2017 Skoda Rapid Review

So what is a Rapid? Well, it looks like a saloon but it’s actually a ‘liftback’; that’s a hatchback to you and me. Then there’s the cheaper Spaceback version; this looks like a hatchback, and in a fit of beautiful simplicity is exactly that: a hatchback. You can read about the Spaceback in our separate review.

The Rapid plugs a small gap in the market for those that want something bigger than the Ford Fiesta-sized Fabia, but not a car as big as the Ford Focus-rivalling Octavia. It’s a lot cheaper than the Octavia as well, so works for those on a budget looking for a useful dose of practicality.

This model has been on sale since 2013, but in 2017 the Rapid was given a bit of a spruce up, with new head and tail-lights along with mildly restyled front and rear bumpers. Inside a new optional infotainment system added online connectivity features, such as live traffic reports. More significantly was the introduction of a new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine to replace the previous 1.2.

Interior

Inside the new Rapid features a similar layout to its predecessor; however, Skoda has improved the equipment levels to bring the car at par with the competition.  All versions come with a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system. This isn’t one of Skoda’s laudable, latest-generation infotainment systems used in models such as the Octavia.

Instead the relatively small, low-resolution screen feels someway behind the Octavia’s and those offered in the Astra and Focus as well. At least the menus are straightforward to work through and it’s reasonably responsive to commands. On the entry-level S trim you don’t even get Bluetooth that is standard on all the other trims, yet on those you still have to pay a DAB radio and sat-nav. Other options include smartphone mirroring that allows you to connect your phone using Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or Mirror Link.

A nice utility touch is the addition of a cardholder clip to keep the toll receipts or change. It’s only when you try to fire up the engine that you suddenly realise the absence of a start/stop button and a rear view camera when you want to back up.

We don’t think much of the Focus’s perceived interior quality, but at least in the Ford you get some soft-touch materials on the upper surfaces. Not so in the Rapid. Bar the seats and carpets it’s a sea of hard, unyielding plastics, although everything does feel built to last. At this price an Astra looks and feels smarter inside.

Driving

Skoda offers a few different engines options to choose from. These start with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, which you can order in two states of tune: 94bhp and 109bhp. We haven’t tried the 94bhp version yet, but the 109bhp option is a sound one; it’s a cracking engine that pulls willingly from around 1500rpm, and keeps doing so until it reaches maximum revs. It’ll do the 0-62mph sprint in a very respectable 9.8sec (that’s quicker than a Ford Focus 1.0 125 Ecoboost). Like a lot of three-cylinders, the engine thrums a little and sends some vibrations through into the interior when you work it hard, but it’s not unruly.

The 1.6 TDI diesel isn’t that smooth, either, but matches the pace of its rivals including the Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110. Most of that is delivered in the mid-range, making it a more relaxed performer than the rev-happy 1.0 petrol, and a slightly better proposition for those that regularly carry a car full of people or luggage.

Every engine comes with a manual gearbox as standard, with the option of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox on the 1.4 TDI only. The manual has a decently light and slick change, and the positive clutch bite makes smooth driving in stop/start traffic an easier affair than the auto; this tends to judder off the line.

The suspension set-up remains the same, but then we have always appreciated the Rapid’s ride and handling. The suspension soaks up bumps and bad sections very well and it’s only the sharp edged ones that filter in.

 

Engine

The new Rapid’s 1.5-TDI motor is an updated version of the same engine that powered the previous Rapid. It gets a new turbocharger which results in an increase in power from 105PS to 110PS at 4,000rpm. Its torque rating at 250Nm, between 1,500-2,500rpm, remains unchanged though. We have the 5-speed manual variant on test, but you can also option this engine with the 7-speed DSG box.

The engine is remarkably free revving, and what it really stands out for is the driveability. There’s ample amounts of torque as soon as you release the clutch, which means you can potter around in congested city environs in second or even third gear. For instance, I could easily hold  25-30kmph in third without any signs of protest from the motor. The 5-speed manual offers short and precise throws, and I actually liked working up and down the gearbox. The clutch though is a tad on the heavier side but isn’t really a deal-breaker.

The motor, in fact, is so torquey that cruising in fifth gear at anything above 50kmph (with the revs hovering around the 1,200rpm mark) is possible without straining the engine. There’s also a nifty gear position indicator on the MFID in the instrument panel that also prompts when to upshift or downshift.  Follow what it suggests and you’ll be blown away with the efficiency of the motor. The Rapid returned 14.33kmpl in city and a mind-boggling 23.05kmpl on the highway.

Verdict

Skoda has also looked into the warranty aspect and is now the only manufacturer offering a standard four year warranty along with four years of Skoda Roadside Assistance and Skoda maintenance Package.  At Rs 14.29 lakh on-road Mumbai, the Skoda Rapid diesel is quite appealing. It looks contemporary. The quality is tangible and fantastic, and the engine is brilliant. It’s also a good driver’s car and if that’s what you are looking for in your mid-sized sedan, the Rapid makes for a strong case.

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