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Old 13th July 2011, 21:08   #1
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Default Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up

How it all began

Our Silver Corolla had been doing duty as the family cum business car so well since 2003, that I didn’t realize that eight years had passed since it was brought into the house on a rainy September evening. Being a car lover, I always kept an eye on the Indian car scene for cars launches ever since (and there have been many in past 8 years!). Rising petrol prices and diesel tech advancement combined to make diesel cars a very attractive proposition. But the petrolhead in me just refused to listen. Added to this, my average mileage of 8 to 10K Kms p.a. was just not enough to justify the extra price of a diesel car.

Last edited by Santoshbhat : 14th July 2011 at 13:37.
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Old 13th July 2011, 21:16   #2
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Default Decision making

Decision making was simple since I wanted a petrol driver’s car in the price range of 15 to 20L. Having owned many Japanese cars in the family from the (Carb) Esteem to the WagonR to the Corolla, the driver in me just yearned to experience something European. We were looking for an upgrade from the Corolla which meant that we had to look at genuine D segmenters in the Accord/ Passat/ Superb category. No chauffeurs for us, hence Bangalore’s nightmarish traffic situation and parking woes meant that we were back in the entry D segment category. Since diesels were ruled out, the choice was basically down to the Civic and the Laura TSI.

The Contenders

Honda Civic: Good Japanese car and a logical lateral upgrade to the Corolla. But seemed dated to me since the model has been around for too long, making it too familiar a face. Plus the fact that it was due for replacement (which btw does not look exciting at all). Add to it the poor GC concerns. I see so many civics with damage to those side skirts. Plus the crappy low end torque was a put off. I found the Corolla’s VVTi motor to be more peppy during normal city driving cycle.

Honda Accord: As stated above, too big for Bangalore city, low on FE and expensive too. If Accord was a serious contender, I may have well been writing an ownership thread on the Superb.

New Passat: Was on the radar since it was due to be launched at the time. Was hoping for a TSI with DSG which would have been worth the budget stretch. But as it turns out, there is no petrol and the diesel DSG, though very powerful was way beyond my budget.

Laura TSI: The Laura TSI was very very aspirational from the day it was launched. When I first read its review, I had almost made up my mind that this would be my next car! But earlier stories of part failures, non availability of spares and poor service from Skoda *** were worrisome. I had been keeping a close watch on the forum for reviews and ownership reports and I must thank Ravich, Akki, Anshuman and imp for their threads on the Laura F/L which gave me the confidence to take that leap. Skoda shield package further enforced the belief that the risk could be taken.

Last edited by Santoshbhat : 14th July 2011 at 16:56.
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Old 13th July 2011, 21:22   #3
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Default The TD experience

The TD was a mere formality. Visited Vinayak Skoda with the family on a Sunday morning (just a 10 min drive from home) to check out the car. A TSI ‘Classic’ was on display and we hopped in to check out the interiors. First thing I heard were disapproving noises from dad and wifey that the rear seat was not as comfy as that of the Corolla. That’s when I realised that the Corolla’s back seat had set some high standards here! They came hoping for an upgrade and from their point of view the back seat certainly wasn’t. I tried my best to be neutral at this point since honestly, I rarely.... make that never…sit in the back. Scheduled a TD for next Sunday and left the showroom.

The TD was promptly arranged for the next Sunday and surprisingly on the day of the TD, the family was happy with the back seat once they were on the move. The TD went as expected. The engine was simply brilliant on open stretches and also super silent and refined. Torque at lower rpm was very impressive with 4 occupants and AC on. Ride seemed pliant and sorted. Steering though did not enthuse as much as expected at lower speeds, but was communicative enough as the speed picked up. Great quality interiors and strong build quality are a Skoda hallmark. Hence the TD car, untidy as it was, still impressed. The car basically ticked all the boxes from my perspective. Was shocked to note that the so called sales team lead who brought the car for the TD did not know that the TSI came with a six speed gearbox. The TD car’s gear lever only showed five for some strange reason. Had to show him that it actually shifts into sixth. He was seriously embarrassed at this point.
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Old 13th July 2011, 21:27   #4
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Default Purchase & delivery experience

Purchase experience - Part 1 : Missing Fog Lamps

We all know about the infamous non-fog lamped batch that Skoda dished out in the 1st half of this year. I was lucky enough to spot this on the car that was offered to me (Big thanks to T-BHP and its pre delivery inspection check list) and luckier still that fogs were resumed just a month after I paid the booking amount. This meant that I managed to get a car with fog lamps. But other features like rain sensing wipers, cooled glove box, auto dimming IRVMs were discontinued on Ambiente for good.

The purchase Experience – Part 2 – Alls well that ends well.


The car took 10 agonising days to arrive after Vinayak confirmed that the car was dispatched from the factory. The wait was painful to say the least as expectations had been building up to astronomical levels. Finally got the call on May 22. She had arrived. Wasted no time in rushing to the workshop for the inspection. The VIN matched the one provided by Vinayak at the time of dispatch. As per the VIN report, the car was produced in April 2011. And YES, the car had Fog lamps. No dents and scratches anywhere and everything else seemed right. This was the one. I wanted to upgrade to 16” rims , since I felt that 195/65 15” tyres were inadequate for this power house. Selected the 16” alloys from the L&K and struck a deal for the alloy swap with the dealer. Tyres were outside the deal, since I wanted Michelin PLCs. The alloys were not in stock and was told that it could take anywhere between a week to ten days for them to arrive. Vinayak cars were extremely accommodating here and the GM offered to take out alloys from an existing L&K and give it to me. They said they would fit the new alloys once they arrived, on the L&K which donated its alloys to my car.

Took delivery May 27. Delivery went smoothly as expected. This was a Skoda showroom and not a Maruti. As expected we were the only ones taking delivery that day. The routine PDI was done as per T BHP checklist and we were good to go. I had refused the usual freebies like Teflon coating and sun films since I was vary of spoiling the factory finished paint and wanted to go for branded sun films. The sales team lead then confessed, what he means by “Teflon coating” is just wax polish and it will do no harm. With the 16” Alloys loaded in the boot we left the showroom.

The drive back was a rare nervous one for me. It was evening rush hour and I was driving a brand new car without being used to any of the controls. The worst one being the opposite column stalks for the turn signals and the wiper. Correction, the worst one was the clutch which needed some getting used to. I stalled her three times before we got to the petrol station. Filled up 30 lts of Shell unleaded and then it happened. She just wouldn’t start. The starter just seemed dead. No cranking noise, no ignition, just nothing. What is this?? Just when I cranked the key for the last time before I thought of calling up the sales rep, noticed the MFD showing ‘CLUTCH’. Depressed the clutch and cranked the key and there was life again. The ride was pretty harsh and the Goodyears were making a real din. I was almost praying that the tyres were overinflated. Upon reaching home checked the pressure to find the pressure to be a whopping 52 psi.

Last edited by Santoshbhat : 14th July 2011 at 16:58.
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Old 13th July 2011, 21:35   #5
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Default Initial reactions and comparison to the corolla

Here’s a comparison with the Corolla from my point of view. This is in no way meant to compare the Laura with the current Altis which is vastly improved. Just my reactions having owned the old gen Corolla for 8 years

Design & Looks. : The corolla has never won any beauty pageants and rarely makes heads turn these days. But back then it was special. It is a very pleasing design and easy on the eyes. You don’t become a best seller by being ugly and ugly it certainly is not. The Laura on the other hand has always been a head turner for me, even in its old form. Some don’t like the new Laura’s looks, but for me it is quite a handsome car. Perfectly proportioned, masculine with an aggressive stance.

Space, functionality and features : The corolla that we bought was the base version which came for 10.20 L OTR eight years back. It did not come with creature comforts back then like the ACC, powered seats, CD player, fog lamps etc….What it did have was driver and passenger Airbags and disc brakes all round , first in class at the time . The Laura at 16L OTR does not come with any significant additional features. I was lucky enough to get Fog lamps unlike some other 2011 TSI owners on the forum. ACC, electrically foldable ORVMs, Bluetooth: some features standard on many competitors’ models are missing on the Laura Ambiente. Luckily the safety features were not skimped off and we get airbags and a fully loaded brakes package with ABS, ESP and TCS. The Laura’s Swing Audio player plays MP3s but has no USB connectivity, a big miss since USBs are so convenient. The brochure says 8 speakers, but what they really mean is 4 tweeters and 4 speakers. The Audio quality is really good for an OE set up and I don’t feel the need for any upgrade here. The Laura’s front seats are more supportive and comfortable when compared to the Corolla. But the Corolla’s back seat scores over the Laura for comfort. Both cars can seat four passengers in comfort, the fifth passenger is really unwelcome in either of these cars. The Laura with its rear AC vent and high transmission tunnel can give the middle passenger some serious problems. The Corolla is better at seating five, but only marginally so. The Laura has more shoulder room and legroom at the back, even with the front seat pushed back all the way. The driver seat has height adjustment and claims to have lumbar support adjustment by means of a knob. The lumbar support adjustment makes hardly any difference and is a mere gimmick. Height adjustable seats are quite useful and coupled with a steering which adjusts for rake and reach makes it easy for drivers of all shapes and sizes to find a comfortable driving position. The Corolla‘s boot is quite adequate and can swallow a fair amount of luggage. The Laura in comparison can swallow an entire Corolla in its boot!

One grouse that I have in the Laura is the narrowness of the foot well. Lengthwise legroom is good, but it’s the lack of width in the footwell that is the problem. Even though it comes with dead pedals for both feet, the board from the central console sort of tapers down to the footwell towards the right and eats away some foot room. Since I wear a size 11, I realised that the corolla’s footwell is wider and more comfortable for the feet on longer drives as the driver can stretch out his legs a bit more.

The Laura’s trip computer displays information like real time fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, average speed, distance to empty etc.... While the info is useful and welcome, it can increase the guilt quotient when you see the FE figures drop rapidly when one puts the pedal to the metal, given the prices of the liquid gold today.

AC : The Corolla wins the Aircon battle and is the quicker of the two in bringing the temperature down, this despite the Laura having a rear AC vent. The rear AC vent was one of the carrots which I had held out to my family to convince them that the Laura is not all about pampering just the driver. But the Laura’s compressor is not powerful enough to blow enough cool air from so many vents to cool the car quickly. This made me head out to the nearby 3M car care shop to shop for a quality sun film. Installed 3Ms top of the line crystalline sun film for all 6 glass areas, with transparent ones for the windshield. Yes, transparent sun films. Sounds absurd but they are amazingly effective in heat rejection. The results have been amazing and the AC performance is now almost at par with Corolla. Don’t ask me how much they cost me though as I have been trying to erase that from my memory.

Back in 2003 the Corolla’s feature list felt adequate and we did not feel as though we could do with some more. But today the game has move on and Skoda is not doing any favour to petrol heads by offering the TSI in just the base trim. It is short on features compared to competition and I wished they’d offer it in elegance trim at least.

Last edited by Santoshbhat : 14th July 2011 at 17:07.
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Old 13th July 2011, 21:45   #6
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Default Interior quality, build quality and NVH

Quality of Interiors

Corolla’s ‘base version’ interiors, sans the wood grain finish (never been a fan of wood finish on car interiors) , has stood the test of time. No rattles , no squeaks, no switches coming lose or anything requiring replacement or fixing. The two tone dash with a soft top has been easy to maintain and the beige areas still exude richness since it has been kept clean. The leather wrapped steering has no tears or peel off after 80,000 kms of use.

The Laura’s interiors on the other hand exude a level of richness which the Corolla does not. Quality of materials seems to be a step up and like a typical Euro, emphasis has been given to functionality over fancy design. Fit and finish is excellent and the damping on every little opening makes one get that ‘special’ feeling. Every little storage area is padded with some rubber or soft material so that items don’t move around or make noise when stored in them. Attention to detail and little conveniences is very good. For eg. The power window switches operate for upto 30 secs after the driver has turned off ignition, so that passengers don’t have to ask the driver to switch the ignition key to ‘battery on’ if they are yet to roll up their windows.

Visibility : Front visibility on the Corolla will give nobody much reason to complain but the Laura is just a tad better in this department. The fact that the top of the hood is visible to the driver, gives him a better perception of the frontal area. This apart, the Corolla scores in visibility of all other areas. God alone knows why Skoda chose to give non convex mirror on the driver side. This creates a serious blind spot while overtaking, I found myself glancing back over my shoulder to check if somebody is in that blind spot before making a lane change for overtaking. Thanks to Jatinganapathy for his tip here http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...ml#post2410066 (Skoda Laura TSi Ambiente - April '11 - Ownership Review) I have installed convex mirrors for the driver side ORVM. Reversing also is a pain since the rear windshield is small and offers poor visibility, which makes the reverse parking sensors very useful. Reversing is easier in my Corolla despite it not having any reversing aids.

Build quality & NVH
Have had nothing to complain about the Corolla’s build quality. Not something you would call solid, but decent. But that’s until the Laura came along. ‘Solid’ is the only way to describe it. The doors of the Corolla feel flimsy in comparison to the Laura which shut with a superb thud. As far as in cabin noise is concerned, the Laura’s cabin is a very quiet place to be in. The TSI engine is one of the quietest engines I have driven. Even at 150 Kph the engine is super silent and one can enjoy the music form the audio system at the lowest of volumes. Add to this sound from the outside is insulated brilliantly. I would rate the Laura’s NVH properties 5 stars. The Corolla’s VVTi engine on the other hand is quite audible and at higher speeds it does get pretty raucous. The outside sound insulation also is nowhere near as good as the Laura.

Last edited by Santoshbhat : 13th July 2011 at 21:53.
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Old 13th July 2011, 21:52   #7
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Default The ride and engine performance

Ride and handling :

The Corolla’s suspension has done duty for 80,000 kms and has been a decent job of balancing ride quality and good handling. The 195/60 Bridgestone Potenzas earlier and the Michelin PLCs presently doing duty also doing their part in providing good grip levels and cushioning from road aberrations. The suspension is set up more for ride comfort, which is evident from the body roll one gets when the car is loaded with upto 4 passengers. The Corolla’s handling never has been its talking point, but I for one found it to be quite an agile handler with the hydraulic power steering unit giving me good feedback. I have always enjoyed throwing it around corners. It has always had decent straightline stability too and has maintained its poise even when pushed upto 180 kph on good stretches of 4 lane highways.

The Laura of course is a brand new car and the suspension feels very fresh. The Laura’s suspension feels a little stiffer when going over sharp broken portion of the road at slow speeds on the 55 profile 16 inchers. But as the speed picks up the suspension soaks up everything nicely. The EPS steering has been a bit of disappointment for me. It does not feel as connected as the Corolla during cornering. Maybe it’s just me having got used to the Corolla, can’t say. But definitely more was expected. (Makes me realise now how awesome the Palio’s steering was. If it weren’t for those awful brakes it would still be in my garage) In a straight line, the stability of the car is amazing and Laura just feels unshakeable. I haven’t pushed it beyond 140 kph in the initial run in period. I must mention how the Laura masks speed. 140 kph feels like 110 kph in the Corolla. The additional 6th gear means that the engine is ticking over at just about 3000 rpm at this speed and general noise levels are very much lower.

Turning radius : The turning radius of the two cars is almost identical.

Ground Clearance : The corolla’s ground clearance at 175mm has been more than adequate with the car scraping its belly only when fully loaded on the tallest of speed-breakers. The corollas suspension being a bit softly sprung tends to make the rear squat when fully loaded. The Laura with 164mm GC is lower than the Corolla, but the GC is pretty adequate and has almost similar speed breaker handling capabilities as the Corolla. When fully loaded the suspension does not squat as much as the Corolla, which gives it a slight edge while negotiating those skyscrapers.

Brakes : Both cars have disc brakes all round. The Corolla’s brakes back then did not come with ABS or any other fancy gadgetry, just good old vacuum assisted disc brakes. The brakes have terrific feel, are very predictable and impart good control to the driver. I have never had any issues with Corolla’s braking, be it dry road or wet. The Laura’s brakes are new and needed some running in to really be judged. Also given that I have been very gentle with the car for the run in, it is too early to judge the brakes. Thankfully Skoda has not skimped on the brakes package on this car and this car comes, with ABS, ESP, TCS et al. The brakes offer good feel and control and seem to be adequate for this power house.

Engine & gearbox performance :
The Corolla’s VVTi engine produces 125 Bhp and 160 NM of torque . The motor has more than adequate pulling power and gratifies the driver with instant power delivery. The car is ever ready to lunge forward and closing gaps in traffic or making that tight overtaking move has been very easy. The motor has good torque in the bottom end and one does not need to downshift very often to get going. Which is just as well. The gear shift has been the biggest grouse I have had with the car. The shift action is very hard and unjapanese like. I have pointed this out at almost every periodic service, thinking maybe it is so only with my car, only to be told that all old gen Corollas have a hard shifting stick. Highway performance is very good, with the Corolla gamely holding its own against Laura’s , Civics, Citys, Vernas and the like during highway duels. Cruising at 150 to 160kph is not a strain on the motor and it has enough in its reserves to power on faster. At very slow crawling speeds the motor has a tendency to stall and requires generous use of the clutch.

The Laura’s motor came with enormous build up and is the USP of the petrol version of the new Laura. And it does not disappoint. The one thing that first stands out is as to how silent and refined this motor is. I had virtually no other way of telling whether the engine is running or not except looking at the tacho needle . The distinguishing feature of the 160 Bhp TSI motor is that it is Turbo charged. The 250 nm of torque which it boasts of , is almost diesel car like and unusually high for a petrol motor. I might be crucified for saying this, but the Laura feels a bit sluggish on take off and very slow crawling speeds. The motor is not as eager as the Corolla to take off from standstill and takes an ever so slight while to wake up until the turbo gets into action. Once the turbo kicks in, all hell breaks loose and the car just takes off like a jet. As turbo lags go, this TSI engine has the slightest of it. But it is still there, which has made it a little difficult for me to plan those tight overtaking manoeuvres or catch that small gap in traffic, which I would have done easily in my Corolla. Once up to speed there is no looking back and car just bolts forward. The climb from 100 to 150 is my favourite part. Just a jab on accelerator while doing 100kph and then next moment speedo shows 150. The 6 speed manual gearbox is light and accurate. Though not as slick as some Hondas, it is much more user friendly and quicker than the Corolla’s. The 6th gear also makes this car a very relaxed cruiser on the highway and helps achieve good FE figures.

Fuel Efficiency: I regularly average around 10 to 11 kmpl in city conditions in my Corolla. On Highways this goes up to about 12~12.50. The Laura has returned about 9 kmpl in the city cycle during the run in period, with a very conservative style of driving. Hoping this figure would improve post run in, but may also be offset by a heavier foot on the accelerator. So I expect the FE to be in this region for this car.

Last edited by Santoshbhat : 14th July 2011 at 17:19.
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Old 13th July 2011, 22:17   #8
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Default Pics!

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-1.jpg

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-2.jpg

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-3.jpg

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-4.jpg

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-5.jpg

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-7.jpg

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-8.jpg

Silver Skoda Laura TSI, 200 BHP & Bilstein Suspension. UPDATE: 70,000 kms up-9.jpg
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Old 14th July 2011, 17:28   #9
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Default Re: Petrol power – My Silver Laura TSI (and a comparo with the 1st gen Corolla)

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Initial Ownership forum. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th July 2011, 17:42   #10
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Default Re: Petrol power – My Silver Laura TSI (and a comparo with the 1st gen Corolla)

Congrats Santosh and Welcome to the Laura club, a long pending Ownership experience I guess. You have a Stunner cum Scorcher, the alloys beautiful and colour is very pleasant. Wish you clock trouble free miles on your Laura, Drive Safe!
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Old 14th July 2011, 18:08   #11
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Default Re: Petrol power – My Silver Laura TSI (and a comparo with the 1st gen Corolla)

Congratulations!! The 16" rims from L&K look great but most people would not be able to tell them from regular 15" rims of Ambiente.
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Old 14th July 2011, 18:57   #12
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Default Re: Petrol power – My Silver Laura TSI (and a comparo with the 1st gen Corolla)

Congratulations Santosh for your brand new Skoda Laura. The car looks pretty in Silver shade.

Please do update your thread regularly with pictures and service updates.

Wishing you happy and safe driving.
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Old 14th July 2011, 19:13   #13
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Default Re: Petrol power – My Silver Laura TSI (and a comparo with the 1st gen Corolla)

Santoshbhat, this is one of the best written ownership reviews on T-BHP. You have simple yet expressive style. I loved the objective way you compared both cars. I am fascinated by the German-vs-Japanese debate myself and your observations are spot-on!

Is that a silver Laura you have or cappucino beige? It sucks that Skoda has deleted the cool features on the Ambiente- it used to be a helluva value proposition before.
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Old 14th July 2011, 19:13   #14
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Default Re: Petrol power – My Silver Laura TSI (and a comparo with the 1st gen Corolla)

Santosh,

Why don't you post interior and exterior pics of your Ex and the Laura alongside?
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Old 14th July 2011, 19:26   #15
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Default Re: Petrol power – My Silver Laura TSI (and a comparo with the 1st gen Corolla)

A very well written review!

Congrats on the beauty!

Drive safe
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