While 2013 was a challenging year for Hyundai—sales remained muted for most part—the year ended on a ‘grand’ note for the Korean automaker. Its Grand i10 not only won the Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY) award, the company even touched a high of 20.6% market share in India—the highest market share for Hyundai in the country since inception. Part of the reason was also because its executive offering, the Elantra, remained a relatively strong performer, as did its Verna sedan.
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For the Czech carmaker Skoda Auto, the year was not too different either. Subdued sales due to an overall gloomy automobile market and then, towards the end of the year, the return of the king—the Octavia, which replaced the Laura in India. No wonder, then, that as soon as the Octavia was launched, it saw increasing interest.
Now, in the Indian executive segment, the Elantra and the Octavia are the two cars that will fight it out in 2014 until the time we see the new Toyota Corolla making it a three-way affair.
The Elantra, no doubt, is the current crowd favourite in its segment and has remained so since it was launched a year and half ago. Of all the Hyundais, it is the Elantra that wears the company’s ‘fluidic’ design lines the best—so much so that the car still manages to look different despite so many Elantras on Indian roads. From any angle, it is a pleasure to give the glad eye to the Elantra.
The Octavia is a former best-selling executive sedan that has now reinvented itself. What works for the new Octavia is that its design is understated and tidy, and it retains the timeless Skoda lines. What doesn’t quite work is that the rear-end bears strong resemblance to the smaller Skoda Rapid and this may not to be of everyone’s liking.
Snazzy—that’s the word to describe Elantra’s interiors. The hourglass-shaped centre console is a treat to watch, as is the multi-function steering wheel. The fit and finish is very good and the Elantra is one of the best-equipped sedans in India. On the flip side, there are so many buttons on the centre console packed in a small area that using the right one takes some getting used to. While the Elantra has enough space all around, the sliding roof eats into the rear headroom space and tall passengers may not appreciate this. One nice feature the Elantra has is cooled front seats, which can turn your drive very comfortable in hot Indian summers.
Lucid—that’s the word to describe Octavia’s interiors. The layout is clean, buttons are easy to reach and the soft-touch dashboard feels premium. The steering wheel is good to hold and rotary audio controls work well. The cabin appears to be more user-friendly than the Elantra’s and there are lots of sensible storage slots. A longer wheelbase ensures very spacious rear seating area and the rear headroom, too, is voluminous.
Under the hood
The Elantra comes with two engine options: The 1.8L dual VTVT petrol that produces a maximum power of 149.5ps@6500rpm and a torque of 18.1kgm@4700rpm; and the 1.6L CRDi VGT diesel that has power and torque figures of 128ps@4000rpm and 26.5kgm@1900-2750rpm, respectively.
The Octavia comes with three engine options: The 1.4 TSI petrol that produces a maximum power of 140ps@4500-6000rpm and a torque of 25.5kgm@1500-3500rpm; the 1.8 TSI petrol produces a huge power of 180ps@5100-6200rpm; and the 2.0 TDI diesel that has power and torque figures of 143ps@4000rpm and 32.6kgm@1750-3000rpm, respectively.
On the road
We extensively drove the petrol versions of both cars and because, on paper, Skoda offers more powerful engine options, this gets reflected on the road too. While Octavia’s 1.4 TSI matches up to Elantra’s 1.8L VTVT in both drivability and outright acceleration, the former’s 1.8 TSI clearly outclasses the Elantra—the 180 horses it produces literally shoot the car ahead. The Elantra, on the other hand, has a slightly quieter cabin and refinement on the move is impressive, and you feel almost zero vibrations through the controls.
While the Octavia rides well on city roads, it is on the highway where it is superlative. We touched high three-figure speeds and the Octavia was stable as ever at any speed. The Elantra, on the other hand, isn’t very comfortable at high speeds and especially on broken highways, but within city limits, the Elantra does its job of absorbing bumps very well.
The base petrol Elantra will cost you R12.82 lakh while the top-end automatic petrol comes for R15.05 lakh. The price for the entry-level diesel is R13.24 lakh while the top-end automatic diesel comes for R16.18 lakh.
On the other hand, the 1.4 TSI Octavia petrol begins from R13.95 lakh and the 1.8 TSI petrol will cost you R18.25 lakh. The 2.0 TDI diesel will cost you R15.55 lakh while the top-end 2.0 TDI automatic is priced at R19.45 lakh. (All prices ex-showroom, Delhi.)
Now, the Octavia is definitely a better car as far as driving and getting driven is concerned. The engine options are better, the ride is good and the cabin luxurious. The Octavia also feels solidly put together. But then a car is not always about driving and getting driven, sometimes it is also about the ownership experience that you expect from a car this size. Here, Hyundai beats Skoda by a fair margin. One, the Elantra is packed with equipment. Two, it is priced much lower than the Octavia. Three, the Hyundai after-sales service is far better and its network extensive. And four, it just looks striking. Overall, while the Elantra is not a better product than the Octavia, it is the easier car to buy and own.