Skoda Slavia 1.5 TSI DSG: Observations by a Rapid 1.6 MPI AT owner

I've tried noting down my observations of the Slavia to the best of my abilities as compared to my 10 year old Rapid AT MPI and my buying decision.

BHPian Shome recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

My thoughts on upgrading from a 2012 Rapid AT, 1.6 MPI (Petrol) to the Slavia 1.5 DSG:

A bit of background about my Rapid, it's a pre-worshipped early 2012 Elegance variant with a TC which I had bought in 2017 just shy of 45k on the odo. It’s been our companion on numerous trips to Goa, and occasional trips to Karnataka, Gujarat, TN, J&K, Rajasthan, Delhi, UK, UP, MP...virtually all places other than the north east of India. Also, it’s the only 4-wheeler we own at this point in time and the first pre-worshipped vehicle that I’ve ever owned.

And I’ve had nothing much to complain about yet! An upgrade is not necessary but I am looking at some of the newer options available to satisfy an itch, that’s all that it is for now. We’re more biassed towards sedans as compared to SUVs, preferring better dynamics over ground clearance and commanding seating positions. I’ve been driving for over 20 years now and realized that a sedan can cover 90% of all the motorable destinations that we would end up visiting, be it in the plains or up in the mountains albeit, with some precautions and sometimes a risk or two.

Couldn't resist showing off my 10 year old beauty after a trip to Joshimath (Auli) from Mumbai earlier this year:

After the mandatory TLC:

The Slavia 1.5 DSG vs Rapid 1.6 MPI comparo:

I've tried noting down my observations of the Slavia to the best of my abilities as compared to my 10 year old Rapid AT MPI and my buying decision. I’m only comparing those aspects which matter to me and differentiate Slavia from the Rapid.

Note: The comparison is only versus the petrol 1.6 MPI engine. I consider myself to be a sedate driver, who does not really yearn for sporty performance but I do like my car to be a good handler.

What I like about the Rapid:

  • Solid build quality, absence of major rattles, creaks, and sounds even after 10 years and over 1 lac kms on the odo.
  • Surprisingly affordable maintenance although this is subjective. I have spent slightly more than 1.5 lacs over the past 5 years for its upkeep. This includes 2 sets of tyres (Michelin XM2+ and Continental UC6), a suspension overhaul (Monroe), a steering rack change last year, the usual consumables as per the service schedule, plus labour costs at my FNG, 2 sets of headlights upgraded to Hella H4, it’s relay, and 4 sets of ABS sensors from the Skoda A.S.S (3 of which were FOC)
  • The driving dynamics still brings a smile on my face even today, it's amazing how good and balanced the chassis is, it's evident when you take those hilly curves in "S" mode and leave the more modern and powerful newer generation vehicles behind. Kudos to the suspension as well, one of the better ones in terms of high speed performance.
  • Steering feedback is great, predictable, and doesn't surprise you. This was my baseline.
  • Good Fuel Efficiency - hovering between 8-10 kmpl in bumper to bumper traffic, 11-14 kmpl while spirited driving (well north of triple digit speeds), and 15-19 kmpl when driving between 80-100 kmph with a light foot. Mileage is not a deal breaker or even a criteria for me, I like to drive and feel spending on petrol despite the high prices is something I want to gift myself with every time I’m behind the wheels.

What I dislike:

  • The D-mode is a joke, so much so that I always end up driving in the S-mode other than in stop-go city traffic. This only time I enjoy the D-mode is when you want to get into that zen mode, where you don’t really care about other drivers, don’t think about taking those small gaps to evertake, how bad someone is driving, or how someone cut you off….basically as my wife says, “when you’re not being judgemental on the road”. Overtaking in the D-mode takes time, has to be planned, and is honestly a pain.
  • Suspension at lower speeds, possibly a trade off considering the good high speed performance. Although it is smooth and cushiony when driven slow, it does thud when driven at above 20kmph on bad roads or through those craters that magically appear in Mumbai every other day. I have upgraded to 195/60 section tires, hoping that the suspension would make less of a thud, but that hasn’t helped.
  • The NA engine (1.6 MPI) is showing its age. The engine and gearbox combo cannot keep up (or stay close) in straight line acceleration with new age TSI's or turbo charged engines from all other segments. Plus side is, I’ve stopped trying to race off the line at signals, wifey says, it’s cos of your advancing age and maturity, I blame it on the engine. She hasn’t seen me ride my Vulcan…thankfully.
  • Torque - The MPI was never torquey like the TDI, and I never missed it earlier, but I can now feel the difference after test driving a number of turbo-charged petrol cars.
  • The above pointers were my baseline while comparing the Slavia 1.5 AT.

What I liked about the 1.5 Slavia:

  • The cockpit is an upgrade and is a nice place to be, the dash and dials are nice to look at, touch and feel is acceptable. Overall, looks are up to current standards, as ergonomic as any other German car, everythings’ where it should be. You feel at home as soon as you step in the driver's seat.
  • Ventilated seats - More than welcome to keep my bottom comfy with ambient temps in Mumbai close to 40 deg. I think this is an absolute necessity today and when comparing the features from competitors.
  • The 1.5 TSI engine pulls like a freight train. Seemed like a big upgrade from my current ride, this was something that I was looking and hoping for. Turbo lag is definitely evident below an RPM of ~2k which someone like me coming from a NA engine will need getting used to. Gear shifts are instant, obviously faster than the TC in my Rapid both while going up or down.
  • The steering design is polarising, but I’m one of those guys who likes it, the leather feels premium and good to hold. But this is only about the design, not the steering feedback, more on that later
  • Boot space is slightly bigger, but what I like the most is the 60:40 split rear seats. I really felt the need for them over the years, another check box ticked.
  • Sound system is good, better than my Rapid, the woofer adds the needed amount of bass that I always missed. The sound is crisp, clear, and the overall soundstage is definitely a couple of notches higher.
  • It’s a looker, probably one of the best looking sedans in the market yet (till the Virtus comes out), a dechromed one with interiors of a Monte Carlo edition is what I would kill for.
  • 3 times the airbags as compared to the Rapid, a big big plus.

What I disliked:

  • Let’s talk about torque steer - It was quite a rude shock the way the torque steer was ‘mis’-managed as compared to the Rapid. It kicked in as soon as the turbo spools and was quite unmanageable. I have never had to control the steering and do corrections so much on other Turbo charged vehicles. I am planning to TD another Slavia from a different showroom to confirm if this is not specific to this particular TD vehicle.
  • The biggest let down for me was the steering feedback. It’s extremely light at low speeds, does weigh up a bit as we go faster, but nothing, and I repeat, Nothing compared to my Rapid. I felt quite vulnerable with this light steering. This will need getting used to, but this was a complete downer. Will a beefier tyre make it more weighty? I hope so, but for now, this checkbox will remain unchecked.
  • No “One touch” auto up windows other than for the driver. This is a miss, a big one, when you are progressing to a newer and more advanced vehicle from the same stable and when you’re paying a premium. It’s a something that I end up using quite often in my Rapid.
  • The quality of the internal map lights seemed dodgy, and may not be built to last.
  • Weirdly cut interior lining in the boot where the hinges are attached. Those big holes on either side are an eyesore, not that anyone’s going to look at them, but it will always be there in the back of my head.

Things I didn’t care about:

  • Ground clearance - I haven’t really faced massive issues with the Rapid in terms of ground clearance, even on hilly terrains in J&K, UK, etc. So the added ground clearance wasn’t really a major need (this will be against popular opinion). I personally felt the stance and dynamics would have been even better with a slightly lower ground clearance.
  • Slightly more leg room - It’s only marginally roomier than the Rapid, no one in my family is over 5’10”, so it was good to have, but not a deal maker for me.
  • Boot-space - Again, bigger than the rapid but won’t really make a massive difference. Rapid has the capacity to ingest all the luggage that we can possibly carry on our road trips, so again not a deal maker
  • Sunroof - I’ve driven a few cars with panoramic sunroofs during my road trips, for me it’s a vanity feature which is impractical in the Indian context. Too hot, too cold, too rainy, and more importantly, too dusty. I’m never going to look at the sky while I drive, never going to let kids pop their body parts out, ever, wife doesn’t care, and it’s one more part that can make me visit the A.S.S when something goes wrong.
  • The slide controls for AC - although I found them intuitive, some functions will need me to take my eyes off the road, something that I will get used to over time.
  • DSG - Although this is a major plus, I did not put it in the “good” sections due to the DQ200s long term reliability concerns. Extended warranty will take care of my pocket, the headache I am willing to live with knowing this can be an issue sometime in the future.

Buying decision - so what’s the verdict then?

Well, the Slavia as a package is good, looks great, will age well, similar to the Rapid, has some really nice features, great engine, is safer in terms of airbags, and slightly more spacious.

However, for my specific requirements, I don’t see value in the upgrade. 25 big ones for a slightly bigger car, similar interior quality (I’m talking about the hard plastics, and touch areas), and poorer steering feedback, which is a deal-breaker for me is not justifiable. Moreover, other than the engine, it doesn’t seem like an upgrade that merits the on-road cost.

But that doesn’t mean that the Slavia isn’t good, it’s a great option for buyers who are currently driving cars from the C1 segment or lower, or people who want to experience German tech and drivability for the first time. It's ahead of it's competition. With the improvement in Skoda A.S.S, things look good for the future but it’s just not for someone who already owns a Rapid or a Vento.

Ok, now where’s that damn Octavia…

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

Seat belts save lives