So, what makes the Skoda Slavia click?

Good question! The answer to that is a list of resounding points that will make Skoda enthusiasts beam with happiness. Of course, it also comes with possible negatives, which might work well for those who aren’t quite impressed with fine cars and would rather spend their money on something that works for the masses. There’s obviously nothing wrong with that, except that they don’t know what they’re missing out on. So here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the Skoda Slavia.

SKODA SLAVIA EXTERIOR

Stuff that Skoda did well:

1. It’s all-new

The Skoda Slavia is based on a different platform than the Rapid. It helps Skoda streamline the production by sharing parts with other vehicles like the Kushaq, Taigun, and the upcoming Virtus. With about 95 percent localisation, costs are kept in check too.

For customers, the use of a new platform has some clear benefits: it’s lighter and easier to drive than before. Part availability and costs are also unlikely to be an issue. There is a lot of space inside (both for the occupants and their luggage) — substantially more than Skoda’s previous offerings in the segment.

skoda slavia sedan boot

Skoda says that it has the longest wheelbase in the segment and that it’s the widest and tallest, too. You can make that out once inside the nicely laid-out cabin. The comfort and space at the rear is unmissable. Plus the boot space deserves a mention; Skoda claims the Slavia can hold up to 521 litres of luggage (no, do not empty 521 litres of 1-litre bottles to check that), and it can be very conveniently doubled by folding the rear seats (60:40 split). That in a sedan isn’t common, and while it’s not as natural as on the Octavia (which has a hatchback), getting 1050 litres of luggage carrying capacity is a big plus.

2. It’s really good to drive

My biggest apprehension when checking out the Skoda Slavia was that it might turn out to be just about okay to drive. That’s not because I’ve lost faith in Skoda/VW but because the Kushaq is far from perfect, especially from behind the wheel. A few minutes with the Slavia, however, dispelled any doubts I had about its capabilities.

It’s clear that the car has been tuned to offer good comfort but even when it’s belting along a less-than-perfect road, the chassis absorbs the bumps without unsettling the car or making it lose momentum. The steering doesn’t feel as sharp as previous Skodas; it’s lighter but not to a level that it lowers the driver’s confidence. The Skoda Slavia comes with the ability to make quick progress, and it carries a good amount of speed in and out of corners. Push it harder and it does show signs of the front washing out but that’s expected.

The 1.0-litre TSI engine is a three-cylinder unit that makes 116hp and 178Nm, with Skoda claiming it can reach 0-100 in 10.7 seconds. In terms of real-world performance (or whatever I could extract out of it), being a small turbocharged engine, it begins to make tangible power from just under 2000rpm, carries it with a strong mid-range, and then tapers. Which makes it a great alternative to diesels — and you can pretty much drive it like one, too. Make some progress, short-shift slightly, and let the turbo do its trick. It doesn’t sound bad, the engine, and while a three-cylinder, it doesn’t rock the cabin with vibrations. Good vibes only!

This engine can also be specced with an automatic torque-converter gearbox for added convenience. The other choice buyers have is of a much more powerful 1.5-litre engine, which will be available from March 3 onwards, with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DSG automatic.

3. It looks tidy

When was the last time you looked at a new car and complimented it without questioning your liking for unnecessarily complex shapes and gaudy grilles? The Skoda Slavia, especially in comparison to the other new stuff, is a good-looking car. In photos, the front might appear a touch stubby but in the flesh, it looks perfectly fine. The other concern many have is that it does have a considerable amount of wheel gap, which is true, but that benefits the ride quality. If I were getting one, I’d swap out the stock suspension for a slightly lowered setup with slightly bigger wheels.

The interior too has been executed well. It’s fairly well-loaded, especially in the top-spec Style trim we were testing. From six airbags, wireless phone charging, four USB-C points, electric sunroof, a 10-inch infotainment screen, rear AC vents, there’s a lot to like. Other features include ventilated seats, a fully digital instrument console, a cooled glove box, and an 8-speaker audio system, among other things. Lower variants do miss out on some of these.

And here are a few things that I wish Skoda did better:

1. The interior

The majority of Skodas we’ve seen are from the post-VW takeover, which means the cabins have been very similar: sturdy and with decent (if not outstanding) fit and finish. On the new Skodas, especially the Kushaq and Slavia, that seems to have changed. Some of the plastics look cheap, the headlining and sunroof execution could’ve been a touch better, and it beats me why anyone would ruin a good-looking dashboard by including a cheap plastic strip running across it. Plus that reverse parking camera seems a touch low-quality for a car like the Slavia. The subwoofer placed in the spare wheel might be smart but I will comment on its durability and sound quality once we have the car for a longer test.

SKODA SLAVIA INTERIOR

2. It has lost a bit of Skoda-ness

Skodas were always a bit non-conformist; from the Octavia with its hatchback boot to the Yeti (a totally unique car), there was always something different that Skoda wanted to offer. The newer products, while not short on clever features (that’s a Skoda thing), are more conventional, because let’s face it, that’s what sells, especially in a tough market like India. It’s a double-edged sword, actually, but I wish there was a way Skodas could just be Skodas.

In conclusion, that’s largely it from the time I spent with the car. Simpler things like height-adjustable passenger seat and the ability to open a bottle without taking both hands away from the wheel still show how Skoda tends to think differently. But most importantly, what makes the Slavia a Skoda is the way it drives. It may not be as sharp and focused as the previous cars, but it’s still good fun, and that’s what counts.

So, Should You…

Sell your Rapid for this?

Unless you’ve been waiting to upgrade and your Skoda Rapid has been dying to be discarded, my suggestion is – do not. The Skoda Slavia is a better car in terms of space, practicality, and even comfort, but the Rapid wasn’t bad either.

Look at a used Rapid instead?

The difference between a recent iteration of the Rapid and the Slavia isn’t huge, so it’s not like they discontinued an analogue sportscar and in its place came a largely uninteresting new-age car. You don’t get the diesel engine on the Slavia (pre-Dieselgate Rapids did get one) and there’s going to be a cost benefit in buying a used car. But let’s not forget that Skoda is aiming to keep its service costs as low as possible with the Slavia, its parts are bound to be easily available, and no matter how hard one tries, it’s more likely to be an easier car to live with.

Prices and other details

The all-new Skoda Slavia has been priced starting at Rs 10.69 lakh. The ex-showroom price is for the base Active trim. The slightly better Ambition variant is priced at Rs 12.39 lakh, the Style (non-sunroof) is available for Rs 13.59 lakh, while the sunroof-equipped Style costs Rs 13.99 lakh. These are the prices for the 1.0-litre version Slavia with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The Slavia AT is available only in the Ambition and Style (sunroof) version), at Rs 13.59 and Rs 15.39 lakh, respectively.

Colour choices are Crystal Blue, Tornado Red, Candy White, Brilliant Silver, and Carbon Steel. The Skoda Slavia gets a 4-year/100,000km warranty, which can be extended at an additional cost.

You can read the full review of the Skoda Slavia in the upcoming issue of Man’s World.