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View Poll Results: How much GC do you need?
I am fine with acceptable / adequate GC. It's not a deal-breaker 202 59.06%
I absolutely need a very high rating. Better safe than sorry 140 40.94%
Voters: 342. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 20th May 2020, 10:18   #1
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Default Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?-2018hyundaisantro15.jpg

When we consider the road conditions of India, we're always thinking about the undercarriage of our cars. You have to tackle speed breakers that don't have a uniform height, unmarked speed bumps, stones of varying sizes lying in the middle of the road and even the odd roadkill. There are bad roads, unpaved roads and sometimes, no roads at all (especially in rural India). In the monsoons, you even have to drive over streams!

Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?-potholes.jpg

In the case of poorly paved roads or broken surfaces, you have to be wary of even moderately sized rocks and carefully drive around them instead of taking them between the wheels. Tall speed breakers require an angled approach. This means, the front right / left wheel should take the hump first, followed by the other front wheel, and then the rear wheels follow one at a time. To read more about this angled technique click here.

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That said, there isn't a doubt that Indian roads have vastly improved in the last decade. Many highways now are a dream to drive on. Around Bombay too, I see that roads have improved:
Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?-p6290007.jpg

Over the years, I have driven many cars. Most have had no trouble dealing with the above-mentioned problems, but some have. The '78 Ambassador that my dad had and the car that I drove most of the time in my early driving days, was among the best at tackling poor road conditions. It had leaf springs at the rear and ground clearance of ~165 mm. It didn’t matter what sort of road the car was being driven on. There was always a feeling that it would never scrape its belly on the ground.

On the other hand, my Contessa had soft coil springs and just 148 mm of clearance to play with. It was all fine as long as the road surface was flat. But when it came to dealing with speed breakers, there was an issue. Tall humps had to be negotiated very carefully, especially with 3 - 4 passengers onboard. At such times, it was advisable to have an angled approach and take the speed breaker slowly, one wheel at a time. Not just that, even if you hit a medium-sized hump unexpectedly, the soft suspension made the car wallow and this could result in the undercarriage hitting the bump after the front wheels had gone over it. I've hit some unmarked speed breakers on the old NH17 this way. Luckily, the car didn't suffer any damage. With my Corolla having more than 175 mm of ground clearance, I have never had a problem negotiating poor roads or high speed breakers.

That said, GTO has had cars with low ground clearance such as the Mercedes C220, Honda Civic & BMW 530d, which he took practically everywhere in Maharashtra & Goa. He is absolutely fine with "adequate" ground clearance, and not necessarily a super high rating. To him, light scraping of the undercarriage aside, he has not really faced a problem with GC on his frequent road-trips.

How much is ground clearance a deal-maker or breaker for you?

Last edited by Aditya : 21st May 2020 at 10:13.
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Old 20th May 2020, 10:42   #2
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to Tech Stuff. Thanks for sharing!

As you already said, as long as my car has "adequate" ground clearance, I am absolutely fine with it. Have extensively toured in my C220 (~145 mm GC), 530d (158 mm) and Civic (with coil spring spacers at the rear). Taken these cars to various destinations in Maharashtra, and all through Goa. No issues at all. Sure, on rare occasion, the underbelly would scrape and I would have to take large speed-breakers with an angled approach, but that's hardly a deal breaker. On a 1500 km road-trip to Goa and back, my 530d scraped its underbelly one single time on a railway crossing. That's something I can live with.

I don’t like jacked-up cars as it affects the handling. To know just how much, you must drive the early Lineas vs the lifted one that came a couple of years later. The difference was so obvious! Another problem = jacked-up hatchbacks & sedans don't look good either. Again, compare the Lineas.

The only real problem I faced with GC was with the Volvo S60 T6 variant which was horrendous. It would scrape on even the smallest of bumps. Now, that was a deal-breaker. But among today's mass market cars, there isn't a single model that I would reject because of low GC.

A very-recent example = The Kia Carnival! Now, thanks to its soft suspension + XXL wheelbase + 180 mm (unladen) GC, the luxury MPV does scrape on the big bumps. I took it to Lonavla and it hit its underbelly @ 50 kmph on a road dip.

Would that stop me from buying it? No way in hell. I loved it and can live with an underbody scrape once in 15 - 30 days.

Last edited by GTO : 21st May 2020 at 08:19.
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Old 20th May 2020, 10:46   #3
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

I am perfectly ok with the ground clearance of my S-Cross. Before that, I don't recall facing any GC issues with my Swift either. So voted for option 1.

PS: 90% of my driving is within Delhi/NCR
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Old 20th May 2020, 10:57   #4
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

Some time back when I was driving the first generation Ford Figo, I absolutely enjoyed driving that little hoot. Only problem was when it encountered the bad roads, it required very deft handling because of the ground clearance and the extended rear. It happened many times when the car was fully loaded, the car would invariably scrap the bottom even when taken along humps in an angular way and very slowly. Since the penchant of driving in the hills is quite severe for me, I ended up buying an Ecosport which has at least the required GC to trudge along many bad roads but sacrificing the driving comfort on the way. A low slung car is a driver’s delight. So at the end of it, the fight between driving pleasure and high ground clearance is what decides the car. High stance has its advantages but the pleasure of running a Chevrolet CRUZ or a Honda Civic is something else albeit on a flat road !
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Old 20th May 2020, 11:15   #5
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

It's hard to say this much GC is sufficient as it depends on who uses it; a WagonR having 155 GC is super sufficient in Bangalore like city of humps; that is what I had thought until the car was fully loaded.

Beat the SCross's 180 GC is what I had thought, until, we hit Chainigothi in UK with the fully loaded car.

No situations are same, no roads are same, no trips are same, no experience are same - better be safe than sorry; get a car with highest possible GC & also with good stability, IF, you're touring that hard places. And, if you're one of those, who ride/drive to Nandi hills & call it touring/long drive, any car with any GC will do

Last edited by aargee : 20th May 2020 at 11:17.
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Old 20th May 2020, 11:18   #6
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

More than anything else this is determined by the road conditions where you live. Currently am in Bombay/Bangalore and a reasonable ground clearance is more than enough. Once I move to Coorg, if road conditions demand it then, additional ground clearance may well be required. For now I have voted for adequate GC
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Old 20th May 2020, 11:33   #7
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

I travel frequently between my work city and hometown. While both cities have good roads where one doesn't need to worry about ground clearance (except the occasional speed-breaker and steep ramps), the roads connecting both cities have been under construction for a couple of years now. Those 50-60 kilometres are some of the worst I have ever seen, especially when I have to pay tolls. Hence I had to get a high ground clearance vehicle during my pre-worshipped search (SX4) to be on the safer side. Sure its not as fun to drive as our other hatchback, a Baleno petrol, and has considerable body roll, but somewhere in the back of my mind I couldn't risk driving 400 kilometres on almost empty roads with a probable underbody hit. A colleague had faced issues with his 1st generation i10 when I was following him and he couldn't slow down in time.
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Old 20th May 2020, 11:43   #8
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

I have a petrol Punto : 195mm GC. Now, I would not risk any deep pothole anyway, if I could avoid it; but I would blindly follow Fortuners or Safaris when going through doubtful stretches, confident that if they could, I can, too! It is more informed empathy for the car and necessity from time to time. The wheel base is 2510mm.

With the Superb TSI: the usual route that I follow, hasn't made my car scrape even once. That is a GC of 164mm and a wheel base of 2861mm. I do take larger humps at an angle though. But would I blindly follow a Fortuner or a Safari though doubtful stretches anymore? Nopes! I would be ten times more cautious and conscious.

So adequacy(in?) and being bold : a sane balance needs to be struck. The same thing I had written in the Carnival thread when we were discussing the apparently lower than useful GC of the ship.

Last edited by GTO : 20th May 2020 at 12:44. Reason: Fortuner, not TFort
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:06   #9
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

The poll has two contrasting options, but I guess, there could be a third option, a moderate choice something like "A slightly higher GC would be desirable".

I would prefer a relatively higher GC, not very high though but of the sorts of compact SUVs at about 200mm so that handling isn't compromised too much. It gives an extra edge to coast over potholes, tackle unorthodox speed bumps that come in all shapes and sizes. Also it allows limited off-roading capabilities.

Anyhow, GC, Wheelbase, Suspension and load are inter related. For example the Nano with 165mm GC doesn't scratch that easy because of short wheel base and stiff suspension.

Last edited by Thermodynamics : 20th May 2020 at 12:09.
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:14   #10
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

Knowing your car and knowing where you go, you can be good with any car.

Practically my Civic had taken me all around the place.
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BTW, even with higher GC cars like Fortuner, things can go wrong, if it has to.

Voted for Option 1.

Last edited by laluks : 20th May 2020 at 12:17.
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:17   #11
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

Inadequate Ground clearance is definitely a deal breaker for me.

I don't drive my car carelessly. So, when I am driving the car very carefully, I expect the car also to reciprocate to my care. If it still scrapes the humps, I can't cope with such cars.

And I don't blame government for such speed breakers. I always believe

यथा प्रजा तथा राजा(original: यथा राजा तथा प्रजा)

Also, it is not that I am hyper sensitive to scratches. If some small scratches happen inevitably, then I feel bad but will be fine after few days. But, knowingly, I will not choose a car that is bound to get scratches.

To summarize, ground clearance is clearly a main factor for me to decide the car.

Last edited by gkveda : 20th May 2020 at 12:28.
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:26   #12
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

Voted for Option 1.

In all these years and the numerous kilometres I have driven, never faced any issue of underbody scraping on any of the cars be it the Maruti 800 or City or Swift.

Best of the lot was SX4 and Creta. Never was I worried about ground clearance with these two cars. One can glide over bad roads/potholes.

Only thing is, higher the GC, handling goes for a toss. One has to keep that in mind and drive.
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:27   #13
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

I cannot live with a car that'll scrape its belly under intended loads. I used to drive a 2008 Swift which has humiliatingly beached itself many times on ill-maintained roads and humps with 4 or 5 people on board where other cars could sail past effortlessly. I have since remained fixated on understanding Ground Clearance. I hope our learned members will school me on anything I get wrong here, because I like to observe and learn. And here's what I understand on the whole topic:

To start with, as lapis_lazuli has said above, GC and the wheelbase together matter to me, as also does the degree of softness of the suspension.

Wheelbase matters a lot - why else would Altos be so highly used in remote hill roads? On paper its GC might be only 160 mm, but its puny wheelbase of 2360 mm ensures that its belly doesn't scrape where higher GC cars scrape theirs, thanks to a long wheelbase (and soft suspension with a full load perhaps).

Of a long wheelbase - I've recently shared info on Marazzo owners facing massive belly scraping issues - (Mahindra Marazzo : Official Review). On the Marazzo, 2760 mm of wheelbase is a lot and a fully laden GC of only 160 mm, thanks to a pliant and soft suspension means that it won't escape unscathed (nor unscraped) in its underbelly over bad roads or tall humps.

Of hard/soft suspensions - Tata's SUVs seem to have soft suspensions. For one, their wheel articulation (the up-down movement of the shock absorbers) is well known. And of course, I've seen Tata's UVs under a full load of people; the wheels barely clear the wheel-wells. Same seems to be the case to an extent with the Marazzo. Good shock absorption seems to come as a trade-off, whereby you give up on ground clearance with the soft suspension under a full load but the ride is more pliant for the passengers within.
Me? I have a mid-weight champion of hard suspensions - a TUV 300. Some others have that overweight champion of hard suspensions, the Toyota Fortuner. I daresay that these vehicles would be very hard pressed (sic) indeed for when they'll scrape their belly, even when overloaded. And then again, my TUV 300 has the interplay of a shorter wheelbase (2680 mm) coming in to play...

Of varying laden GC in a monocoque/body-on-frame body type- I can't put my finger on the science behind this, but body-on-frame vehicles seem to handle heavy loads better. In a vague sense, I have observed that monocoques may sag under a heavy load and lose laden ground clearance far more than a body-on-frame vehicle would.

My guess as to why this happens is that the underlying frame also perhaps takes the brunt of the weight and distributes it horizontally to some extent in addition to the weight bearing job performed by the suspensions, whereas in a monocoque all the downward weight is borne on the suspensions alone. (A caveat here is that monocoques can have beefed-up suspensions installed to cope with greater designed loads.)
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:27   #14
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

We all surely know GC is the lowest part of the car. It can differ from car to car and i would not go with figures on paper, but will believe in actual road experience.

My Padmini had a low GC on paper but i dont remember scrapping it even once in 6 plus years of ownership.

Lot of people ( I am talking about non-bhpians ) dont realise that the suspension is too old and saggy, and end up scrapping their cars.

There are people who think high GC is a must since roads in city are bad, and it helps in rains etc, but frankly the manufacturer has taken all of this in to account. So i am good with what is on offer.

I own a Nano which is short wheelbase high GC, really superb.
Baleno was little low to start with, but with the Suspension change i can visibly see its GC must easily be 175mm now from 170mm earlier.

Last edited by silverado : 20th May 2020 at 12:30.
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:30   #15
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Default Re: Ground Clearance: How much do you really need?

A person's ground clearance requirement will ultimately depend on his/her usage conditions.

I am living with a pre-2012 ( low ground clearance ) FIAT Punto, while there were scrapes, most were taken up by the METAL sump guard.

As a personal choice I would prefer a car that is lower and has proper under body protection as

1. The vehicle has a proper stance and does not look like a startled cat standing on its toes
2. It lowers the possibility of me getting to the middle of a corner and thinking, maybe I should have taken this corner slightly slower

But I will think twice before picking a low ground clearance vehicle without proper under body protection. I have seen cars being damaged not just by direct hits but by also derbies and sticks kicking up and poking on fluid lines, A/C lines etc. Also I have seen some models where the lower cross member that supports the radiator being plastic.

Manufacturers not providing a proper under body protection is the second most annoying thing about most modern cars for me, the first one being fitting regular cars with massive "drug dealer wheels " with extremely low profile tires.

Also one thing I noticed is the trend of composite type sump guard provided by manufacturers like Ford. And these are expensive as well.

According to Ford India website the sump guard for a freestyle is Rs. 4267. This is almost twice as much as the metal sump guard for FIAT Punto which costs Rs. 2293. For that price I would expect Ford dump guard to me made of an alloy of adamantium, vibranium and unobtanium.
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