, jumbo pani puri and a few more are a must-try. I didn’t mention all the temples since most of them are local to a village and not even on the map, it made my parents really happy. The Toyota Innova on the other hand made things so convenient that it was comfortable all the time and within the planned time, the Temple Run was complete.
The Temple Run was completed by my family but I had to drive the final stretch from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. I was again a bit worried about the road conditions after Surat. It was at the end like playing a game of Temple Run and avoiding all the craters but one fine stone had a mind of its own. The sidewall of the rear left tyre of our Innova got a cut and it burst out. Luckily within 2 km, I found a tyre repair guy and he immediately got the tyre replaced with the spare one. The fact that Innova has a spare wheel that is of the same alloy as the stock wheels with no size difference impressed me a lot, this is not common nowadays.
The Toyota Innova became the king of its category and is still one of the best people movers in India. Impressive in terms of space and frugality, a very practical car with no so techy features keeps things very simple! However, for Gen Z, it might not be an impressive car as it lacks those current-gen features. But as a product and for what it is made, the Toyota Innova does its job really well. With the Crysta update, things got really interesting and I was a little upset when later the 2.8-litre engine was discontinued. But now since the hybrid version is about to be launched, things look substantially intriguing. For the travelogue, I feel I have had the best set of wheels for those 5 days!
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