The Slavia comes at a time when the Indian market needs a rejuvenation of the sedan market. Carmakers have off late been concentrating on big tall SUVs, fueled by the customer interest. So, why not make more and more of something that people what? And they did: Skoda came out with the Kushaq and Volkswagen came out with the Taigun. But amidst all of this, these companies forgot about their long bodied off-springs.
If you wanted something that looks long enough to make your relatives reconcile their relationships with you, all you could get was a generations-old Rapid from the Czech garage or a Vento from the German. If you had about double the money to spend, you also could lay your hands on a Laura, and analogously the Jetta. But we all know where the Laura and Jetta went.
So, this sedan space of the country has been as dry as Damodar in summer for the recent past at least. Until now.
The newly formed conglomerate of Skoda and Volkswagen came up with the Slavia and the Virtus respectively. The former was the first to be revealed to the public, and creates some competition on the currently contested field of Honda City’s and Suzuki Ciaz’s.
We had the new Slavia for a day, and this is the last review you’ll ever have to read before buying the Slavia, so strap on and come along for the ride. Literally.
Design of the Slavia:
At first glance, the Slavia puts up an impression for sure. Now, whether that’s an ‘impressive’ impression or otherwise is of course down to personal preference. But to us, Skoda has in fact nailed their job. The understated design is not too extravagant yet has enough glamour to turns heads. You go anywhere with this car, you’re for sure to be looked at, either with an envy of the car’s road presence, or just by its sheer beauty.
The front gets Skoda’s signature all-black grille lined by chrome all around. It of course gets a crystalline LED headlamp setup with DRLs, with the light complex even getting chrome inserts to add to the glitz. Lower down, the fog lamp housing is not left out of the chrome treatment either, as it gets another chrome lining over it. The black plastic of the fog lamp runs into a lower grille in front of the intercooler. On the bonnet, Skoda has given two very sharp and ‘cool’ looking creases along the middle with the logo in the middle, adding to the muscular feel of the Czech-born. All of these give the car a very modern feel yet keeping in essence with the usual Skoda DNA of design.
Moving onto the side, the dark-grey alloys make the car stand apart from the crowd, especially on the Red review car we had. There is a small ‘Skoda’ badging on the side fenders that lines up with another set of two creases, one of which run the entire length of the car while the other smoothly tapers into the rear door handle. As you can see, this is something that gives the Slavia a unique design from the rest.
It gets the usual VW group styled outside rear view mirror with the turn signals mounted on it. Another thing that you might also expect from a carmaker like Skoda, is the build quality. You will in fact be pleased to know that they haven’t cut corners on this front; panel gaps are extremely consistent, even if they exist in the mere handful of places.
Skoda boasts about the ground clearance of their new Slavia, and they are not bluffing either. The car gets a ground clearance of 179mm, which in fact, in comparison to the older Scorpio, is just 1mm shy.
The Slavia has a blacked out B pillar which adds to the sporty appeal. Even the shark-fin antenna gets this black treatment to up the design quotient. Add to that, there is also the presence of a sunroof (not panoramic, of course. It’s a sedan), which seems to be quite the norm these days.
At the back, Skoda has given a slight refresher over their usual design language. It gets these new crystalline tail lamps that flow into the boot ‘door’ by a strand, reminiscent of the Superb’s tail lamps. The S-K-O-D-A badging is also placed very prominently along the top centre of the boot door with a subtle enough ‘Slavia’ badge on the lower left. Lower down, it gets this new black design treatment with a chrome lining, again! The left and right flanks are shaped somewhat like an exhaust, but I’d give Skoda points for not making them look totally like Audi-style fake exhausts. Phew.
All in all, these design elements all over the exterior of the car give it a really upmarket feel and it shall be safe to say, Skoda have indeed nailed the design job of the Slavia.
Opening the non-typically German sounding doors, you are greeted with a different looking Slavia than the Skodas and Volkswagens of yesteryear. Having about 95% localisation, anyone could be forgiven to expect a quality not up to German standards inside the cabin. But in reality, it sure is quite the opposite! There are hard plastics here and there for sure, but are of good quality.
That said, some panels could have been fit a touch better, like the middle off-white coloured panel on the dash. It is in no way flimsy enough to ruin your in-car experience, but you can always expect a tighter fit from Skoda.
Otherwise, you get an up to the market interior where the main attractions are the centre display with a digital cockpit and the new two-spoke steering wheel. It gets two rounded air-vents on the two corners while the middle ones are placed right below the 25cm infotainment system. The passenger side dash gets a piano black trim and lower down, the glove box area even gets an off-white treatment.
Now, coming to the eye-catch of the interior, that two-spoke steering wheel. Yes, it again boils down to personal preference, but having one less spoke doesn’t seem to hurt a lot; it does give the car a fresher look. On the wheel itself, you get all sorts of mounted controls, with volume control wheels rather than buttons, though the latter would have been preferred.
Behind the steering are the stalks for your wipers and cruise control, which do feel solid but not Skoda levels of solid; it just gets the job done. The headlamp control is of course a standard VW affair, with a dial to the right of the steering column. Now, a rather disappointment, is……drumrolls….. The horn. Yes, Skoda has let go of their great windtone horn that used to be available on every VW group car, yet now it is replaced by your average ‘gets the job done’ horn. What a pity.
The Features side of things in the Slavia:
The centre console gets the buttons for auto start stop and ventilated seats, a much underrated feature in the hot and humid climate our country has. Those buttons flank the gear lever (which in our case is an auto stick) that looks absolutely CLASS with the chrome trim all around the black central section. Too many words to glorify a gear-stick but yes.
The Skoda Slavia does get a couple of USB-C chargers here and there with even a wireless charging pad where you’d expect it to. Moving up, the infotainment display is yet another treat to the eye! It is very fluid and responsive to use, and in fact even feels like you are using a normal smartphone. This is something that has an immense advantage to ease of driving, as you get exactly what you need as easily as possible. The infotainment display has the control to most in-car functions like ambient lighting and valet mode among others, and even controls the mirror positions.
The car also has the option to create different profiles for different people driving the car, which comes in real handy if you have multiple people, like your other family members, driving the car. You can in fact see a very interesting attention to detail by Skoda here: the car has a function where you can lower the mirror angle when reversing so that you eliminate blind spots!
Oh also, you’d be dealing with less wires while using the infotainment system, owing to wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On top of the dash, you can find also a recess to keep your idol(s), if you are into that. So much for India 2.0…..
The Skoda Slavia of course gets automatic climate controls with touch operations, which we think is not really that helpful in terms of ease of use. Imagine you’re driving in difficult traffic and you suddenly feel the need to lower your temperature, you have to take your eyes off the road to do that. Whoopsie!
Jumping into the backseats, you are greeted to a newer and refreshed environment. The seats provide enough comfort with ample under-thigh support as well as an adequate amount of legroom and headroom. The seats are a bit softer than you might like, but then again a seat is something where even nit-bits in opinions matter. The middle portion of the rear row is of course a wide and comfortable armrest with twin cup holders. Speaking of seats, behind the fronts you get a small pocket to keep your phone tucked in, something I absolutely despise the lack of in my 2018 Polo. A subtle nice touch by Skoda, here.
The windows are large enough giving you ample view outside, with the sunroof providing a fabulous and airy feel into the cabin. Skoda has also made sure to give coat hooks on grab handles as well.
Looking down, the transmission tunnel seems a bit too obtrusive and tall, but it doesn’t eat up too much into the middle person’s space. Also fret not, there are rear AC vents as well as dual USB-C charging points, a thoughtful addition on the latter.
The doors get enough space for your bottles, and even have an elastic strap to hold them down from rattling. Oh, speaking of doors, Skoda has committed a grave crime here: the door thud on the Slavia is not something what you might expect from a Skoda. It is rich, but nowhere rich enough as were the case for Skodas and Volkswagens of yesteryear, and this is a travesty. A minute of silence, please.
Boot Space and Safety:
The boot gets a HUGE improvement over the Rapid. On paper, the Skoda Slavia gets 521litres while the latter had a measly 460litres, and this in fact translates well into practical usable space. As a metric for measurement, although not recommended, the boot can actually accommodate an average person with him/her not feeling that much uncomfortable either! Jokes apart, the boot has ample space for three medium sized suitcases at least as well as a couple of duffle bags here and there, so you’ll definitely not feel any lack of room for your weekend trips.
Among safety features, the Slavia gets the usual assortment of 6-airbags (for the Style variant) along with ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and an Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with traction control as well.
An interesting thing to note here, the spare wheel is placed under the boot floor but the wheel itself has the subwoofer inside its rim. Whether that has any advantages for the sound system or just a space saving move, we do not know.
Alright, enough about the interior, now let’s get rolling.
Driving feel in the Slavia:
Let’s take a quick rundown of the various engine and transmission options in the Skoda Slavia. Keep in mind, there are only petrol models on offer, no diesels.
Starting all the way down, there’s a base 1L 3-cylinder turbocharged engine, producing 114bhp and 178Nm; mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed torque convertor auto. Then, there is the 1.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged fire-breather churning out 148bhp and 250Nm, mated to the manual or a 7-speed DSG transmission.
Talking about the 1L TSI manual first, the first thing you notice when you get going is the absurdly high amount of cabin noise from the engine. The NVH levels for the 1L engine variants are immediately noticeable, and insulation is something you’d definitely be longing for. This is not something you’d expect from a car out of the VW house, and the lack of refinement is very apparent. Notably, there is no bonnet insulation.
You put down your foot and you feel the engine not particularly enthusiastic to pull itself either. Press the accelerator, and you can clearly feel the absence of that missing cylinder from the 1.5L. That said, there is no lack of pull, and it just gets the job done. Don’t expect this powerplant to push you back to your seat, though.
The gearshift on the other hand also isn’t the smoothest in the world. The shifts are notchy but with a short throw, so making shifts are not a difficulty. The gearbox is not something to look for, yet not something to despise either.
Jumping into the 1.5L TSI, you just understand it’s of a different league the moment you put your foot down. The power is instant and is available at your whims whenever you want. We are all praises of this engine; in fact most people in the world are. The way this engine communicates with the gearbox is astonishing and the drivetrain is just inviting you to keep driving it (if that makes sense)!
The mid-range is of course where engines of these sort need to be strong, and the 1.5TSI DOES NOT DISAPPOINT! It is punchy and pulls the car as much as your right foot wishes to. Put your foot down and an un-miss-able growl comes in from the engine, but with that growl you even have the power, unlike the case in the 1L guise. 100 comes up like it’s a Sunday morning’s breakfast and you won’t even feel anything by the time you’ve reached 120, that too by an electronic beep.
The paddle shifters behind the steering wheel have a good feel, and so does the 7-speed DSG transmission. The DSG has no trouble whatsoever finding gears and you find yourself in appropriate gears when you need to. There is of course a manual mode, but even if you do not a change the gear after a certain point, the gearbox will do it for you.
A point to be noted here, is that the 1.5L TSI is also available with the 6-speed manual transmission. Even though an enthusiast’s choice would be to go with the manual, the DSG should be the better package as once again the manual gearshifts are notchy and it just puts away from that smooth feel of the bigger engine.
Steering feel is something Skoda could have worked a bit more on. It is good, absolutely not denying that, but then again you are left with a yearning sense of heft. That said, the steering does weigh up with speed but lower down, it lacks that feedback you might expect.
The Skoda Slavia does excel in the realm of ride comfort, credit where it’s due. In fact. It is arguably the most comfortable car in its segment, not because it’s comfortable by itself, no; because the other cars in the segment were so atrocious in terms of comfort. The car remains extremely composed in high speed, especially the 1.5TSI, and the long travel suspension means bumps and potholes are gobbled up in ways you’d imagine. The suspension is also tuned well enough that it absorbs most road imperfection in low speed, something you can see lacking in this space. Body movement is very minimal and the entire car moves like it’s built German (which it is, technically…)!
But then again, being a Skoda and powered by the greatly accoladed 1.5TSI, you also have the punch at your disposal every time you put your feet down and want to overtake that annoying Endeavour on the highway. And when you are indeed up to triple digit speeds, this car can happily ride along without any cry of help, and feels absolutely composed and non-hesitant. The light front end makes the car easier to attack corners (not that you’d be taking this to a track that often) and keep it sprightly. Body roll is also minimal, yet well controlled, so the passengers will not be disappointed at all.
So, what’s the final verdict on the Skoda Slavia? Should you even take a look at this and cancel your Honda City booking? Well, yes of course you should. Skoda has surely made a banger of a car with this one, and it is very evident that they want to revitalise the segment rather than make sedans as an afterthought. The Slavia is in fact a very strong proposition to appeal to many people looking for cars in this range. The Czech manufacturer has got many things right in this car, starting from the looks, the practicality, the space, technology, and that sweet, sweet 1.5L TSI engine.
That said, the Slavia is not perfect, in no way. The 1L engine lacks its punch and the NVH levels inside the car just seem too much to be enjoyable. The engine just leaks in too much of noise into the cabin owing to sub-standard insulation. This is not really commendable especially when the 1L engine models will be the bulk of Slavia’s sales. The build quality could be better in some places and Skoda should have given some visual cues as to the fact that you spent all that cash on a top of the line car. The steering and the manual gearboxes also felt like they needed a bit of work and you might regret not going for the auto, even!
Coming to the expendable part; the price. The range starts at INR 10.69Lakhs ex-showroom with the Active 1L TSI manual and goes up to the Style 1.5L TSI DSG for INR 17.79lakhs. Whether shelling out that extra 1.6Lakhs over the 1.5L TSI manual is worth it or not, is definitely a yes. But, with taxes and everything, the car comes close to 20 lakhs, and then you might be having second thoughts over choosing the DSG. That said, if you have the cash, go for the DSG without those second thoughts.
Therefore, Skoda’s newest offering is definitely a car to consider when you are looking for a premium sedan under the 20Lakhs range. It ticks most boxes with all the necessary features and not that many gimmicks while adding to that, the supreme build quality of Skoda.