Oil burners are the need of the hour with mostly every manufacturer turning towards their R&D team for bringing in more and more of oil burners. Some even borrow from their strategic alliances. By this, we mean the Tata Fiat coalition, the Suzuki-Fiat coalition and so on. Every manufacturer worth its salt has got a oil burner in their lineup except Honda. Honda says that their high profile diesel engines wouldn’t suit the Indian fuel. Upon reading this, I am sure many of you would have a string of expletives lined up. Even we think on the same lines. But then this article isn’t about Honda’s business acumen. Its more about crowning the top pick in the D segment diesel car lineup. Except Honda, which we haven’t included in this test, all the other manufacturers have brought in their diesel engines. Public poll says that the Chevrolet Cruze in India with its new look interiors is a huge hit amongst the D segment flashy buyers. The Toyota Corolla Altis in India is for those looking for a reliable way of motoring while the Skoda Laura in India is not more of a showman but its about being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We have pitted the three against each other here and a winner would certainly be crowned. Read on if you want to know more.
In the looks department, there is no rivaling the butch and in your face styling of the Cruze. If you want to get second glances every time you take out your car for a spin, then it’s the Chevrolet Cruze for you. Concept car designing along with bold Chevy bowtie on the grille means that this car warrants and screams for attention. 16 inch tyres along with one of the better looking OEM alloy wheel design ensure that it doesn’t lose any ground from the side profile as well. The rear with that chunky tail pipe also looks cool. The Corolla Altis, in its old avatar doesn’t even used to warrant a second glance but with the new look for the diesel, it is gaining more fans than earlier. The front nose job has been done up wonderfully and is similar to the one found internationally on this car. All the three cars here come with outside rearview mirror indicators. The Laura in the meanwhile can be highly confused for the Superb as the family face is getting a bit tacky. Even though this is the case, move to the back of the car and it seems balanced with the front end. While the Cruze is a hunk with beefed up muscles, the Corolla is much more of a wannabe while the Laura is the middle aged man who has seen it all before.
Our pick on the looks front would be the Chevrolet Cruze followed by the Toyota Corolla Altis and then the Skoda Laura.
The new Cruze with the jet black interiors does look a class apart than the rest here. The all black interiors coupled with the high waistline however does make this car look seem a bit claustrophobic. There is however no dearth of gadgets to play around with. There is the reverse camera, push button start, climate control with air sensing mode, airplane like cockpit, electrically adjustable front seats, auto dimming ORVMs and many more. The Chevrolet Cruze in India accommodates drivers of most sizes and shapes. Finding an ideal driving position isn’t a problem in it. The Toyota Corolla Altis in the meanwhile features gray color interiors with a mix of wooden trim for the central console. Why, even the steering wheel is half wood and half covered by leather. The Corolla Altis diesel is also fully loaded with 6 speaker and CD audio system which is USB as also MP3 compatible, climate control, steering mounted controls, HID head lamps with an auto function and also washer for them. Space in the Corolla is fantastic and a tad better than that of the Cruze which makes one feel, as we discussed earlier, claustrophobic. Now the Skoda Laura boasts of the best interiors in this class. It has got anti pinch power windows, rear parking sensors, twin chillers and a rear privacy screen. However compared to the other two, the Laura is short on features with the main exclusion being that of steering mounted controls. It is a wee bit more spacious than the Cruze in the rear however the backrest is angled more keeping in mind the human contours. The low hugging stance of the Cruze makes ingress egress a bit of a problem which is slightly better in the Corolla followed by the Laura. Boot space however is best in the Laura at 560 liters while the Altis and Cruze follow it with space of 475 and 450 liters respectively. All the cars here come with 60:40 split rear seats which can accommodate a bit more of luggage, should the need arise.
The Toyota Corolla followed by the Skoda Laura and then the Chevy Cruze.
Handling and ride quality
The Toyota Corolla Altis in India is one car which actually surprises with its ride quality. Its ride quality is next to perfection and being a softly sprung car means that it absorbs bumps very effectively. It is relatively unfazed by even the small intrusions which might cause other sedans to lose their composure. However the steering wheel is utterly light and is almost lifeless like that in the Camry. Not only does the Corolla hate to be hustled in a corner, it even shows it with lots of body roll. Not an enthusiastic car though and is more for the chauffer driven rather than the enthusiast. Enthusiastic drivers would want to take a look at the Chevrolet Cruze in India. It delights with its tight body configuration which ensures that the car doesn’t roll much when cornered hard. However the lifeless steering wheel does spoil the party. The stiff suspension however doesn’t take its toll on one’s spine. Infact fully loaded, the Cruze provides for a nice ride quality. The Laura earlier on, was widely criticized for its stiff suspension but Skoda Auto India have done well to soften it a bit and now the Laura can be called as one of the best cars in this segment as far as the ride and handling characteristics go. Its steering wheel is also well balanced and has lots of feedback to deliver. The ride quality has noticeably increased from that of the earlier one. NVH is lowest on the Laura followed by the Cruze and then the Corolla Altis, though there isn’t much of a difference and the sporty roar that the Cruze brings along with it once the turbo is on full song is something which enthusiasts would welcome with open arms.
It would be the Skoda Laura with its all round capabilities followed by the Cruze and then the Corolla.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The engine under the hood of the Skoda Laura in India is a 2.0 liter common rail diesel one which pumps 110 Bhp at 4200 rpm and is mated with a 5 speed manual transmission. There is a 140 Bhp version of this diesel available however that is available only with a DSG transmission and since we are talking about manual transmissions here, we have omitted it from this comparo. This engine shoots from 0-100 kmph in only 12.7 seconds while seeing a top speed of 187 kmph. This engine suffers from turbo lag but not as much as the one in the Cruze. However the gearing of this car overcomes the turbo lag in the city and makes driving it a pleasurable experience. The gearshift action is also very slick. The engine in the Cruze is the most powerful in this lot. The 2.0 liter engine makes 148 Bhp of power at 4000 rpm while the peak torque of 327 Nm comes in at a high 2600 rpm. Driving the Cruze around in town means changing gears frequently. Moreover the power delivery isn’t as linear but once the turbo is on full song, the car gives a shove in the back with its acceleration. 0-100 kmph is covered in only 9.2 seconds. That makes it blistering fast. The top speed is a cool 202 kmph. If one is ready to forget the turbo lag, then this car should be the one for hardcore enthusiasts. While the engine in the Toyota Corolla Altis in India is one of the smallest in this comparison, it is one excellent performer. This engine makes 87 Bhp of power at 3800 rpm while the 205 Nm of torque comes in as low as 1800 rpm. The 6 speed gearbox is a perfect ally for this engine as it is precise and slots into its gate perfectly, even if the throws are a bit long. The 0-100 kmph figure is more in the ballpark of diesel hatchbacks which have not so potent diesel engines. The 0-100 kmph figure would read as 14.7 seconds and the top speed is also 168 kmph. The engine however is butter smooth in its operation. There is no perceptible turbo lag in the city and the engine is one drivable unit. It goes about its work efficiently and without much fuss.
What is the use of all this power if it cannot be reigned in? To that very effect, all the cars in this comparison come with 4 wheel disc brakes coupled with ABS, EBD and ESP. Stopping power is almost equal however the most undramatic stopping prowess is possessed by the Chevrolet Cruze. The Toyota Corolla on the other hand has a long brake pedal travel which takes some time getting used to. The Laura on the other hand is also a calm and composed machine as far as braking stakes go but its brakes take a wee bit longer than those in the Cruze. Safety aspect is also similar in all the three cars here with the only sore point that the Corolla Altis doesn’t come with airbags in its base version. Simply not accepted from the world’s largest car manufacturer, Toyota.
As far as fuel efficiency is concerned, the Chevrolet Cruze in India delivers an overall mileage of 12.7 kmpl. The Skoda Laura just precedes it with an overall mileage figure of 13.3 kmpl while the Toyota Corolla Altis in India is the star of the lot returning an overall mileage of 17.7 kmpl. 17.7 kmpl overall is hatchback territory and something which is really stupendous of a 1245 kg kerb weight car. All the credit goes to the smaller capacity engine and the overall light weight of this car.
Though it may sound clichéd, it is the Toyota Corolla’s engine which we would prefer for the utter stress free nature that it goes about its work. Second spot is shared by the Cruze and the Laura. The Toyota is also the most fuel efficient of the lot.
The Toyota Corolla Altis in India had taken a long time in its coming however as and when it did, it directly went heads on with the segment leader, the Skoda Laura. The Skoda Laura has been presiding over this segment for quite a long time however it was high time that it was overthrown from its perch. Okay, so to put hit the nail right on the head, the Chevrolet Cruze in India would appeal to those looking at adding some flash in their daily lives while getting diesel economy from their car. It is also the most powerful of this lot and is a hoot to drive. It is reasonably spacious and well equipped. It however isn’t a driver’s car primarily due to its vague steering. The Skoda Laura in India with its wide array of engine and transmission options is an alluring buy. It has got the space, pace and fuel economy. However for its price, it offers far less equipment than the other two cars here. Moreover, Skoda’s after sales service has taken quite a hit and Skoda need to rectify it immediately. The Toyota Corolla Altis however provides for acres of space for the chauffer driven as also for the chauffer. It has loads of equipment on offer. The engine may be befitting hatches but it has an ease of driving and also is very fuel efficient. Yes, its not a driver’s car but then the middle aged person would never want to corner at speeds of 100 plus. It provides that all important ride quality and that is what matters the most. It also has the Toyota badge on its nose, something which the others in this comparison simply cannot match. Coming down to the pricing, the Chevrolet Cruze price in India starts from Rs 11.78 lakhs and ends at 13.41 lakhs. It gets an automatic transmission option as well. The Skoda Laura price in India starts from Rs 11.44 lakhs and ends at Rs 15.8 lakhs. An excellent twin clutch DSG is offered as an option. The Toyota Corolla Altis price in India is from Rs 10.88 lakhs to 13.76 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai.
Our top pick is the Toyota Corolla Altis diesel followed by the Skoda Laura and then the Chevrolet Cruze.