If you squint really hard at the Škoda Rapid – the revised five seater looks a little Audi A3-like. Okay before you ask the men in white coats take me away for a rest… let me expand on the point.
Okay its a bit of a push to think Audi buyers could be tempted to buy the humble Škoda – after all they pay a premium for finishing touches and that addictive warm feeling delivered by the four ring badge. Škoda buyers on the other hand might like the notion of an Audi but flinch at the relative high price tag. In recent years Škoda owners have been able to take a huge amount of pride in the new machines thanks to the excellent design team. The entire Škoda range is now directly comparable to the established brands in the VW Group and beyond. Škoda is a million miles away from the cliche Škoda as pre Volkswagen ownership. The Rapid Spaceback is a case in point. Underneath it is a very average machine so there is no trick suspension or adaptive aerodynamic packages just a simple car and that makes it affordable to the masses, it is, dare I say it, a perfectly formed car.
Prices start from €19,095 for the ‘Spaceback’ (95hp 5-speed Active) hatch and €19,250 for the Active saloon-like liftback. Both body types are identical from the B pillar forward. The Spaceback loses some overall length and a bit of boot capacity to the standard Rapid. What you get is bang for your buck as the exterior is handsome if a little ‘under-wheeled’ while inside the cabin is vast for its class. There are cheaper than Audi materials used obviously but they are not offensive and the cabin is well put together for its segment.
The Rapid has been given its mid life cycle facelift. Outside there are minor improvements, noticeably to the bumpers and fog lights. Inside the cabin has been given a gentle overhaul with the tech highlight being a new wireless hotspot option that allows passengers to get online and stay connected. Škoda Connect and emergency call featured in my €24K 110hp Spaceback test car. Other new options include ambient lighting and front assist with emergency braking.
Two new 1.0 TSI (petrol) engines are available with either 95hp or 110hp. The VW Group three cylinder engine is great in 110hp guise and lively too. DSG automatic is available with the petrol 95hp and 90hp diesel. Oil burner buyers can choose from a 1.4 TDI with 90hp and the most fuel efficient at 4 l/100km on average or a 1.6 TDI with 116hp. All models in Ireland fall into the €190 annual road tax bracket.
On the road Rapid is quick enough in the 110hp version. The dynamic ability is less than great but perfectly fine for everyday use. The front suspension is a conventional MacPherson strut set up while the rear is based on a torsion beam axle (like most superminis/small cars) and this naturally limits how sporty the rear of the car can be. Enthusiastic drivers who enjoy taking the long way home and cornering with gusto should look elsewhere.
As tested my Škoda Spaceback Sport was too expensive as you could get into a larger Škoda Octavia for similar money or many other compact hatchbacks. As with many budget cars the best advice is to get in to one at a low price point and get one or two options if you can to make life more luxurious. Active, Ambition and Sport are the three grades available.