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Driven: Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.2. Image by Skoda.

Driven: Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.2
The odd-bod B- or C-segment hatchback from the Czechs, driven as a Spaceback in 1.2 TSI format.

 



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Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.2 TSI

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: excellent engine, interior quality, value for money, spacious cabin, high levels of refinement and comfort

Not so good: unusual styling, less boot space than the normal Rapid, confused market positioning

Key Facts

Model tested: Skoda Rapid Spaceback Elegance 1.2 TSI 105hp GreenTech
Pricing: 16,890 as standard; car as tested 17,615
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatch
Rivals: Hyundai i30, Kia cee'd, SEAT Leon
CO2 emissions: 118g/km
Combined economy: 55.4mpg
Top speed: 120mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 105hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 175Nm from 1,550- to 4,100rpm

Our view:

The Skoda Rapid Spaceback is really rather excellent in many ways. As a typical example of the company's habit of offering a lot of very good car for the money, it's as big as a C-segment hatch, but priced to take on the likes of very well-specified Ford Fiestas, Volkswagen Polos and perhaps also the Audi A1, an even smaller car again. This makes it an appealing proposition before you've even assessed it in greater detail.

We're not sure about the Rapid's styling, though. From the side, the Spaceback looks like someone has run a computer animation that morphs a normal hatchback into an estate, and then stopped the programme halfway through the transmogrification. Some say there are hints of Audi A3 Sportback in there, which we accept given that the Audi is hardly a looker, but the Spaceback is not quite as pleasant a shape as the normal Rapid. However, the rest of the styling is fine, in that crisp, neat, innocuous way all modern Skodas are. Tidy front end, tidy rear end, tidy alloys; yes, in essence, the Spaceback should win fans, despite its unusual profile.

The interior is also typical 21st-century Skoda - very obviously a quality Volkswagen Group product, but here done to a budget without feeling cheap. Everything is well screwed together and in the right place, although you'll never coo over the staid dashboard design. On the plus side, it's absolutely massive inside for passengers, with the sort of rear seat space that even a Nissan Pulsar would be envious of. We say passengers because, in one of those ironic little foibles of the world, the Spaceback - despite its name - has less boot space than the regular Rapid. Go figure.

All Rapids get plenty of safety equipment as standard, but the top trim, Elegance, loads in luxuries like rear parking sensors, climate control, cruise control, a leather multifunction steering wheel and handbrake, and the Mobile Device Interface (MDI), among other items. Options on our car ran to the Amundsen touchscreen satnav for an eminently reasonable 550 (although it is a small display screen in the central console), a double-sided boot floor (50), a space saver spare wheel (75) and a 'Simply Clever' package for 50 - which comes with a tiny waste bin in the driver's door pocket (no, really) and a holder for a multimedia player ahead of the gearstick. Both are, well, simply clever little touches, which we like a lot. Indeed, we like the Rapid's general cabin ambience a lot, too.

If the recent arrival of the 1.0-litre TFSI engine in the Audi A1 signals the death knell for this 1.2 motor, we'll be very sad. As excellent as the new triple is, this four-cylinder turbocharged lump is one of our very favourite petrol engines on the market right now; it's just so sweet, smooth and torquey, with a decent little burr of noise at higher revs to keep things interesting. There hasn't been a car we've tried it in where we've not liked it immensely and the Rapid Spaceback is no exception.

As it's only moving around a car with a 1,095kg kerb weight, performance is sprightlier than the Skoda's on-paper figures suggest and motorway work is handled with aplomb by such a small capacity unit. It even got near its official combined economy figure, only missing out by a few mpg despite us not driving it like a nervous nun with a consignment of fragile goods on board. That's thanks to our car being a GreenTech model, a 450 option over the standard 1.2 TSI, which adds stop-start and a brake energy regeneration system to drop CO2 emissions from 125- to 118g/km, and increase combined economy from 52.3- to 55.4mpg. A rating of 118g/km, by the way, means the GreenTech is in VED Band C (0 first 12 months, 30 annually thereafter) instead of Band D for the regular 1.2 TSI (0/105). It's therefore potentially worth getting the GreenTech, because in six years it will have paid for itself in saved tax alone, without even considering the cheaper fuel bills.

The rest of the Rapid Spaceback's dynamic package is geared more for comfort than speed, with the sort of 'meh' steering that offers weight if not feel, inoffensive and capable brakes, a light-of-throw six-speed manual gearbox that's well matched to that perky 1.2-litre engine and suspension that's soft. On this last score, though, there's a huge tick on the Rapid's report sheet as it has an exemplary ride, certainly on the 16-inch 'Dione' alloy wheels of this Elegance model. Not only was the engine muscular enough to keep up with motorway flow, but the general air of refinement when cruising at 70mph (or thereabouts) was remarkably impressive. The Rapid was much nicer than a Superb Greenline we tested recently, which is supposedly a much more luxurious car.

Yet if you're re-reading the intro to this piece and wondering if there's a big 'but' coming... well, there is. For all its competence, what is the point of the Rapid family of cars? Is there really enough of a chink of niche between the new, third-generation Fabia - itself a bigger and higher quality B-segment machine than before, with a huge (for the class) estate version on the way - and the exceptional Octavia, a car that plants a mammoth body on the MQB platform of the C-segment? Skoda thinks so. We're not so sure there's enough of a market out there for customers who think the Fabia is not quite big enough.

So, in summary, we like the Rapid Spaceback 1.2 and can't really fault it, but at the same time there's no real need for it - the Fabia (Estate) and Octavia models cover this ground brilliantly for Skoda between them. Buy a Rapid and you'd be totally happy with it, because it does nothing badly and many things very, very well. But (and we keep coming back to this, we know) so do the Fabia and Octavia. What an odd, displaced car the Rapid turns out to be.

Alternatives:

Hyundai i30: great car with a mega five-year warranty, but an equivalent power/spec i30 would be more money than this Rapid Spaceback. The Hyundai has just been facelifted.

Kia cee'd: even better warranty - seven years unlimited mileage beats the Skoda's three years/60,000 miles - and another cracking Korean car. Skoda's better interior space might swing buyers.

SEAT Leon: a confident identity and easily better looking, the Leon is the one that really makes the Rapid's case look shaky. The SEAT might not be as big inside or quite as competitive on price, but it's probably worth the extra, because it also has a more engaging drive than the Spaceback.


Matt Robinson - 6 Jan 2015









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2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.



2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Image by Skoda.
 






 

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