2022 Skoda Slavia review: The return of the sporty sedan?

The Skoda Slavia is finally here, sharing its underpinnings with the Kushaq but in a hugely desirable sedan package
Can the Skoda Slavia inject some much-needed life into the mid-size sedan segment?
Can the Skoda Slavia inject some much-needed life into the mid-size sedan segment? Shot by Abhishek Benny

Sedans are back, and how! After launching the Kushaq in India last year, the next car in Skoda’s India 2.0 pipeline is this — the Skoda Slavia. Essentially a sedan based on the Kushaq’s underpinnings, this car is set to rival the likes of the Honda City, the Hyundai Verna and the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. That’s with the 1.0 TSI, mind you. There’s also a 1.5 TSI on offer that delivers a lot more performance, essentially putting it in a segment without any rivals. There’s a lot to talk about here. This is an all-new car that hopes to draw customers away from boxy SUVs to more traditional sedans, a body style that really established Skoda in India. Before we get to the driving, we have to talk about the way the Slavia looks.

2022 Skoda Slavia Styling

The Slavia is a brilliant looking car! I know, I know, styling is subjective but no one I have spoken to has anything bad to say about the Slavia. Strong lines, beautiful proportions — it appeals to most people visually and those bright shades of blue and red only makes it more eye catching. The face clearly draws inspiration from the current generation Octavia, while the tail section is sleek with a little kink at the end of the tailgate and lovely details in the taillights. There’s a strong shoulder line that gives it definition from the side, a really muscular, but restrained look. The Slavia is a large car — Skoda doesn’t miss an opportunity to remind us that it is bigger than the Mk1 Octavia. And compared to its rivals, it boasts the largest wheelbase and width — dimensions that directly affect the space on the inside. To my eye, it is the best looking car in this segment by a mile.

There's really no way of telling apart the 1-litre Slavia from the 1.5
There's really no way of telling apart the 1-litre Slavia from the 1.5Shot by Abhishek Benny

The Skoda Slavia 1.5 and 1.0 look bang identical. The 1.5 is going to cost a fair bit more than the 1.0 but there’s absolutely nothing to tell the world that — not a badge, not a spoiler, not a different paint shade, nothing. And that could be a drawback, as someone spending more for a sportier car would want to put that on display. But the Slavia doesn’t allow you to do that.

2022 Skoda Slavia interiors, features and space

The same story with the Slavia continues on the inside with the 1.5 being identical to the 1.0. The dash is a familiar one — there’s a lot here that is shared with the Kushaq but there’s a fair bit that is different as well. The digital cockpit stands out — a feature that isn’t available on the Kushaq yet, but the Style variant of the Slavia gets it. It’s a well executed unit that throws up information clearly and logically. You can shift between different screens — one with a speedo, one with a tacho and one which is more minimal. That aside, the air vents in the corners of the dash are different from the Kushaq, there’s some trim on the dash like the bronze strip and the dimpled textures around the screen which are different, and the buttons for the ventilated seats are located near the gearstick and not under the HVAC controls. The rest of it stays pretty much identical to the Kushaq, at least as far as you can see. Start poking around and you’ll see that Skoda has taken our feedback from the Kushaq seriously — stuff like the roof lining and the air con vents no longer feel low quality and the seat padding has been worked on as well.

Move to the back and what will impress you the most is the space on offer. Knee-room, and headroom is excellent by class standards and this is a backseat where you can seat two adults very comfortably. This may be the widest in its class but shoulder room is still limited for three adults to be sitting abreast comfortably.

Boot space is impressive as well. We expected a notchback, going by Skoda’s legacy of building notchbacks, but that would have jacked up the price too much. So instead you get a conventional boot that has 521 litres of space, and 1050 litres with the backseat folded down.

Skoda Slavia engine: 1.0 TSI

The 1-litre TSI will bring in the volumes
The 1-litre TSI will bring in the volumesShot by Abhishek Benny

The engines are identical to the ones of the Kushaq. There’s the 1.0 TSI and the 1.5 TSI, both mated to a manual and an automatic (DSG in the case of the 1.5). Lets be real though, the 1.0 is the variant that will be doing the numbers. It will be more affordable, and it is available in more trim levels — much like the Kushaq, the Slavia’s 1.5 is only available in the top-of-the-line Style trim. So really, the 1.0 should be of more relevance here.

In terms of numbers, the engines make the same peak outputs as in the Kushaq. The 1.0 makes 113bhp and 175Nm. This is sufficient to get the Slavia moving adequately quickly. On average, the Slavia is about 30-40kg lighter than the Kushaq variant to variant, but that isn’t really something you can feel from behind the wheel. The engine characteristics and the acceleration feel very similar to that of the 1.0 Kushaq — an eager, peppy engine that is willing to rev and willing to pick up speed well. Once the turbo is lit up, the tacho races to the redline with that typical 3-cylinder growl we have grown accustomed to from the Polo and Kushaq. It’s fairly quick, that’s for sure, but that acceleration is also accompanied by a fair bit of NVH. Enthusiasts would enjoy that 3-cylinder growl but for someone looking for refinement, this has nothing on the Honda City’s i-VTEC. This engine comes mated to a manual (slick shifting, with a light clutch), and there’s also a torque convertor automatic on offer.

Skoda Slavia engine: 1.5 TSI

This 1.5-litre TSI loves being revved!
This 1.5-litre TSI loves being revved!Shot by Abhishek Benny

This is evo India though, and the 1.5 deserves plenty of attention here. It makes peak outputs of 148bhp and 250Nm, and like before, it is available with a manual and a DSG transmission. These outputs are precisely what put it in a space without rivals. No other sedan in this segment makes as much power, and performance is exactly what people will be buying the 1.5 for.

And it delivers on that promise of performance. It feels quick the moment you step on the loud pedal, picking up speed with intent. It felt like a sub 10-second car, though we will have to VBOX the 0-100kmph times to confirm that fact. This is a TSI engine that likes to rev, and rev hard. All those revs are matched with generous levels of performance. Triple digits speeds come up before you know it and it continues to pull hard after. And since it is a four-cylinder, it is far more refined than the 1.0 TSI. Nothing in this segment delivers this sort of performance — the Honda City’s nat-asp revs beautifully but doesn’t feel so quick and Hyundai’s turbo-petrol Verna features a 1-litre engine that can just about keep up with Skoda’s 1.0, forget this 1.5. This engine feels urgent, it feels energetic; it doesn’t feel like it’s straining to pick up speed at any point. We drove the manual which was a delight, but there’s also the DSG if you want more clinical shifts. This is the drivetrain for the enthusiast!

Skoda Slavia ride and handling

Why would you buy a sedan over an SUV? For the way they drive, of course! With a lower centre of gravity than SUVs, sedans are inherently more poised round corners and that’s what makes them a hit with enthusiasts. The Slavia is no different. Skoda has taken advantage of the brilliant torsional rigidity of this MQB-A0-IN platform and has delivered a car that is both comfortable, and handles well.

The Skoda Slavia delivers the best of both worlds in the ride and handling department
The Skoda Slavia delivers the best of both worlds in the ride and handling departmentShot by Abhishek Benny

Let’s start with the ride. This is a genuinely plush car — a combination of the 16-inch wheels and soft dampers allow it to soak up our roads very well. Low speed ride, where the car has to deal with potholes and bumps, is exceptional with very little of it being transferred in to the cabin. At the same time, at speeds, it remains planted — a typical European car characteristic that has carried over to the Slavia. What is really impressive is the fact that the Slavia has a whole 179mm of ground clearance — that is proper SUV territory! It does so without looking ungainly, and in the process, manages to deal with the absolute worst that our roads can throw at it without flinching. Sedans are shunned in India for this very reason — ground clearance — but it is not an issue on the Slavia.

There's some amount of body roll but the Slavia doesn't end up in an understeer
There's some amount of body roll but the Slavia doesn't end up in an understeerShot by Abhishek Benny

Handling, though, hasn’t taken a hit. Sure, this is a car that rolls and that is evident from the pictures. Chuck it in to a corner, and you will feel it lean over to the outside. But once it does that, the front wheels actually hook up and it grips well through a corner — it doesn’t end up in ugly understeer very early. You’ve got to really be pushing to find some. This is a car that you can genuinely carry a good amount of speed through the corners in, it has got the grip to show for it. The steering feels direct as well — there’s a connected-ness that you feel to the front end that allows you plenty of confidence to push the limits of this car.

This set up is really impressive — giving you the best of both worlds, in terms of ride quality and handling. Not to forget, genuine usability in India. However, one can’t help but wish that the 1.0 and the 1.5 had slightly different set ups. With its sporty intentions, bigger wheels, and a slighter stiffer and lower suspension it would fit right in and elevate it from ‘sedan with sporty engine’ to a ‘sporty sedan’.

Skoda Slavia price and verdict

Would you pick the Skoda Slavia over rivals like the Honda City?
Would you pick the Skoda Slavia over rivals like the Honda City?Shot by Abhishek Benny

Prices for the Skoda Slavia 1.0 TSI are already out. They start at Rs 10.69 lakh for the base manual, going up to Rs 15.39 for the top-end auto. This puts it on the more expensive end of this segment — a fair bit more than the Verna and Ciaz. It directly rivals the Honda City, with minor differences in price between lower variants while the top-end is a bit more pricey. At that price, the Slavia has its work cut out for it. It brings to the table great engines, great ride and handling and a good amount of space, but it is also asking for a fair bit.

1.5 TSI prices should be released soon after this story goes online. Going by prices for the 1.0, we expect it be priced at Rs 1.6-1.8 lakh more than the top-end 1.0. That means the manual should be around Rs 15.5 lakh while be DSG would be around Rs Rs 17 lakh (ex-showroom). Again, being only available in the Style trim would put this engine out of the reach of many. The 1.5 is a car with genuine sporting credential — maybe its time to pick one up, play around with the chassis a bit and create your own Slavia RS at home?

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