The Skoda Octavia has been ruling the entry luxury car market for a while and now, the Optra is here to challenge it. Harmaan R A J Madonreports

TECHNICAL DATAOPTRA MAGNUM TCDIRs 10.45 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai)
Top speed: 190kph
0-60kph: 4.55secs
0-100kph: 10.9secs
Combines fuel efficiency: 13.95TECHNICAL DATANAME: OCTAVIA 1.9 TDI
Rs 11.61 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai)
0-60kph: 5.68secs
0-100kph: 13.49secs
Combined fuel efficiency: 15.8Skoda did well with the diesel Octavia which is an incredibly fuel efficient car and is also extremely sturdy. With the entry luxury car market being a difficult place to be; Honda and Toyota pretty much dominate this segment and it isn’t easy to get past these Japanese giants. Even the Elantra diesel tried to maintain a share of this market but failed. The only car that has held its ground is the Octavia diesel. But now, Chevrolet has come up with a contender for Skoda in the form of the Chevrolet Optra Magnum. We pit the two against each other to see which emerges winner.

Design and engineering

The cat’s eye headlamps and tight-fitting bonnet and fenders make the front of the Magnum sharper than those on previous Optras. The Magnum’s nose is a combination of the Chevrolet SRV’s nose and a square-shouldered Optra saloon and this makes the car look familiar, and at the same time different. A more aggressive and fussy chin is new as well. It looks like any ordinary Optra from the rear except it has a tacky quality badge that seems like it has been stuck on. Also, the chassis has been beefed up to accommodate the weight of the diesel motor.

Built on the same platform as the earlier Volkswagen Golf, the Octavia has inherited all its strengths. Its battle tank-like solid build makes the Magnum feel wimpy and could cover six-digit mileages without a rattle. Though the car’s face is familiar, it is a handsome one nonetheless and one wouldn’t guess it was designed 11 years ago. It looks muscular and well-proportioned. The Octavia has a large storage capacity of 528litres that is easy to augment by getting rid of the parcel tray and the folding the rear seats.

The combination of Chevy’s SRV and regular Optra are carried forward to the inside of the Magnum as well. The circular vents, central console and a matching steering wheel boss are borrowed from the SRV whereas the doorpads are from the Optra. Details such as twin cupholders, a large storage bowl ahead of the gear lever, a mobile phone holder in the rear door pad and the hidden tray under the passenger seat are clever details on this car. Finished in shades of beige the Optra has strips of fake wood, black leather and dull metal and this makes it feel more luxurious. The rear seats are comfortable and there is enough legroom and thigh support as well.

In the interiors department, Skoda is definitely more solidly built: The dashboard, doors and every other feature functions with high efficiency. However, the Skoda’s design is so generic that is makes the car seem a bit boring. So while the Optra looks fresh and new it isn’t as solid as the Octavia.

Engine and performance

The Optra’s diesel motor is designed by Detroit Diesel that now includes VM Motori of Italy and this company is responsible for designing some of the best common-rail motors around. The Optra’s 1991cc diesel motor comes with loads of technology and experience behind it. A Bosch 1600-bar common-rail injection system is coupled with a four-valve head and turbocharger. Power and performance are considerable. 120bhp and a whopping 32kgm of torque are enough to propel an SUV, and the motor features technology like a balancer shaft and a dual mass flywheel. Constantly using the sweet-shifting gearbox is also a pleasure. Yes, finally a Chevrolet with not just a decent gearbox but one that clicks through its short throw nice and positively.

The Octavia’s gearbox, however, is even better and one of the best around. Also with a short throw, this lever is nothing less than spring-loaded perfection and all that is needed to shift a gear is a good nudge in the right direction.

The Octavia is simply left for dead in a straight drag, its antiquated two-valves-per-cylinder direct injection diesel simply no match. The Optra is a full two-and-a-half seconds faster to 100kph and almost 10 full seconds quicker to 150.

The Skoda is at an advantage here and is incredibly fuel efficient despite its size. The Optra gave 11.4 kilometres per litre (kpl) in comparison to the Octavia’s 12.7kpl in the city and Octavia returned an amazing 18.9kpl to the Optra’s 16.5kpl on the highway.

Verdict

The Optra’s modern common-rail diesel is silent and smooth; it has decent fuel economy and is also a well-equipped car. In addition, it is Rs 2.5 lakh cheaper than the Octavia as well. This makes it the winner in our books.

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