Skoda Rapid Spaceback SE 1.6 TDI.
When Skoda launched the Rapid twelve months ago, it fell comfortably into the Skoda range as an undersized version of the Octavia, with room for five & a cavernous boot. In effect it was to the Octavia what the Jetta is to the Passat. Move on a year & Skoda have launched another Rapid, this time a proper five door hatchback which if you squint for long enough looks an awful lot like an Audi A3 Sportback. This Rapid is the Skoda Rapid Spaceback & before you ask it is neither rapid, nor is it capable of leaving the earths atmosphere to take you to the moon. What it is then, is a bit of a diversion for Skoda from the existing Skoda range, because it’s a little bit sexier than other Skodas & has clearly been designed to appeal to a younger demographic whereas Skodas have traditionally appealed to the more mature customer who favours the quality & reliability of a German marque, but doesn’t want to pay over the odds for it.
It may be sexy for a Skoda, but in reality in the flesh it’s much more of a bog standard five door family hatchback which one could argue is a first for Skoda & gives them a chance to compete with their sister brands models the VW Golf & Seat Leon, as well as with Vauxhalls Astra & Fords Focus. Size wise it’s right on the money. In place of the Rapids long rear overhang& long, flat boot, the Spaceback has an extended hatchback-style roofline, a D-pillar and a more upright hatchback boot. It’s 180mm shorter than the regular Rapid & up to the window line, the boot is some 135 litres smaller. What you lose in the boot though, you gain in the cabin. The straighter roofline gives the Spaceback more second-row headroom than a normal Rapid and, though it’s fairly narrow of cabin for a full-sized hatchback, legroom in both rows is generous. It’s also larger inside than both the Golf & Leon, in keeping with Skodas other models. As a company car driver, the Spaceback fills the gap in the Skoda range above the Fabia & below the Octavia & does so admirably. It even looks good, particularly if you add the Sport Pack, although not the 17′ alloys ( more of that later. )
Inside the cabin, the Spaceback is set up with the familiar VAG group switch gear & interior fittings. All are workman-like if a little un exciting, just as they are in a Volkswagen. The sports seats fitted to my test car were okay in that they looked great but didn’t offer too much support. The seat fabric was black & like all Skoda fittings appeared to have been chosen in favour of longevity & practicality over style. If you want style I’m afraid it means paying an awful lot more for an Audi.
The best thing about the Rapid though is its engine, in this instance, the tried & tested 1.6 TDI 105PS diesel, which works really well in this car. The Spaceback offers a respectable 0-62 mph time of 10.3 seconds & a top speed of 118 mph whilst offering CO2 emissions of 114g/km & 64.2 mpg on the combined. The Rapid drives well too, especially on the motorway where the standard cruise control makes for comfortable motoring. In fact the standard equipment list is pretty impressive, with 15″ alloys, 3 spoke leather steering wheel with controls for radio & telephone, acoustic rear parking sensors, hill hold control, a leather handbrake level, front & rear electric windows & a telephone connection with Bluetooth. My test car added a touchscreen SAT/Nav with DAB, for £550, climate control £300, temporary spare wheel £75, textile floor mats £75 & a Sports pack which included sports seats, sunset glass, small leather pack & 17′ alloys. A word to the wise. The 17″ alloys that come as part of the Sport Pack do significant harm to the Spaceback’s ride, making the car crash over our fantastically pot holed UK roads. Avoid them if you can & stick with the 15″ wheels & you’ll enjoy a far better ride with noticeably less jolts.The Spaceback rides quite low to the ground as well which couple with those 17″ wheels is why the ride feels harsh over any imperfect road surface. To be fair, none of my family seemed to notice the rough ride when I asked them but the driver will through the steering wheel, even with Skodas new electric power steering fitted to the Spaceback.
I mentioned that budget conscious customers make up the majority of Skodas customer base. If you are one of these, then the Spaceback won’t disappoint. Even with my options fitted, my test car retailed at £20,530 which is very impressive particularly when compared to the equivalent Audi. The range starts at just over £14,000 as well. Add in the fuel economy & low running costs & you have an attractive package with the Spaceback. But attractive is all it is. Whereas Skodas larger Octavia & Superb are class leading & if you pick the right model in either range you have a seriously good car. I don’t know why this is ? Skodas small Fabia is okay & the Yeti better again, but in the mid range with both the Rapid & Rapid Spaceback, Skoda don’t quite get it right, which is why I can only award it 3/5.