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Early drive in a pre-production Rapid Spaceback suggests Skoda's hatchback will hold some appeal for budget-conscious UK motorists

Our Verdict

Skoda bridges the gap between Fabia and Octavia with new hatch

28 August 2013

What is it?: 

Having deftly wedged a new model, the Rapid, into the gap between the Fabia and Octavia, Skoda is setting about maximising its new niche with another body style in the shape of this, the Rapid Spaceback.

The inaugural Rapid has offbeat ‘notchback’ styling, but this one features more conventional compact hatchback looks.

Also now on offer is a less powerful diesel option. The 89bhp 1.6-litre lump augments the 104bhp unit that’s been the sole oil-burner on offer since the Rapid’s launch last year. It is this lower-powered diesel that we drive here in pre-production form, ahead of its official unveiling at next month’s Frankfurt motor show.

Chief among the Rapid Spaceback’s rivals are cars such as the Kia Cee’d and Hyundai i30, although Skoda likes to think that its pragmatic new offering might also tempt some increasingly budget-conscious customers away from their Ford Focuses, Vauxhall Astras and Renault Méganes.

Production of right-hand-drive Rapid Spacebacks begins next month, with UK sales likely to commence in January.

What's it like?: 

On looks alone, it is easy to imagine the Rapid Spaceback holding more appeal for UK buyers than its rather staid sibling.

The car is identical to the regular Rapid as far back as the B-pillar, but its restyled rear end makes it 179mm shorter at 4304mm, and slightly shorter than the Kia Cee’d.

The truncated rear end means the boot volume is reduced from the Rapid’s 550 litres to 415 litres, expanding to 1380 litres when the rear bench is folded down (although it doesn’t go completely flat). Mind you, that ranks it at the head of the class when it comes to usable space for haulage, eclipsing the 380 litres offered by the Cee’d.

The boot also has a very low lip, at 677mm above the ground, to make loading bulky items easy, as well as a floor that can be positioned at two levels. This serves two purposes: it makes it possible to hide possessions out of sight of prying eyes, but also allows heavier items to be slid straight into the boot, rather than up and over the lip.

That big boot doesn’t come at the expense of passenger space. The Rapid Spaceback provides generous rear legroom that won’t have passengers pleading to stretch their legs at every service station, and headroom is good for all but the tallest of passengers.

Up front, there’s a refreshing lack of clutter about the layout of the major controls. Switches and controls don’t convey the sense of a car that’s been ruthlessly built down to a budget.

The Rapid Spaceback features a different steering system and revised suspension to that found on the existing Rapid. This is in response to feedback on the original car from customers, who highlighted the car’s unsettled ride over rippled road surfaces. Skoda has changed the set-up of the dampers to offer better cushioning right at the top of the damper travel, a tweak that will be transferred onto the standard Rapid too.

Our test drive occurred as part of a controlled convoy on predominantly smooth roads near Munich, which made it difficult to fully assess the impact of the new suspension, although there were hints of an unobtrusive and more settled ride that could prove welcome on the UK’s gnarly roads.

A new electric power steering replaces the outgoing electro-hydraulic system. The new kit, referred to by Skoda as ‘column-electric power steering’ or ‘C-EPS’, brings a 2-3kg weight saving, but also offers the driver a more stable straight-ahead feel. The car feels light and easy to position on the road, but isn’t remotely involving.

The lower-powered diesel churns out the same amount of CO2 as the more powerful variant, but accelerates more slowly. Mated to a seven-speed DSG transmission, the front-wheel-drive takes 12.1sec to hit 62mph from a standstill compared to the 10.3sec taken by the 104bhp car.

Press the throttle pedal and there’s a noticeable lull before the power arrives, but thereafter there’s smooth acceleration and the unit isn’t found lacking in everyday driving situations. 

The engine possesses a lively thrum that filters through to the cabin and leaves you in little doubt that there’s an oilburner in the bow. By modern standards, that feels just a touch unsophisticated.

Should I buy one?: 

The Skoda Rapid Spaceback majors on practicality and clever touches. It’s a thoroughly sensible car, if not a particularly dynamic or engaging one. This version offers slightly less space than the regular Rapid but adds a touch more design flair.

Although it lacks the vibrant character of other cars in Skoda model range, such as the popular Yeti, its appeal lies in its no-frills attitude, straightforward engineering and useful standard kit.

Pricing and trim level specifics are still being determined, although Skoda says the car sits alongside the existing Rapid in the range, as opposed to above or below it, so we can expect an entry-level car to start at around £13,000.

Our calculations suggest this variant, equipped with the DSG gearbox, could cost in the region of £16,000, which should provide a more reasonable entry point for the diesel side of the Rapid Spaceback line-up.

Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.6 TDI DSG

Price £16,000 (est); 0-62mph 12.1sec; Top speed 113mph; Economy 63mpg; CO2 118g/km; Kerb weight 1280kg; Engine 1598cc, 4 cyls, turbodiesel; Power 89bhp at 4200rpm; Torque 170lb ft at 1500-2500rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch auto

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Comments
17

28 August 2013

I am always suspicious when motoring journalists refer to "thrum". My fears are that this is merely a euphemism for "coarse".

28 August 2013

It will also appeal to buyers for whom Golfs and especially Focuses have become too wide to fit up their drives or in their garages.

MrJ

28 August 2013

The compactness is a definite virtue.

Also, the clean, simple lines are easy on the eye.

28 August 2013

Nice to see Skoda acting on feedback about the current Rapid.  Suspect a diesel vRS version would be the perfect replacement for my wifes' Mk1 Fabia vRS.

28 August 2013

Skoda,Put a 150 bhp diesel in it, for his missus and vRS it up a bit.

 

INTERESTING TO READ THROUGH THE BLOGG AND COMMENTS RAISED AGAINST THE ORIGINAL REVIEWS ON THE FABIA vRS mk2.

 

Thing that indicates the real reason why not a volume success. Come on VW Group be big enough to accept when YOU cocked

28 August 2013

180bhp

28 August 2013

But this just reminds me of an early Kia Rio. The 'notchback' version at least has a familar, distinctive and obviously Skoda shape even if it's still not that interesting. This is just a blob.

28 August 2013

Will86 wrote:

But this just reminds me of an early Kia Rio. The 'notchback' version at least has a familar, distinctive and obviously Skoda shape even if it's still not that interesting. This is just a blob.

Agreed. How Autocar can call this a car with "a touch more flair" is flipping beyond me. 


"Work hard and be nice to people"

29 August 2013

Mini2 wrote:

Will86 wrote:

But this just reminds me of an early Kia Rio. The 'notchback' version at least has a familar, distinctive and obviously Skoda shape even if it's still not that interesting. This is just a blob.

Agreed. How Autocar can call this a car with "a touch more flair" is flipping beyond me. 

Agreed. Other than the Octavia none of the Skodas seem to have been designed by a coherent mind.

They serve a purpose. But they are either too long (Superb, Rapid), too tall (Fabia) or too square (Yeti).

29 August 2013

Mini2 wrote:

Agreed. How Autocar can call this a car with "a touch more flair" is flipping beyond me. 

The car in the images is still quite heavily disguised. Here is the undisguised version:

 

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