Škoda Auto India has been consistently in the news this year, and for all the good reasons. The Czech car brand has crossed sales milestones with its India 2.0 project models, and it is set to become big even in export markets. The Kushaq and Slavia, the compact SUV and the executive sedan, have helped Škoda reach 44,500 garages around the country in just the first ten months of this year. The MQB-AO-IN platform vehicles have created a new buzz surrounding the Škoda brand for their build quality and strong European flavour. Then came the news that the Kushaq was being given a 5-star safety rating for both adult and child occupants by GNCAP. This also happened to be the first Indian vehicle to be tested under the more stringent GNCAP crash test protocols. Together with the Volkswagen twins - Taigun and Virtus, Škoda Auto Volkswagen India as a group has recorded a near 99 per cent increase in sales this year. There is still a way to go before the group’s market share ambitions can be ticked off as achieved, but this year’s performance is a significant milestone. 

Škoda is exporting the Made-in-India vehicles to markets like in the Gulf countries and soon to Vietnam too; while the former are fully built, the latter would be components and CKD kits to be assembled locally.

To mark the occasion, Škoda had done the ‘unthinkable’, brought motoring journalists from eight European countries to test drive right-hand-drive Kushaqs and Slavias along some of the most ‘challenging’ hilly routes around Dehradun. I decided to join the Peak-to-Peak drive and take the Slavia 1.5 TSI MT for a refresher course about the 8-month old Škoda sedan. 

The Slavia’s 4.5-metres plus length and the 2.6-metres plus wheelbase allows it to be one of the roomiest sedans in the segment

The Slavia’s 4.5-metres plus length and the 2.6-metres plus wheelbase allows it to be one of the roomiest sedans in the segment | Photo Credit: S Muralidhar

Pahadi Delight

The Slavia’s design faithfully captures the Škoda character that all of the brands vehicles higher up in the price range exhibit. Though the butterfly grille design has been evolving and may even fade away in the upcoming vehicles from Škoda, it is still an element that gives the brand’s cars a unique design signature. The market for sedans has been dying in the midsize segment, and for a car that is attempting to revive it and bring some mojo in, the Slavia is appropriately different in design, especially at the front with its sloping bonnet and sharp features. The rear brings it together with the family bond design for the tail-lamps and the layered construction. I’ve always liked Škoda’s alloy wheels, most are standout unique. Even though my test mule’s rims were relatively simplistic, they still sported a unique toothy play on spokes.

 Comfy Cabin

The Slavia’s 4.5-metres plus length and the 2.6-metres plus wheelbase allows it to be one of the roomiest sedans in the segment. The cabin is simple, follows a minimalist design principle, and has that Škoda touch to the individual elements that make up the dashboard. The boot also manages to deliver 520 litres of space. The other highlight in the cabin are the seats, which are nicely bolstered and comfy even during long journeys. I even managed to get a stretch of the trip on the rear seat. Even tall passengers will be comfortably seated with adequate legroom. The only aspect of the Slavia’s cabin that I would’ve liked to be different would have been the quality of plastics for some of the panels.

 Corner Carver

I was hoping to have some fun driving the Slavia 1.5TSI MT uphill to Mussoorie on some of the tight ghat roads snaking up to the hill station, and the car delivered exactly that sense of control and excitement that I looked forward to. The 1,498 cc, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine is perky, with a sense of eagerness that defies its size. This is the “torque-iest” engine in its size class. The turbocharging and TSI system help deliver 250 Nm of torque and a punchy 150 PS of peak power. This is a happy revving engine and so even though peak power gets delivered at a near redline 6,000rpm, it still can be exploited on the road. The 6-speed manual transmission is also a good match with clean, quick shifts and a progressive clutch. 

Overall, the experience in the Škoda Slavia earlier this week was a good refresher. The suspension was genuinely put to the test, with quite a few patches of roads surrounding Dehradun and Mussoorie having been stripped by the monsoons and the small rockslides that must have happened since. But the Slavia manages to ride over without rattling the occupants much. There is a sense of solidity to the build that is very likeable.

Škoda officials say that the company is steadily adding more touchpoints and dealerships around the country. The number is expected to reach 250 by the end of the year. So, if you haven’t tried out the Slavia yet, this might be a good time to take it out on a spin. 

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