Skoda Slavia first-drive review: Solid all-rounder, may revive falling segment
- Spacious cabin
- Good feature list
- Peppy engine
- Costly top variant
- Segment in decline
Skoda Slavia is here and is here with a significant list of promises. An India-first product, the Slavia enters the mid-size sedan segment, a space that has been steadily shrinking, unable thus far to challenge the SUV onslaught of recent times. But while products like Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Honda City and the Hyundai Verna - all worthy players, mind you - are still well entrenched, it is the Slavia that now comes as a breath of fresh air.
Skoda Slavia is here and is here with a significant list of promises. An India-first product, the Slavia enters the mid-size sedan segment, a space that has been steadily shrinking, unable thus far to challenge the SUV onslaught of recent times. But while products like Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Honda City and the Hyundai Verna - all worthy players, mind you - are still well entrenched, it is the Slavia that now comes as a breath of fresh air. To make any sort of impact against rivals and in a segment that is consistently getting smaller, ‘a breath of fresh air’ alone isn't going to help the Slavia last the distance. There needs to be a whole lot more of sheer substance - substance in terms of space, looks, comfort, features and drive dynamics. After all, the SUV segment as a whole has grown by around 24% in the last five years in the country and much of it has been at the expense of sedans. “If anyone can revitalize sedans, it is us." This is what Skoda Auto India Brand Director Zac Hollis had proclaimed during an earlier interaction with HT Auto. (Full report here)
Is the Slavia, then, a mammoth gamble or a very, very calculated risk?
Here's the first full-drive review of the Skoda Slavia with the 1.0-litre engine:
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Skoda Slavia exterior highlights:
The Slavia has some very credible bragging rights over all of its direct rivals when it comes to dimensions. Wider, taller and with longer wheelbase than City, Ciaz and Verna, the Slavia is only just marginally shorter in length than the Honda sedan.
|Skoda Slavia||Honda City||Maruti Suzuki Ciaz||Hyundai Verna|
|Boot space||521 Litres||506 Litres||510 Litres||480 Litres|
|Ground clearance||N.A||165 mm||170 mm||165 mm|
|Wheel||16-inch||15-inch, 16-inch||15-inch, 16-inch||15-inch, 16-inch|
But when it comes to sedans, it is not so much about road presence as it is perhaps about elegant looks. And the Slavia has dollops of it. Typically Skoda, typically European and yet, quite contemporary, the Slavia leans heavily on the side of pleasing aesthetics than on youthful or sporty visual cues.
The grille at the front immediately showcases that this here is a Skoda. Similar to the grille on the Kushaq and newer Skoda cars in the country, the hexagonal grille is bordered on all sides with chrome surrounds. Flanking it are LED head lights with L-shaped DRLs which add to the modern touch Slavia seeks to project. While the front lip protrudes just a tad bit for a bit of sharpness, the bonnet design is a throwback to the Rapid that this model replaces in the country.
(Check out more pics of Skoda Slavia)
Step to the side and the large wheelbase and high ground clearance is instantly evident. In fact, at 179 mm, the ground clearance helps the sedan not just stand tall but manage variety of road conditions better. But even when standing still, the sedan makes a statement courtesy its 16-inch alloy wheels, door handles with chrome accents, strong body lines running all across the side profile and large windows with chrome garnish underlay.
At the back, there are split LED tail light units and the ‘SKODA’ lettering on the tail gate. The Slavia has a reasonably wide rear which especially helps when loading luggage into the trunk.
And it is the boot space that trumps anything the rivals have on offer. At 521 litres, the Skoda has more space for luggage than the City, Ciaz and the Verna. And while having a large boot is great, what also helps is that the loading lift isn't too high and the rear seats have split-fold option for even more cargo space. But one minor flaw here is that the upper portion of the boot has a rather flimsy covering and some of the wiring on either side is exposed.
Skoda Slavia cabin highlights:
Step inside the Slavia and there's much to like here. Skoda is underlining the premium credentials of the sedan and it is in the interiors that the bulk of the focus seems to have been at.
When you are out shopping for a sedan, space usually figures high on the priority list. The Slavia is impressive on this count and there's generous amount of space for three passengers at the back with kneeroom, legroom and space for feet all done well. The headroom is also quite satisfactory but the underthigh support could have been a tad bit more, if really nitpicking.
The center console has been smartly designed and houses the rear-AC vents and type-C charging points. While it doesn't intrude into the floor space which means that the middle passenger has flex room for feet, I do wish there was a conventional USB point or a 12V charger for old-school folks like me.
What I also missed was a shade on the rear windows which would have sat nicely with the premium credentials of this car. All the windows though are large and there is a conventionally-sized sunroof too for a pleasant ambiance.
The beige and black colour theme on the seats and the dashboard is also nicely done and enhances the visual aesthetics of the cabin. And speaking of the dashboard, it is quite chique thanks to its wide, horizontal layout and piano black and bronze finish with ambient lighting. On either side are circular AC vents with a distinct chrome trim surround. There is also a utility recess on top of the dashboard, just behind the large 10-inch infotainment screen.
Both the infotainment screen and the eight-inch all-digital driver display are bright and vivid, negating sun glare well. The main screen is also responsive to touch and displays a long list of AV, NAV and Skoda Connect App-related options here. There is support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and one can charge a compatible phone wirelessly or making use of either of the two Type-C charging points. Once again, I had to rely on my power bank because I didn't have a compatible wire.
As for the controls for the air conditioning, it is touch enabled and the same that's also found inside the Kushaq. The central console with the gearbox is neatly done and is home to controls for lock/unlock as well as cooling for either of the two front seats.
While the exterior of the Slavia is pleasing in its simplicity, the cabin is - for most parts - elegant and quite well loaded. While there is some use of hard plastic, space and convenience features are stellar highlights here.
Skoda Slavia 1.0 TSI drive traits:
Slavia is being offered in three trims - Active, Ambition and Style, and two engine options and three transmission choices. Now the 1.0-litre TSI motor is standard across all three trims and one can have it with either a six-speed manual unit or an AT. This drive review had me behind the wheels of the 1.0-litre engine with the AT.
Now you may be very tempted at the prospect of Slavia also coming with the more powerful 1.5-litre engine, and with the option of this being mated with the DSG unit. And while we have driven that as well and have much to say on it, the 1.0-litre is comparatively more affordable and quite fun to drive in its own right.
|Skoda Slavia||Honda City||Maruti Suzuki Ciaz||Hyundai Verna|
|Engine||1-litre, 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine||1.5-litre i-VTEC, i-DTEC engine||1.5-litre nat-asp engine with mild-hybrid||1-litre Kappa turbo, 1.5-litre MPi, CRDi engine|
|Power||113.4bhp at 5000-5500rpm, 148bhp at 5000-6000rpm||119bhp at 6600rpm, 97.8bhp at 3600rpm||103.5bhp at 6000rpm||118bhp at 6000rpm, 113.4bhp at 6300rpm, 113.4bhp at 4000rpm|
|Torque||175Nm at 1750-4500 rpm, 250Nm at 1500-3500rpm||145Nm at 4300rpm, 200Nm at 1750rpm||138Nm at 4400rpm||172Nm at 1500-4000rpm, 250Nm at 4500rpm, 143Nm at 1500-2700rpm|
|Gearbox||6-speed MT, AT and 7 speed DSG||6-speed MT and 7-step CVT||5-speed MT, 4-speed torque converter||6-speed MT, 8-step CVT, 7-speed DCT|
There's 113 bhp on offer and 178 Nm of torque. It is this torque figure in particular that makes the Slavia quit a lot of fun to drive. The engine has an eager nature and much like how it fares in the Kushaq, helps Slavia get a move on with confident strides. Within city limits, the sedan ambles along nicely with the AT ticking the right numbers at the right time. Push the Slavia a little once open roads beckon and a momentary pause is all that it takes before taking the cue to amble ahead.
What also helps the Slavia's case is a well-balanced steering set up that is tuned near perfect to handle both city and highway driving. The suspension set up too is done well and that high ground clearance means Slavia has a confidence to tackle speed breakers even if you necessarily may not.
There is a fair degree of control over NVH levels and it is only when you absolutely stomp the throttle that there is some degree of engine noise that creeps into the cabin. But it is unlikely that you'd be doing much of that and therefore, the Slavia should retain its premium credentials in terms of refinement.
And thanks to electronic differential lock, there is decent grip, especially when taking tight corners. There is some degree of body roll for passengers at the back but overall, there's not much to fault the Slavia for if kept it planted.
Skoda Slavia verdict:
Slavia is a solid product in terms of its space, features and even the 1.0-litre engine is peppy enough to make a good case for the car. Skoda is making a good habit of making compelling products and the second car under its MQB platform - after Kushaq - is a leap in the right direction.
While the pricing starts at ₹10.69 lakh, Slavia is an expensive proposition too with the top-end 1.0-litre variant with AT priced at ₹15.39 lakh (ex showroom).
|Skoda Slavia 1.0-litre engine - Full price structure|
|1.0 TSI (MT)||1.0 TSI (AT)|
|Ambition||₹12.39 lakh||₹13.59 lakh|
|Style (without sunroof)||₹13.59 lakh||-|
|Style||₹13.99 lakh||₹15.39 lakh|
|all prices are ex showroom|
The top-end Slavia is pricier to the Verna SX Opt Turbo (petrol) by around a lakh while also pipping the Honda City ZX CVT by around ₹30,000.
While I don't think it would deter hardcore SUV buyers from turning away from that body style, the Slavia sure has the potential to lead the rather small mid-size sedan space in the country. If Skoda is able to continue its post-sales network expansion and assuming the durability of the product is at par with what the rivals promise, this car right here could be a common sight in the times to come.