Skoda Slavia 1.5 TSI track test: Deserves an RS badge

    Shapur Kotwal can’t resist a few hard laps of the MMRT in Chennai with Skoda’s Slavia 1.5 TSI. Right foot on the floor!

    Published on May 18, 2022 05:20:00 PM


    Make : Skoda
    Model : Slavia

    The temptation is too much. There, sitting pretty in the pitlane, is the one car I really want to drive around the MMRT. No, it isn’t a Porsche, it isn’t a BMW. It’s a Skoda (go figure). This, however, is no regular Skoda. Nothing less than the Slavia RS in drag, it gets 150hp of rippling muscle and a serious 250Nm of twist, all coiled up under the hood. The cherry on top? It even comes with a manual gearbox... Oh mama! 

    The Slavia isn’t making it easy. It catches the light beautifully, the cuts and creases along the flanks stand out, and then, what makes it even more tempting is that the keys are right there. We even have the track to ourselves.

    Walk, Jog, Run

    The temptation, of course, is to immediately whack the throttle open everywhere. But I resist. Yes, I use all the performance on the straighter bits, and that delivers quite a rush, but in an effort to be smooth and not to trip over myself, I compartmentalise the down shifts, the braking, the turn in and the exit. This helps isolate things and since the car isn’t going flat out, I use the ‘spare capacity’ to think about how the car is behaving. I watch, I observe, I pay attention, and this tells me what makes this car tick.

    It does roll in corners, but only up to a point. Stiff anti-roll bars help.

    Have to say, first impressions are better than expected. This mainly has to do with body roll, of which I’m expecting a lot. And yes, the Slavia does roll. This is exacerbated by the fact that we are on a track and it has to deal with long corners that, unlike on a real road, go on and on. Still, body roll isn’t as bad as I expect. Remember, this car has an SUV-like ground clearance of 179mm, so the anti-roll bars are clearly working overtime here. 

    Also well under control is pitch. While the 1.5 TSI ‘bobs’ a bit more than the 1.0 TSI’s, it again doesn’t tip forward or lean back quite as much as I expect. In fact, it feels relatively flat and stable, even as I up the pace.

    It’s surprising just how much of that 150hp you can put down to the track.  

    What also works well is that the brakes deliver a fair amount of bite. A step up from those on the Kushaq SUV, the Slavia’s sister car, the initial bite and pedal feel are superior, and the pedal is progressive even as I lean harder on it. While the Slavia does move around a bit on the brakes, especially if you hit them when the car isn’t pointing straight, what I find is that it rotates well with more weight on the front wheels. Now I need less steering to get the car into the corners, and the smoother and more precise I can be with the steering, the greater my entry speed. Wow, this is nice. 

    The clutch pedal is a bit ‘long’ and this needs some ‘recalibration’ (on my part), but once we are in sync, and I get more familiar with how the brake pedal works, heel and toeing (braking and blipping the throttle with my right foot to match engine speed, while shifting to a lower gear) also smoothens things up. The car now feels more settled and even puts the power down neatly when exiting corners. Remember, on a front-wheel-drive car, it’s the front wheels that do all the hard work: most of the braking, and all of the application of power and steering. The rear wheels do almost nothing in comparison. And the load on the outside front wheel only gets worse when a car rolls in a corner. Wish there was less roll though, especially on switchbacks where the weight is flung from one side to another, as often happens on this track. Corners two to three, for example, then after the back straight and again before you get onto the long ‘D’. 

    In Sync

    As we go quicker, I’m naturally struck by how well the various components of this car work together. Of course, with 150hp hurling the Slavia out of corners, it’s a delight, and we regularly hit 150kph or more down the back straight. The engine is happy to wind all the way to the redline, power delivery keeps increasing in a linear manner, and then what helps is that the Slavia has plenty of torque for medium speed corners where using a higher gear seems like the right thing to do. It isn’t the most reactive of engines around, especially when you compare it with any or all of the other TSI units. And yes, it would have helped considerably if it were not as laid back. But the performance is clearly there, and that’s what helps make this car feel extra special. And fast.

    A manual gearbox makes the experience much more immersive.

    Also doing a commendable job is the steering. Not the most direct unit or the most feelsome, it, however, manages a nice balance between weight, accuracy and some amount of feedback. There is a fair amount of grip from the Goodyear tyres, which are quite ride centric, and sportier rubber would have helped considerably too. 

    What also makes a big difference on this car, apart from the very positive power-to-weight ratio, is the considerably stiffer MQB chassis. It’s what helps tackle the unsettling bumps as you get into and around turn one and it helps keep things neat and tidy as you transition from corner two to corner three as well.

    It’s a shame we don’t get a full blown RS with a lower ride height and a sportier set-up.

    Road and Track?

    Neat, tight, compact and loads of fun, that’s the Slavia 1.5 TSI for you; a car you will enjoy driving harder and harder and one that’s extremely quick for something that doesn’t carry an RS badge. 

    Yes, lower and stiffer springs would have worked wonders, sportier rubber would make a huge difference and the engine could have been a bit more responsive. But even as it is, Skoda’s Slavia 1.5 TSI feels like the real thing; a baby RS, a car quick enough to give cars nearly twice its price a run for the money.


    Narain’s lap in the Slavia 1.5

    We couldn't resist driving the Slavia around the track, and neither could Narain Karthikeyan, and so he did a couple of really quick laps too. That it pulled a real 151.5kph on the back straight didn’t really come as a surprise, but what did was the fact that it felt right at home here. Impressed, Narain said, “It has a really nice balance to it and I like the way the suspension is tuned; it points into corners nicely and even ESP doesn’t interfere and cut in once you’ve switched it off.” Take a look at how quick it is, even when compared to Octavias from the past. It’s even quicker than a 2014 Octavia 1.8 TSI and a full four seconds faster than the current Honda City 1.5. 

    YearModelLap TimeExit C1Apex C2Top speedSplit 1Split 2Exit C6Entry C8Exit onto straight
    2020Octavia RS2452m03.71s123kph73kph173.06kph41.77s1m36.37s109kph106kph94kph
    2017Octavia RS2m06.80s121.22kph72.41kph164.23kph43.10s1m38.80s109.29kph97.52kph89.08kph
    2022Slavia 1.5 MT2m09.77s112kph74kph151.55kph44.41s1m41.60s104kph108kph89kph
    2013Octavia 1.8 TSI2m10.75s114.08kph71.22kph153.7kph44.39s1m42.23s103.03kph93.28kph89.96kph
    2011Laura vRS2m11.70s113.5kph71.57kph149.88kph45.02s1m42.85s104.9kph97.56kph90.44kph
    2009Laura 1.8 TSI2m12.55s68.66kph101.49kph149.5kph45.30s1m58.25s101.49kph100.43kph88.55kph
    2004Octavia RS2m15.30s110.9kph73.70kph140.8kph46.70s1m46.60s104.55kph121.07kph86.02kph

    Also read:

    Skoda Slavia 1.5 TSI review: India's most powerful midsize sedan

    2022 Skoda Slavia 1.5 TSI video review 

    Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.

    Mihir Gadre - 457 days ago

    The 2004 Octy is still better than the Slavia in so many metrics in your table :)

    Naman gadhia - 482 days ago

    Awesome information provided ..need more such detailed reviews

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