The Škoda Octavia has been one of the mainstays of Škoda in India since its inception in 2001 and it was later on superseded by a new version, strangely enough called the “Laura” in India. The Octavia changed the fortunes of Škoda in India and made it a household name for anyone looking at entry in the premium segment, and continued to rule the roost, till recently. Other manufacturers too sought a quick share in the pie and Hyundai moved in earlier than others with the Elantra, a fresh look at this segment.
The Elantra has had an excellent innings in India as well. The earlier model, launched in 2004 was also quite popular, but Hyundai changed the game with its “fluidic” design, which gave the car very good looks and a potent diesel engine. The petrol powerplant at 1.8-litres with an output of 148 horses is quite good as well, but in larger cars people prefer a diesel and hence the popularity of the common-rail diesel, which has an output of only 128 horses but a massive 265 Nm of torque, making the Elantra a keen performer.
The exteriors of the two cars are as different as chalk and cheese. While the Octavia’s interiors are totally European with a very upright and straitjacketed feel,and a design that mainly comprises of straight lines,the Elantra is more funky and curvaceous with turns at the right places and a design that flirts with your senses while cheating the wind. Let us take a look at the Octavia’s exteriors first.
If you are looking for a vehicle, which has clean-cut lines and a very teutonic sense of humour, look no further than the new Octavia. A young design team led by Škoda design chief Jozef Kaba? worked hard on all external facets of the car to come up with a design which stuck to the Škoda basics of value-engineering, yet giving it a distinct identity of its own. The new Octavia replaces earlier generations of the Octavia/Laura combine and is sharper to look at, with a handsome angular profile extending from the front headlamps which now have daytime Running Lights, right to the rear ‘C’ shaped tail lights.
The Elantra on the other hand is all about swooping curves and organic design. In line with Hyundai’s “fluidic design” concept, the car is full of swooping curves and a rounded design concept. The hexagonal front grille, the sweptback headlamps, the swooping side profile and a sporty rear end make the intentions of the car clear, and it is all about form and being good to look at. This car is flash – and those who like to live it up in life will not be disappointed with it. The Elantra looks like a million dollars and hey, who are we to argue with that?
The interiors again follow different processes of though. One is about simple understated elegance, with a straight dashboard design and flat surfaces, whilst the other is again about curves, round shapes and an organic design, crammed with equipment which could compete with the bestest luxury cars. You touch the Škoda Octavia’s interiors, but you feel the Elantra – its that good.
The Octavia as mentioned before, has a bright light coloured beige interior with a dark upper finish on the dashboard and doors. This arrangement works well especially in hot Indian summers, and also prevents heat build-up inside the car. A multi-function steering wheel controls the touch-sensitive infotainment system, which works through 8 loudspeakers. However, USB and iPod support needs to be added separately, via a ‘Media-In’ connector, available separately. The top ‘Elegance’ model (for India) also gets a large panoramic sunroof, which gives the car a smart appearance. Other niceties include a powered driver seat with memory, a dual-zone climate control with separately adjustable rear seat vents, a retractable rear screen for the back window and a few other goodies. Compared to the Elantra, the Octavia looks Spartan.
The Elantra utilises the same combination of dark and light inside, but does it with a touch of class. So you have the dashboard in dark grey on the upper and the rest of the cabin follows a beige theme. This is a smart way of doing things then because it helps stop the dashboard from reflecting on the windscreen on sunny days, a common problem with vehicles having a light coloured dashboard. Gee-gaws abound – whether it is the smart music system with Bluetooth and iPod/iPhone connectivity or the front cooled seats in some versions, the Elantra is brilliantly specced. One very nice feature is that the rear seats have controls for the audio system, which is a very convenient feature. Another very good feature is the reversing camera – especially useful for parking into tight spaces. On the feature list, we could go on and on…
Engine & Transmission:
The engine and transmission on both cars is quite different, and this also shows in the way both cars perform. The Octavia (and the car tested was a diesel) comes with a 140 bhp 1,968cc 4-cylinder engine, which does duty in a number of Volkswagen cars, from Škoda to Audi. It’s a reliable, fuel-efficient engine with low noise and vibration. The Octavia is available with a manual 6-speed or Volkswagen’s excellent double-clutch DSG box, which is known for its intuitive shifting and offers good performance with fuel economy. Oh, by the way – there are two petrol options as well with displacements of 1.4 and 1.8-litres respectively.
The Elantra, as tested comes with a 1,582cc in-line four common-rail diesel that produces only 127 horses, but makes up with a hefty 269 Nm of torque. This engine also has excellent noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics, and Hyundai is known as a manufacturer of quality diesel powerplants. Here too, the 1.6-litre can be specified with either a 6-speed manual or conventional automatic transmission. Like the Octavia, the Elantra can be bought with a petrol engine, which displaces 1.8-litres. Hyundai also utilises this engine on a number of platforms, though of course they do not have the cross-functionality of the Volkswagen group.
Performance and Handling:
When it comes to the Škoda, there is no denying the fact that it is a brilliant engine. Those 140 horses really show their true colours, and the Octavia is the kind of car that can thrive on revs or simply potter around town in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The 100 kmph marker can be dispatched in under 10 seconds and top speed is somewhat shy of 200 kmph. Fuel economy in the diesel version is pegged at a little over 20 kmpl, as certified by government regulator (ARAI).
The Elantra is somewhat different in this regard. Whilst it is no slouch, its performance is not as keen as the Octavia but it manages a rapid turn of performance and acceleration is quite brisk. The Elantra moves smartly thanks to its well-chosen ratios and a fuel economy figure upwards of 16 kmpl is quite possible. The engine never feels strained or unrefined and spins quite smoothly, though this one too is at its best when kept above the magic 2000 RPM mark. This can be a bummer in city bumper-to-bumper traffic but out there on the open road, if you have a song in your heart then the Elantra has the pace for it.
Both the Škoda Octavia and the Hyundai Elantra come with a drivers’ and passengers’ front airbag as standard. The higher versions of both cars get side and curtain airbags as standard. It is the same story for anti-lock braking – the basic system is standard but tools like Electronic Safety Programme (ESP) and its various variants in both cars come with higher models only.
At the end of the day, when you compare both cars, it boils down to a simple thing: personal choice of the individual. There is no doubt that both the Octavia and the Elantra come from solid companies with a good backing. Hyundai has always offered value-for-money feature loaded cars in India, whilst Škoda has always offered solid products. There have been issues with Škoda’s service, but the new management is doing its best to improve all these aspects. Our choice? We would go with the Škoda Octavia. After all, it’s the gentleman’s express with a twist.
Akshit Juneja on Škoda Octavia: Serious turbo-lag below 1900 RPM, but good handling including high-speed cornering and stability. Very elegant and feels like a gentleman’s car.
Akshit Juneja on Hyundai Elantra: Loaded with features, very comfortable ride quality, although some body roll. Good for city driving. Design not to everybody’s taste.
Udit Vishal on Škoda Octavia: Excellent power delivery, tank-like build quality, feels premium and classy in its segment.
Udit Vishal on Hyundai Elantra: Initial power delivery good for city driving, loaded with gadgets feels value for money. Good “fluidic” design though interiors can feel cramped.