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We were among the select few who got to test drive the Skoda Slavia camouflaged test mules, weeks before the official global unveil of this premium midsized sedan.

  • Skoda Slavia midsize sedan review specs Price

This is a stealth mission report. Classified information on a car that has a huge chunk of the One Billion Euros investment running on its back. So be attentive, please. Our phones were secured in a locker during the briefing. The phone cameras, front and back, were taped during the covered drive. And the vehicle in question was wrapped in psychedelic camouflage to trick the viewer’s eyes. Our mission was to drive in these disguised cars, across varying terrains, switch from car to car at regular intervals and finally make it safely back to bring you this secret report.

Skoda Slavia: Platform and Segment
This piece of investigative journalism revolves around the MQB A0 IN platform, the backbone of the India 2.0 Project. Volkswagen has promised to invest Euro 1 billion in this and has given charge to Skoda to make this Mission Successful. This, and one that has been designed to cater to cars ranging from B+ to C+ segments. And we’ve just had a closer look and a quick go at Skoda’s second model that’s based on this India-specific platform. Following hard on the heels of the Kushaq SUV/crossover, the Slavia, paying homage to the first cycle the company ever made in 1897, a year after the company was formed. Needless to say, the important role this car model has to play for Skoda’s future in India. This new sedan will compete in the busy C-segment with bigwigs like the Honda City and the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. And the company feels confident about Slavia and hopes it will help in achieving their ambition of becoming the top European car brand in India.

Skoda Slavia: Design
Even at first glance, you realise that Salvia’s notchback profile tries to take inspiration from the company’s sedan legacy which includes established models like the Superb and Octavia. We can’t say much about the design because the pre-production prototypes were wrapped in specially designed camouflage on the exterior, and even the cabin was covered up for hiding and teasing effect. We’ll get a clearer picture in mid-November when Slavia makes its global unveiling. From what we gathered, the Slavia will get the signature butterfly front grille with vertical slats, while the brand logo sits just above on the bonnet. Sleek, sweptback projector headlamps give it a wide front stance, multi-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels offer plenty of rubber cushioning but don’t fill the wheel arches that well. At the back you get a snooping roofline.

Skoda Slavia: Dimension
During the short drive experience, we had Zac Holis, Brand Director, Skoda Auto India, accompanying us. If you follow him on social media, you’ll know that he doesn’t like to mince his Tweets. We asked, why launch a sedan when some of the competition brands are writing off the body type completely? Pat came the reply that the market projections show that the midsize premium sedan segment is projected to grow by 138 per cent. Skoda’s new mid-size sedan is larger and more premium than the Rapid which it will replace. He stressed upon the fact that the new Slavia will be the most premium offering in the segment, in fact, it’s even larger than the first-gen Octavia, being 30 mm longer, 21 mm wider and 58 mm taller. A generous 2651 mm wheelbase means the cabin is spacious enough to seat a family of four or even five with ease. And since the dimension comparison is with the first-generation Octavia, we’re certain even the luggage space would be one of the best in the segment.

Skoda Slavia: Engine and Gearbox
Like the Kushaq, the Slavia sticks to the no-diesel strategy and is offered with two petrol engine options – the 115 hp, 1.0-litre turbo-petrol which can be opted for with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter to power the front wheels. While the 1.5-litre TSI makes 150 hp and comes with either the six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. We got a short stint with all four options as the company said that every version’s ride and handling is a slightly different setup.

Skoda Slavia: 1.5-litre Petrol Engine
As we swapped the cars, we also got different co-occupants. Gurpratap Boparai, Managing Director, Skoda Auto Volkswagen India accompanied me in the 1.5 TSI. Maybe it was his calm and composed company, but I enjoyed driving it more. Also because the larger petrol engine builds power so effortlessly and the seven-speed DSG is quick to understand the driver’s demands and acts instantaneously. The manual ’box did have a prominent step while shifting, which I pointed out and was assured will be ironed out in the production version. The 1.5-litre is also good at conserving fuel by shutting down two cylinders when the engine load is low.

Skoda Slavia: 1.0-litre Petrol Engine
It’s the 1.0-litre that seems to get the popular vote, especially the automatic version. Not surprisingly it is also expected to be the top seller variant when the Slavia is launched in February 2022. This is a spirited motor and you instinctively start to push it harder and go faster around bends. Personally, the 1.0-litre six-speed manual, which also has a slightly notchy shift, had the best setup in terms of suspension, handling, and fun-to-drive motor. Later, when I drove the automatic, it did feel more convenient but I preferred having full control of the gears.

Skoda Slavia: Ride and Handling
Staying true to the Skoda brand, the ride quality remains the highlight of the Slavia. It drives over a broken path with the usual confidence and poise that is expected from the European brand. The steering feedback seemed apt and was aided with Electronic Stability Control, which helped the sedan score well in the handling department as well.

Skoda Slavia: Ride and Handling
We’ve always maintained that a good handling car is a safe car, and the Slavia takes this forward by offering six airbags in the higher variants. We’re sure Skoda won’t skip on the feature and equipment department either, and things like automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, tyre pressure monitoring system and hill hold will come as standard. There’s front ventilated seats, fuel-saving start-stop function, feather touch a-c controller and some other familiar parts from the Kushaq. Boparai revealed that these ‘Simply Clever’ bits will help the Slavia carve a niche and even has the potential to attract buyers from other segments, like the Hyundai Creta SUV/Crossover and the Hyundai Elantra.

Skoda Slavia: Engine and Gearbox
Our next question to the brand’s Managing Director was how does such a well proportioned, more premium car that sits above the Rapid, fit so comfortably in this ‘reasonably priced’ sedan segment which ranges between Rs 12-16 lakh (ex-showroom)? He replied that the keyword is – localisation. Skoda are looking at sourcing 95 per cent of the parts of the Slavia from suppliers in India. Having said that, we did feel the doors didn’t have as solid a thud while closing as expected from European cars. Maybe it was the additional cladding underneath the camouflage which had a play in that. Also, small things like the a-c vents don’t have that old Skoda-type sturdy feel.

Skoda Slavia: Conclusion
Our top-secret mission came to an end at lunchtime, giving us a sample of all the versions and a chance to interrogate the top executive of the company. Some questions were answered which we were left second guessing for a few till the company revealed the car. We’ll give the Slavia a closer examination once the production version is revealed this month.


About the author: Sarmad Kadiri



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