Close on the heels of having driven the Skoda Octavia, I wanted to have a go at its global replacement, the Skoda Laura in India. As is the trend in India, both the old and new vehicles sell side by side and this means that we can pick out the apparent differences in both the cars. Since not long back, I had a go at the Skoda Superb with its 1.8 TSI engine and then recently with the Skoda Octavia’s 1.9 liter engine, I thought it prudent to ask Skoda for the 2.0 liter diesel variant of the Skoda Laura in India. This variant recently has been hogging all the limelight and for good reasons. We are quite friendly now (me and the PR people from Skoda Auto India Limited) since we have been interacting on a fair basis. Know what, a few of them are actually now on my Facebook list. No wonder, I can get my work done easily with them. However the model in demand, the Skoda Laura 2.0 Tdi variant was available only in its automatic guise. Alright, I definitely am fine with it. So, come the very next day, the spanking new green Skoda Laura is in the office parking lot.
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Well, the award of “Best Looking Car” somewhere down Europe does speak volumes of this car. However I personally don’t feel that it is a good looking car. At best, it is an inoffensive looking car. The rectangular grille at the front is creased more to give it a distinct look than the Skoda Octavia. The head lamps are now more powerful units and have a day time running lamp slot in them but then for India, it has been disconnected. Skoda should take note of this since we Indians love flashy things. The annoying black piece of rubber beading runs across the car’s length. The fog lamps are big and may be the biggest specimen that I have ever seen. The 16 inch alloy wheels in the top of the line variant that I have with me also looks classy. Don’t know why but most of the Indian manufacturers prefer having their alloy wheels designed in an unobtrusive way. Come on people, out with flashier designs.
The wing mirrors are still small and are body colored. So are the door handles. The rear end shows that the same design theme as found on the Skoda Octavia with little changes to the notchback. Wonder why they don’t give good tail pipes to this car, the stock one looks too bland and somewhat down market.
The interiors of the Laurin and Klement version of the Skoda Laura in India are slightly different from the regular Skoda Laura’s all black ones. The L&K variants have onyx leather and beige interiors. This makes the cabin seem a more beautiful place to live in. Well, the dashboard is pretty much the same but then the cabin materials are all the more alluring and high quality. The 4 spoke steering wheel now boasts of audio control, cruise control and Bluetooth functions. The 6 CD changer with aux input makes it easier for the tech junkie that I am. The speaker quality is also very good. The odour, pollen filter included automatic climate control system is very effective. Two 12V power sockets are there inside the cabin whereas the textile floor mats give a quality feel. The front seats are 6 way power adjustable with memory functions. Moving onto the rear seats, I found that the chink in the Skoda Octavia’s armor, the lack of head room space has been effectively addressed by the Skoda Laura in India. The backrest is also angled in such a way that it helps tall passengers to have a wee bit more leg room. Been a L&K variant, this car also had a power sunroof which added a bit more to the elegant interiors. Nothing to fault as of such in this cabin. The boot space improves upon the Octavia’s with about 529 liters of space available for storing luggage. The rear seats of the car also split 60.
Handling and ride quality
Based on the old Golf’s platform, the Skoda Laura in India is one hell of a beast. That it caters to the chauffer driven clientele just shows that the ride quality should be a top priority. The front features McPherson suspension with torsion lower triangular links and stabilizer whereas the rear has Multi-element axle, three transverse links with one longitudinal and a torsion stabilizer. This setup, like the Octavia’s is also on the firmer side. This is very evident when the car is been driven in the city. The best part as in the Octavia is that this car doesn’t bottom out even if a full complement of passengers are there.
All this translates to a fine handling experience however. This car is an eager beaver much like the ones from Bavaria rather than Ingolstadt. The steering wheel is now lighter at city speeds but then weighs up sufficiently out on the highways. It has tilt & telescopic function and is electronically assisted rather than been hydraulically. This car has very high limits as regards the handling feature is concerned. Chuck it into a corner and the car is all the more eager to satisfy your requirements. At the very edge, ESP would cut in and correct the trajectory of the car.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The Skoda Laura in India is offered with three engine options. First is the 1.8 liter TSI petrol engine which produces 160 Bhp, the second one is the 1.9 PD diesel engine which makes an uprated 105 Bhp of peak power whereas the third is the 2.0 liter Tdi diesel engine which has 140 Bhp on tap. The torque spread for the latter is 320 Nm starting as low as 1750 rpm.
This been a L&K variant, it has got to be fully loaded. The 2 liter engine is mated with a 6 speed DSG transmission with manual paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. This car is fast and by fast, I mean really fast. It races from 0-100 kmph in only 8.7 seconds while attaining a top speed of 211 kmph. The engine noise unlike the PD unit is nicely damped and makes this a truly luxurious car. One thing which I noticed is that the car tends to stall at low revs. This is real irritating, especially if you are driving a car as posh as Skoda Laura and the car stalls 2-3 times, then people would say that you are better off in a Maruti 800.
The gearbox also deserves a special mention since it is a DSG and has lightning fast upshifts as well as down shifts. Most of the time I found myself in manual mode tripping the paddle shifts. One more interesting thing is that this car can induce wheel spins in first as well as second gear. The engine is really powerful than what its 140 Bhp suggests. It is also very free revving for a diesel. It actually seems a wolf in sheeps clothing. The exteriors wouldn’t suggest that this is a performance car. Turbo lag is less evident that the 1.9 liter engine and the power delivery is linear as well.
I got to check the car’s braking efficiency especially when a dog darted in front of me on the road. At that time, I was cruising at around 80 kmph. Jamming on the brake pedal gave me sufficient time to avoid hitting man’s best friend. The brake pedal modulation was also very good. In order to ensure that no untoward incident happens, this car has been provided with ABS, traction control, EBD and ESP. To ensure that all the occupants are safe, this car comes with 4 air bags, rear parking sensors, collapsible steering column, 3 point seat belts and crash reinforced body. Didn’t I mention that Skoda builds its cars like battle tanks?
Now, the 1.9 liter motor may be highly lauded for its fuel efficiency however the 2.0 liter isn’t too far behind. Inspite of all the performance on tap, this car still returned 12.4 kmpl in the city cycle whereas the highway mileage figures were around the 17 kmpl mark. Hot saloon is what describes the Skoda Laura in India.
The Skoda Laura in India is an important product for the company. It can be called the bread and butter model for the company since there are not many Skoda Fabias that sell. Even the Octavia is also showing its age now in the face of new competition. The Laura is what one would want in their car. It has got the stately looks(entirely subjective), space(though a tad more wouldn’t be amiss in the rear), high equipment levels, is safe, powerful and also fuel efficient. The only problem that may crop up is the irritating trend of the car to stall at low revs and also the tales about Skoda Auto India’s erratic after sales. The Skoda Laura price in India differs widely upon the variant chosen. The base 1.8 liter TSI model sells for Rs 13,31,672 (ex-show room Delhi) whereas the top of the line Skoda Laura 2.0 TDI L&K AT sells for Rs 17,98,032 (ex-show room Delhi). Its main competition in India is with the Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta and the Chevrolet Cruze.
Technical specifications of the Skoda Laura 2.0 TDI AT
Engine details: 2.0L In-Line Engine with turbocharger
No. of Cylinders: 4
Maximum Power: 140 Bhp @ 4000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 320 Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm
Valve Configuration: DOHC
Valves Per Cylinder: 4
Bore x Stroke: 82.5 x 84.2
Fuel Supply System: Direct Injection
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Turbo Charger: Yes
Transmission details: 6 Speed Automatic DSG with paddle shifters
Drive Type: Front wheel drive
Front Suspension: McPherson suspension with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser
Rear Suspension: Multi-element axle, with one longitudinal and three transverse links, with torsion stabiliser
Steering details: Electronic Power assisted with Rack & Pinion
Steering Column: Tilt & Telescopic
Turning Radius (wheel base): 5.3 m
Front Brake Type: Ventilated Disc
Rear Brake Type: Solid Disc
Mileage-City (kmpl): 12.4
Mileage-Highway (kmpl): 17.0
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Tank Capacity (litres): 62
Tyre Size: 205/55 R16
Wheel Size: 16 x 6.5J
Alloy Wheel Size: 16 in.
No of Doors: 4
Seating Capacity: 5