The whole idea behind using a petrol automatic is to take advantage of the refinement that comes with a petrol mill, besides the ease of driving an automatic in city traffic. Mechanically, these cars remain unchanged. So, while the Corolla continues to use a naturally aspirated 138bhp 1.8-litre motor that works with a CVT gearbox, the Elantra uses the same 150bhp 2-litre, naturally aspirated engine that’s paired with a six-speed torque converter. The Octavia’s 177bhp 1.8-litre motor features a turbocharger and a seven-speed DSG transmission.
While driving in the city, we felt that the Toyota Corolla did the best job of offering a smooth drive. The power delivery from its 1.8-litre power-plant is surprisingly linear, and the CVT gearbox does a good job of delivering strong traction with no flat spots. However, once you leave the city limits and get to higher speeds, this motor tends to get loud and one tends to wish that it had more grunt too.
When it comes to the Elantra, its motor is a smooth and free-revving unit. What catches your attention is the great sound insulation. But there’s no running away from the slightly weak response at lower revs. However, the torque converter does a good job of masking this, and helps it make good progress once past 2000rpm. There’s adequate grunt at higher speeds too, but the engine can get noisy post 4000rpm.
This brings us to the Skoda Octavia. The slight hesitation (done to save the gearbox) at slow speeds is the only chink in its armour. That aside, this motor is the sprightliest of the lot, and is extremely eager to respond to throttle inputs. The DSG is always ready with quick shifts, and be it anywhere in the range, the strong power delivery is such that it brings a smile to your face, instantly.
Let’s look at the VBox stats now. While Skoda completed the 0-100kmph run in just 7.92 seconds, the Elantra took 10.91 seconds, and the Corolla did it in 12.19 seconds. Even driveability and overtaking is a breeze in the Octavia, with it posting 4.89 seconds in kick-down from 20-80kmph. The same run took 5.99 seconds in the Elantra, while the Corolla completed it in 6.64 seconds.
Let’s talk about ride and handling now. The Elantra has certainly got the best overall ride comfort. Although the damping of the shocks are set to being slightly firm, the ride is compliant at slow speeds and it definitely feels the most settled even as the speeds rise. The icing on this cake here is the better bump absorption ability offered by the 60-profile tyres. We also felt that the light steering helps point the car to the intended direction with reasonable precision.
Toyota’s Corolla, on the other hand, is the softest sprung car in this contest. This gives it the most forgiving ride especially at low speeds, but at the same time, it does suffer from a fair bit of suspension noise when the roads go worse. That said, once you pick up speed, the ride does get floatier in comparison due to the softer suspension set-up. Sure, the steering on the Corolla feels the lightest of the lot, and this makes the car easy to drive inside the city. However, we would have preferred some more weight at higher speeds.
Skoda’s Octavia has the stiffest low speed ride here, and you can feel the bumps and road irregularities inside the cabin at slow speeds. However, as the speeds rise, the well-judged suspension set-up absorbs most bumps and gives it a flat ride. What helps matters even further is that the wider track on the facelifted car which allows for some exciting high-speed cornering abilities around bends too. All this is also complemented by a well-weighted steering that offers crisp response and feedback on the go.