Don't be confused by the name: the new Skoda Rapid Spaceback isn’t an estate. Rather, it’s a traditional five-door hatch that’s designed to compete with cars such as Hyundai’s i30. What can it offer that the standard model doesn’t? We joined the company’s board members and CEO for a sign-off drive of some lightly disguised prototypes.
The Spaceback is 180mm shorter than the regular Rapid, which features an unconventional saloon-style hatch body. But the new car has the same wheelbase, so the spacious interior remains largely unchanged. The boot has shrunk from 550 to 415 litres, although that’s still larger than in rivals including the Kia Cee’d, which has a 380-litre boot.
While the original Rapid was designed to be a strong seller in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe, the Skoda Rapid Spaceback is aimed at a much younger, more sophisticated buyer. That means Skoda’s added a host of new styling features, better-quality trim with greater scope for personalisation and extra equipment, too.
Other changes include the addition of an 89bhp version of the 1.6-litre TDI (powering a GreenLine model that will emit only 99g/km of CO2). There’s also new electric power-steering that will become standard on all Rapids, and retuned rear dampers to improve the unsettled ride.
Our brief drive on smooth European roads wasn’t the most rigorous test environment, yet the direct, well weighted steering makes it easy to accurately place the Skoda. Those hoping for thrills won’t like the lack of feedback, but at least it’s a simple car to drive.
The 104bhp petrol 1.2-litre TSI engine is the pick of the range, with a crisp six-speed manual box and just enough torque to feel responsive on the road. You occasionally need to shift down on a hill or when overtaking, but it’s far more refined than
the gruff and noisy TDI diesel, which also transmits a lot of vibration through the gearstick.
The suspension still patters over small imperfections, while larger bumps send hefty thuds into the cabin. We suspect that over more rutted UK surfaces the Rapid Spaceback still won’t be as cosseting as the class leaders.
Two versions will be offered: the standard car you see in our pictures, which has large rear windows and thick C-pillars that give an estate-like look from some angles, and a sportier version with the optional Style Plus Pack (top). This bundle was inspired by the Fabia Monte Carlo, and includes a full-length glass roof, darker tail-lights, tinted foglamps, gloss black mirror caps and an extended darker rear screen.
Two-tone 17-inch alloys and xenon headlights complete the look, giving the Rapid Spaceback a style Skodas have often lacked. So it’s no surprise that the maker anticipates this car will account for half of all UK Rapid sales.