Third report: What better way to enjoy a manual than on twisty, mountain roads? Here’s our weekend with the Slavia.
Not surprisingly, the majority of Skoda Slavias sold are the automatic variants, as customers demand more convenience and ease of use in their daily grind to work. But if you drive to Mahabaleshwar regularly, as I do, you may want the manual. My first stint with the 1.5 Slavia since it entered our long-term fleet reminded me that nothing beats the connection and intimacy you get with a manual.
Slick 6-speeder has a short throw and makes shifting fun.
It’s the simple pleasures of being able to push the engine to the redline without some computer deciding when it’s time to upshift, indulging in the lost art of heel and toeing with every downshift, or merely flicking through the gate of the 6-speed gearbox. True, a lot of cars still have manual transmissions, but the way the world is going, they could become extinct, so it’s best to enjoy them while you still can. And there’s no better place to enjoy a manual than on a twisty road, which is why I called dibs on the Slavia when a weekend trip to the hills beckoned.
Complementing the 6-speed manual gearbox is the 150hp, 1.5-litre turbo-petrol, which is actually the heart and soul of the Slavia. It’s an absolutely brilliant motor that has a punchy mid-range and a strong top end, which, allied to the tall gearing of the 6-speed manual, gives the Slavia a capacity to munch miles without breaking into a sweat.
1.5 turbo-petrol has immense punch and is quite smooth too.
The 1.5 Slavia is a long-legged car, and 100kph – the speed limit on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway – equates to a lazy 2,000rpm in sixth gear. Third gear, good for 160kph is a good overtaking tool and, at cruising, speeds falls nicely in the meat of the 1.5 motor’s powerband. A small flex of the right foot is all that’s needed for the Slavia to lunge ahead and this surplus of power makes the 1.5 Slavia a brilliant highway car. It’s even better on a winding road.
The 11km drive up the Wai Ghat to Panchgani was an absolute blast. Flicking between second and third gears, and sometimes down to first for the tighter hairpins, to keep the 1.5-litre turbo-petrol on the boil was a weekend’s worth of entertainment dished out in just 15 minutes. It’s not just the strong engine and slick gearbox that make the Slavia such fun to drive, it is also the easy and predictable handling. The suspension is really well-calibrated and perfect for the bumpy roads around Mahabaleshwar.
Turbo lag at low revs calls for frequent shifts.
Driving in the hills also exposes one of the weaknesses of the 1.5 Slavia – turbo lag. Because of the tall gearing, engine revs tend to drop. And so, at low revs, there’s a fair bit of turbo lag and you end up shifting down a gear and using the gearbox frequently, which honestly is no bad thing. It’s bad for fuel efficiency though and this shot of spirited driving came at a price. The Slavia gave 8.8kpl on these mountain roads, which pulled down the overall average to 11.2kpl. It’s not great but not bad by turbo-petrol standards.
Cabin lacks the European feel of previous Skodas.
Speaking of standards, poke around the cabin and it’s clear that fit and finish is not up to German levels. Some of the fabrics are beginning to look scruffy and the woven roof liner also looks the worse for wear. But the moment you pop the clutch and put your right foot down, you’ll forget what you were grumbling about. This is truly an entertaining car.