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Skoda Rapid Spaceback review (2013 onwards)
Skoda Rapid Spaceback: summary
The Sportback is a Skoda Rapid without the big bottom, and is aiming to bring younger buyers to the Skoda brand. But as well as adding extra style, Skoda has also improved the ride comfort, the interior quality and the equipment level.
We like: extra comfort, extra style, good engines, good economy, clever touches, solid value, still spacious
We don’t like: diesel refinement could be better, never going to set your heart on fire – but does that really matter?
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Skoda Rapid review (2012 onwards)
Skoda Rapid Spaceback: first impressions
Upon reflection, and having driven it in the UK, we were perhaps a mite generous with our original four-star rating for the Skoda Rapid. Functional and practical it might be, but the ride quality is brittle and the pricing not quite as parsimonious as we’d hoped – especially once you get tucked into the higher trim levels.
We tested the sweet spot of the range
Both offer 105hp What then, to make of this new Skoda Rapid Spaceback? With its more UK-friendly compact hatchback appearance, it should appeal to a greater range of buyers than the Rapid ‘saloon’ (this too is actually a hatchback, don’t forget), but it’s also more expensive. And despite the name, smaller.
However. The new back end treatment – which is more svelte estate car than traditional hatch; yes, like a budget Audi Sportback – is available with some style-enhancing options, including a massive glass roof with matching glass tailgate. Which is pretty cool.
Standard equipment is also increased, while the suspension settings, the steering and the interior have all been tweaked – though these engineering changes are also coming to the regular Rapid. Target objective is to bring younger buyers to the brand, and tempt people out of mainstream family cars like the Ford Focus.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback: performance
There’s no non-turbo 1.2 entry-level engine for the Spaceback, so all three petrols and both diesels available at launch feature turbocharging for improved performance and efficiency. Power output ranges from 86hp to 122hp as a result.
Skoda has revised the Rapid's suspension
We tested the likely sweet spot of the range – the higher-power versions of the 1.2 TSI petrol and the 1.6 TDI diesel. Both offer 105hp, but deliver a distinctly different driving experience.
The diesel will undoubtedly prove the most economical, but it’s also unrefined by today’s standards and needs working quite hard. That its manual gearbox is only equipped with five ratios doesn’t help with either of these negative factors. A DSG automatic is optional at extra cost.
The 1.2 TSI is delightful by contrast – as it is in every one of its applications throughout the Volkswagen Group. Zingy, responsive and eager to get you moving, it makes the Spaceback a much more enjoyable car to drive if you’re keen. But this is likely to come at a cost to the fuel economy.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback: ride and handling
The petrol is also significantly lighter than the diesel, and since this weight – or lack thereof – is concentrated over the front wheels, the 1.2 TSI is keener in the corners, changing direction much more sharply, carrying speed with greater relish and trying harder to resist understeer.
That said, the diesel still benefits from the overhaul of the Rapid’s suspension. Skoda has revisited the settings and softened the whole car, making it much more comfortable over jittery surfaces. There is a smidge more bodyroll through the bends as a result, but overall it’s a welcome improvement.
Not least because the front and the rear of the car now seem to move in harmony. It probably helps that the Spaceback is some 18cm shorter than the original Rapid, and all of that difference has been taken out of the rear overhang – so there’s now less metal sticking out beyond the rear wheels.
Final update is to the steering, which has been switched over to a new, lightweight, electric power assistance system. While this hasn’t done much to increase detailed levels of feel, it is more accurate, with Skoda’s engineers working especially to improve the off-centre response. It was worth the effort.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback: interior
Looking more than a bit like an estate, you might expect the Spaceback to be even more practical than the saloon-styled regular Rapid, which already has a huge 550-litre boot. But that 18cm reduction in length makes a difference, and seats-up the Spaceback actually offers less luggage room.
The Rapid features no less than 20 ‘simply clever’ features
Still, 415 litres is way more than a you get in a Golf and massively bigger than the Focus. What’s more, the Spaceback retains all of the Rapid’s generous passenger room – which is particularly good news for those travelling in the back, where it offers class-leading head and knee room.
The cabin has also been given a brush up, with improved materials including aluminium-look trim inserts for the top spec Elegance grade. Other model choices are the familiar S and SE. The key addition to the standard equipment list is air conditioning, which is now included across the range.
Apparently the Rapid features no less than 20 ‘simply clever’ features, those handy touches that Skoda buyers love so much – and with good reason. Highlights include the ice-scraper hidden on the back of the fuel-filler flap, pockets on the sides of the front seats, and a split-level boot floor.
Skoda is also extremely proud of the glass roof option – the biggest panel of its type ever fitted by the brand. This makes a real impact on the look of the car, not least because it comes with an extended glass area on the tailgate. Packaged with big shiny alloy wheels, this extra glassware is set to cost around £1,000.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback: economy and safety
Turbocharging is brilliant for on-paper economy. Even the 122hp 1.4 petrol returns a claimed 48.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 134mpg. Specify the 1.6 TDI with the GreenTech pack – which includes stop-start – and this offers 70.6mpg with 106g/km CO2.
An excellent example of no-nonsense family transportation
A full eco variant under Skoda’s Greenline label will be available in due course, promising 99g/km and over 74mpg.
Moving on to safety, the Spaceback’s platform is a mix of tried and tested Volkswagen Group parts – similar to the Fabia at the front and the previous Golf at the back. So it isn’t cutting edge. But it is cleverly engineered to be both strong and light.
So despite weighing as little as 1,055kg – which means the firm can get away with fitting low-cost drum brakes on the rear of some models – it’s still very safe; Euro NCAP has already rated it five stars. Six airbags and stability control are standard, but you can't have any of the very latest active safety aids.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback: the MSN Cars verdict
With tangible improvements to the ride quality, a decent engine line-up, a high degree of practicality and a good level of standard equipment, the Skoda Rapid Spaceback is an excellent example of no-nonsense family transportation.
Is it stylish now? Well, that’s up to you. But we do like all that extra glass, and we do believe the more traditional hatchback silhouette will bring in more customers, better bridging the gap between the Fabia and the Octavia.
We just can’t help wondering if budget-orientated buyers – and make no mistake, that’s still who the Spaceback is aiming at – are more interested in extended warranties than life-enhancing design details these days. But perhaps what you think of that depends on how long you plan to keep your next new car.
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