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!

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. 

Year Model Lap Time Exit C1 Apex C2 Top speed Split 1 Split 2 Exit C6 Entry C8 Exit onto straight
2020 Octavia RS245 2m03.71s 123kph 73kph 173.06kph 41.77s 1m36.37s 109kph 106kph 94kph
2017 Octavia RS 2m06.80s 121.22kph 72.41kph 164.23kph 43.10s 1m38.80s 109.29kph 97.52kph 89.08kph
2022 Slavia 1.5 MT 2m09.77s 112kph 74kph 151.55kph 44.41s 1m41.60s 104kph 108kph 89kph
2013 Octavia 1.8 TSI 2m10.75s 114.08kph 71.22kph 153.7kph 44.39s 1m42.23s 103.03kph 93.28kph 89.96kph
2011 Laura vRS 2m11.70s 113.5kph 71.57kph 149.88kph 45.02s 1m42.85s 104.9kph 97.56kph 90.44kph
2009 Laura 1.8 TSI 2m12.55s 68.66kph 101.49kph 149.5kph 45.30s 1m58.25s 101.49kph 100.43kph 88.55kph
2004 Octavia RS 2m15.30s 110.9kph 73.70kph 140.8kph 46.70s 1m46.60s 104.55kph 121.07kph 86.02kph

Also read:

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

2022 Skoda Slavia 1.5 TSI video review 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email
%d bloggers like this: