The all-new Slavia makes Skoda a strong contender in the midsize sedan segment.
Sedans are what Skoda does best. It’s evident right from the first-gen Octavia, which established Skoda as a premium brand in India over 20 years ago, to the best-in-class Superb, which has ruled its niche for years, and, of course, the mainstream Rapid, which has been the bread-and-butter model for the company. SUVs have come and gone and so have hatchbacks, but it’s the traditional three-box sedan that has been the backbone of Skoda’s range in India.
Which is why the importance of the Slavia, Skoda’s latest sedan offering cannot be underestimated. For one, the Slavia is the second product to be built under the company’s ambitious ‘India 2.0’ programme, a USD 1 billion (Rs 7,500 crore) investment to develop products more in tune to local tastes and pockets. A big part of the investment has gone in localising the India 2.0 models, and like the Kushaq before it, the Slavia is built with over 90 percent of its parts sourced from India.
The Slavia has also arrived to reinforce Skoda’s position in the midsize sedan segment, and having grown in size and space with more features and power, it’s not just a replacement of the now-discontinued Rapid, but it has moved up a rung on the sedan ladder. In fact, it’s bigger than the first gen Octavia in every dimension. So, is it more of a junior Octavia than a bigger Rapid? It’s a bit of both actually.
Skoda Slavia: exterior
The Slavia looks best from the front where it is unmistakably a Skoda with its signature grille. In fact, the vertically slatted grille, winged headlights, sharply cut bumper and two prominent creases running down the bonnet to give a sort of power dome effect, look quite emotive and could be a strong selling point over its soon-to-arrive cousin, the VW Virtus, which has a simpler looking nose.
Slavia looks the best from the front, with the signature Skoda grille and winged headlights.
In contrast, the Slavia’s sides are quite straightforward, but have some stand out elements like the chrome strip that runs across the window line and curves into the rear quarter glass and a pair of sharp creases that stretch from the front doors to the rear lights. These character lines which give a nice tension to the body are similar to those on the Kushaq and other India 2.0 cars.
From the sides you can tell the Slavia is nicely proportioned, despite the large rear overhang which goes into carving out the biggest boot in its class. The Slavia can gobble up 521 litres of luggage and if you flip the seats 60/40, it expands to 1,050 litres.
With a capacity of 521 litres, Slavia has the biggest boot in its class.
The Slavia looks good from the rear as well with an attractive set of tail lights and a nicely sculpted boot lid. The badging too looks premium with Skoda lettering nicely spaced out.
Rounding off the car is a smart set of ten-spoke alloys, but the raised ride height which gives a very useful 179mm ground clearance spoils the stance to some extent.
At 179mm, ground clearance is ample, but spoils the stance to some extent.
The Slavia sits on the Indianised version of the VW Group’s proven MQB-A0 platform that underpins millions of global models from the VW Group. This platform is the new foundation for both Skoda and VW brands and will be shared across India 2.0 models, which other than the Slavia, include the Kushaq and Taigun SUVs and the soon to arrive VW Virtus.
The benefits of the MQB-A0 platform can be seen in the Slavia. It has the best in class wheelbase (2,650mm) and is a highly rigid structure which is great for driving dynamics. The doors have a nice heft to them and shut with a satisfying thunk which buyers on the hunt for a solid and safe sedan will appreciate. Mention must be made of the outstanding paint finish. Our red test car had a wonderful lustre with almost no ‘orange peel’.
Skoda Slavia: interior
Like most Skodas, the Slavia too comes with a practical and spacious cabin that feels well built and long lasting. However, the interior doesn’t feel as premium as the exterior and that’s largely down to the finish of some of the materials. The imitation leather seats, for example, are crinkly in some areas and look like aftermarket seat covers.
Cabin feels well-built, but is a mixed bag. Though finish of some materials isn’t great, the two-spoke steering wheel reeks of quality.
Some of the fabrics in the boot area are uneven and the woven roof liner – something we had criticised in the Kushaq and though improved in the Slavia – looks a bit downmarket in what is positioned as a premium mid-size sedan. Some of the plastics too are a bit iffy, but overall, there’s a nice heft to the way everything works. The signature two-spoke steering wheel with its knurled control wheels, reeks of quality.
The chunky dashboard with its multiple layers looks quite busy and the bronze strip which runs across the dash and into the circular air vents at the ends is a little garish, but that’s the sort of flash today’s customers want. As is the trend, hard buttons have been replaced by touch sensitive interface, including the aircon blower control which gets a touch operated slider, but it’s cleverly housed in an indent on the fascia that makes it easy to locate without you needing to take your eyes off the road.
Digital instrument cluster can be customised, but misses out on the classic layout of a rev counter and speedometer.
The Style variant we are testing comes with a 10.1 inch screen (lower variants get a smaller 7-inch one) similar to the one in the Kushaq. But unlike the Kushaq’s analogue dials, the Slavia gets a fully digital instrument cluster which can be customised. However, after toggling through the functions, you find there isn’t too much customisation. There are a limited number of displays and none have the classic layout of a rev counter and speedometer dials in one display. Also, the empty spaces on the edges of the screen seem a bit of a waste and could have been used to display more information.
The 10.1-inch touchscreen has a lot packed in, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, among other apps.
The touchscreen which is easy to use thanks to crisp graphics, quick response and logical menus, has a lot packed into it. In-built apps like Sygic maps, audiobooks, Gaana and booking.com are carried over from the Kushaq, but in addition, the Slavia gets BBC World Service news app, which is live radio. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are standard and so is wireless charging, but the angle of the charging pad hides the phone’s screen which is annoying.
Four USB C-type ports offer enough charging options for passengers and if you want to be more connected, you can download the MySkodaConnect app, which gives you the usual suite of connected features like geo and time fencing and stats on your car. Interestingly, there is no remote lock/unlock function nor an engine start to allow you to pre-cool the cabin. This is because starting the engine before you enter is considered environmentally unfriendly and not allowed by EU countries.
There are nifty pockets on the front seatbacks to hold your smartphones.
Other features on the top-of-the-line Style variant include cooled seats, a sunroof, rear AC vents and automatic climate control. Skoda hasn’t stinted on the audio system which is a big improvement over the Kushaq with a total of eight speakers and a boot-mounted subwoofer.
A lot of money has gone into safety features too. Six airbags, ESC, an electronic differential system (EDS), hill-hold control (optional), multi-collision brake and ISOFIX child seat mounts are all standard. Where Skoda has penny pinched is the low resolution rear view camera that gets only static guidelines.
Slavia gets cooled front seats, with the Verna being the only other car in the segment to get the feature.
Having grown a size larger than the outgoing Rapid, you expect the Slavia to have a very roomy cabin and it does. The supportive front seats have lots of travel and can be adjusted to find the right driving position. The rear seat too is very spacious with good headroom, generous under thigh support and a surplus of legroom to allow two six footers to comfortably sit behind each other. However, the rear seat is a bit low and the central hump impedes a middle passenger. Comfortable as it is, the Slavia’s low set rear bench doesn’t quite offer the sofa like experience of the Honda City’s seat. However, the Slavia more than makes up with its astonishing ride comfort.
Cabin is very roomy. Rear seat space is good enough for two six footers to comfortably sit behind each other.
Skoda Slavia: ride and handling
When we drove the pre-production Slavia prototype back in October 2021, we were blown away with the ride quality, and in finished form, it’s even better. In fact, it’s safe to say that no other midsize sedan comes close to the ride comfort the Slavia offers. On the undulating Goa terrain, it felt incredibly stable at high speeds, the long travel suspension and fantastic body control flattening out the bumpy tarmac to deliver a rock steady ride. Even at low speeds, there is a nice supple edge to the Slavia’s suspension which smoothens out sharp ruts and broken tarmac in a firm and authoritative way but without upsetting the calm of the cabin.
Light steering and softly sprung suspension don’t encourage you to attack corners. But the Slavia has phenomenal stability and ride quality.
The 1.0 variant with its lighter engine is eager to change direction but sprung on the soft side, there is a fair bit of body roll and the Slavia prefers to be eased into corners rather than flung into them. No, it’s not a sharp tool and the light steering doesn’t encourage you to attack corners but that doesn’t mean you can’t drive the Slavia fast. In fact, given its phenomenal stability and a 1.0 TSI engine that’s eager to be exploited, it’s possible for even an average driver to hold astonishingly high speeds with confidence.
Skoda Slavia: engine and performance
Like in the Kushaq, the Slavia comes with a choice of 1.5 and 1.0 TSI engine, but for this review we have focused only on the smaller 1.0 TSI engine. This compact three-cylinder 110hp unit punches well above its weight and, for the most part, doesn’t feel like a small capacity motor. Available with a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed torque converter automatic, not surprisingly, it’s the manual form that is the more sprightly. The short throw, smooth shifting gearbox coupled with a light and progressive clutch makes the Slavia an easy manual sedan to live with and for the enthusiast is the more enjoyable option.
1.0-litre turbo-petrol motor puts out 115hp, 175Nm. For the enthusiast, manual gearbox is the more enjoyable option.
On part throttle, the 1.0-litre motor responds well to keep up with the flow of fast moving traffic, but when you press down a bit harder, you get a bit bogged down by turbo lag. This can be annoying when you want to quickly overtake and you need to use the gears frequently to keep the engine on the boil. Above 1,800rpm this engine is well and truly awake and spins vigorously all the way till its 6,600 rpm deadline. At max revs, the engine gets audible but not in an uncomfortable way, and for a three-cylinder, there it is incredibly smooth.
The way the Slavia gathers pace is impressive – well-judged gearing helps to make the most of its wide powerband and torque.
The 1.0 Slavia despatches the 100kph mark from rest in an impressive 11.1 seconds and in our third and fourth gear acceleration tests, it’s even quicker than the Honda City! The well-judged gearing helps the Slavia make the most of its wide powerband and torque, and except for a bit of sluggishness at low revs, you won’t find yourself wanting for more power.
The 6-speed auto works well too if you want everyday convenience. Sure, it’s not as quick as the manual, but a 0-100kph time of 12.1 seconds is not too shabby either. The 6-speed auto works particularly well in stop-start traffic. The torque converter is calibrated to engage the transmission smartly as soon as you tap the throttle pedal so it feels really responsive moving off from a standstill. However, turbo lag raises its ugly head when you press down further and that initial quick response gives way to a bit of hesitation before the 1,800rpm mark after which the engine again picks up strongly.
|Skoda Slavia 1.0 TSI performance|
|Speed||1.0 TSI MT time||1.0 TSI AT time|
The good thing about this Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic is that it masks the turbo lag quite well and though not as quick shifting as a DSG, you won’t find it lacking on the highway when you want to drive and overtake at a brisk pace.
The manual Slavia is pretty fuel-efficient, on paper. However, with a turbo-petrol engine, real world figures will be sensitive to driving style.
With an ARAI-rated fuel efficiency figure of 19.47 km/l for 1.0 TSI MT and 18.07 km/l for 1.0 TSI AT, the Slavia, especially the manual, is pretty fuel-efficient. However, real world figures could be quite different, especially with turbo petrol engines which are very sensitive to driving style.
Skoda Slavia: Should I buy one?
As a product, the Slavia is an even better sedan than the Kushaq an SUV, which is saying a lot. It’s a solidly built car with an array of safety features and comes with a comfortable, spacious and well-equipped cabin. The 1.0 TSI engine is the surprise of the package delivering a level of performance that belies its size. Yes, the cabin could have been plusher and some buyers will miss not having a diesel option too.
With a starting price of Rs 10.69 lakh for the base Active variant and topping out at Rs 15.39 lakh for the 1.0 Style, Skoda has priced the Slavia confidently towards the pricier end of the midsize segment where it squares off with the market-leading Honda City. Skoda has sweetened the deal with ownership benefits like an attractive four-year maintenance package and a best in class Rs 0.46 per km maintenance cost. Besides, the Slavia will certainly appeal to those who want a fresher, European alternative to the City and Verna. Should the City be worried? In a word, yes!
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