Skoda Rapid Spaceback review

Our Rating: 
3
3.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Skoda Rapid Spaceback is a more conventional hatchback than the standard Rapid, but it's expected to sell well

For: 
More stylish than normal Rapid, wide boot opening, punchy engines
Against: 
Smaller boot than standard car, noisy 1.6 diesel, plain appearance

The standard Skoda Rapid was launched late in 2012, and is bigger than the Fabia supermini, but smaller than the Octavia hatch. It has saloon-like styling that hides a boot with a wide-opening tailgate, although now Skoda has created a more conventional hatch in the shape of the Rapid Spaceback.

By its own admission, Skoda is taking a punt with the Rapid Spaceback in the UK. Overall, it looks more stylish than the standard hatch, although that’s not saying much. The Skoda Rapid Spaceback sits high on its suspension, and a combination of a short rear overhang and long nose can make it look odd from some angles.

As for the interior - hard plastics are hardly the last word in luxury, but the Rapid’s dash feels very robust and well made. The ride isn't the best, either - the Spaceback has a firm ride that will put some buyers off, especially on larger wheels. You can choose from S, SE, Elegance and GreenLine specs, but we'd stick with the SE model with the 1.2 TSI engine, as it's more refined than the 1.6 TDI diesel and nearly as economical.

Our Choice: Rapid Spaceback SE 1.2 TSI 105 GreenTech

Styling

2.9

The Rapid and Rapid Spaceback share similar styling with the more spacious and passenger-friendly Spaceback 179mm shorter in length. Both models are identical from the front grille to the rear doors, from where the Spaceback adopts the conventional hatchback shape.

The roof is longer and from certain angles the bulky rear end, long nose and small wheels can make the Spaceback look a little awkward. You can also specify a Style Pack, a £1,100 option that adds gloss black detailing, a panoramic glass roof and extended tailgate glass. This brings the rear window down to the top of the number plate recess – it’s certainly a talking point, and the Spaceback looks a bit plain without it.

Inside, you’re greeted by the same dash design as in the Rapid hatch. It’s obvious that it has been built down to a cost, so you get lots of hard, black plastic, but the layout is logical and the switchgear feels robust.

One major benefit the Spaceback has over the standard Rapid is that the thin rear door pillars and extra windows vastly improve over-the-shoulder visibility – it’s almost worth paying the extra for this alone.

Driving

3.2

Our first impressions of the Skoda Rapid were dominated by the overly firm ride and the Spaceback model suffers from the same issue. We recently tested the frugal Greenline model, which comes as standard with firmer low rolling-resistance tyres to help improve economy.

The car fidgets over changes in surface in the road and never truly feels settled unless on the motorway. The Greenline model also comes with only one engine option, the 89bhp 1.6-litre diesel. It’s a little gruff on start up and especially higher up in the rev range. Unfortunately, that VW Group 1.6 TDI is losing the battle for refinement when compared to newer diesels. It's louder than the Toyota Auris' 1.4-litre diesel and the Hyundai i30's 1.6-litre unit from the outside, although there’s enough sound insulation to make the Skoda quieter than the Toyota when on the move.

At least the 104bhp diesel is punchy, and in-gear pace was good, too, despite the fact the car only comes with a five-speed gearbox. That box has a positive shift, while the steering is direct, although it could do with a bit more feedback.

On other models in the Spaceback range, larger 17-inch alloys come as part of the optional £1,600 Sport Pack, and they bring a firmness to the ride that makes the Rapid harsh at all speeds. The low-profile tyres add to road noise on the motorway, too, although it’s a close fight between the tyres and the rattly diesel for what’s loudest.

Reliability

4.2

In its efforts to keep the Rapid as affordable as possible, Skoda has used as many parts from existing models as it can. The car sits on a modified version of the VW Polo’s platform, while the range of petrol and diesel engines is tried and tested.

The standard Rapid has yet to be recalled, but there were reports of early cars retaining water in their doors, as the drain holes hadn’t been cleared properly. Apart from that, the model has had a trouble-free start.

Of course, the car is backed up by Skoda’s excellent performance in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey. It came a superb second to Lexus as a manufacturer, while
its dealers finished an impressive seventh.

The standard Rapid has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and while there are no advanced safety features, you do get six airbags, traction and stability control, as well as brake lights that flash under heavy braking.

Practicality

4.2

As the length of the Spaceback has been cut by 179mm boot space does suffer. At 415-litres its down 135-litres over the standard Rapid but the boot is still larger than the similar sized and more expensive VW Golf and Ford Focus. The boot is also low and wide making it easy to load and unload bulky items and although the rear seats fold, they don’t fold completely flat.

Rear seat space is reasonable, and a middle seat headrest is a £70 option. Elsewhere, Elegance models add an armrest with storage between the front seats. The trouble is, this tends to get in the way when you’re changing gear – although it can be lifted out of the way.

Running Costs

3.7

What the Spaceback lacks in terms of driving appeal, it recoups when it comes to economy. The Spaceback Greenline is among the most fuel-efficient cars in its class returning 74.3mpg, while also being the only model in the range to dip below the 100g/km CO2 barrier.

The 1.6 TDI Elegance is at the top end of the Rapid range, but it’s still cheaper than the equivalent Toyota Auris and Hyundai i30. Standard kit is similar to the Hyundai’s, and both models come with cruise control and rear parking sensors.

There are plenty of options to spec up your car to the desired level, too, while a retained value of 43 per cent is decent and a fixed-price service plan is also offered. Our choice of engine is the 1.2 TSI, which gets 65.7mpg and emits 118g/km.

Disqus - noscript

Cynics like myself deduct one star from an Auto Express review of a VW group product (or, as an alternative, add one to reviews of the competition). This vehicle must be underwhelming to say the least.

Quite a nice looking car. If you want a well built car that does its job properly, well worth a try.

Revolting

Is there any reason why you seem to come on every Skoda/VW/Audi post just to deride? Are you jealous of the fact that the VW Group is the most profitable motoring group in the world? The just under 20% of UK buyers who purchased a new car from the VW Group last year prove they are doing something right. Just because you personally don't like the styling, or have a grudge/hate campaign going about VW group products, there is simply no need to constantly troll here or on autocar as your alter-ego flatus senex. It's becoming very tiresome now.

There is a great propaganda machine for this group which is bound to have an effect. Currently, according to my newspaper, there is a scandal in Germany where a motoring organisation has been accused of grossly inflating the number of votes cast for the VW Golf in their equivalent of the "Car of the Year" competition, which has led to a resignation.
I was more inclined to believe the Skoda propaganda until I actually had experience of that make when I was sadly disappointed. Even now I am prepared to believe, judging from the experience of people I know, that they may well better screwed together than the products of other members of the group.
However even AE now seem prepared to acknowledge that other people's diesel engines are better. I cannot comment on petrol fuelled power units

I am personally no great fan of the Golf, and find it very overpriced when you compare it with it's brother the Octavia - much more car for the money, built better as it's built in a Czech Skoda factory by Czechs, who are very proud of their tradition. The Octavia has been shortlisted for Euro COTY, and I hope it wins and beats the Golf. VW Group are sober in their designs, I agree, but they do hold their value better for this and don't date half as quick as say a Focus or Mondeo or anything Jap/Korean. Regarding AE, I have actually cancelled my subscription as they contradict themselves wildly. One month a car gets 5 stars, the next it gets 3. Autocar and WhatCar? are the same.
Regarding Skodas, if it was about your ride in the back of a taxi one, maybe the miles were high and the shocks were shot,I don't know, as I have never had any complaints about comfort, ride etc in any of mine. Contrary to popular belief, I am not just a fan/owner of Skoda cars, I also owned and like French cars too, especially Citroen. The C5 I would have over anything with a BMW/Merc/VW/Audi badge.VW diesels are a bit hit and miss - some testers say the 1.6 is quiet and refined, others don't. Personally, I've always preferred the PSA units.

Crap review,not OK,bought by whom?

I think we had better "call quits" on this. Thanks for your thoughts though. Had the several Octavias involved been old, I might have taken your point. However they were not, although some may have been badly driven; one certainly was!! All the engines were warm so there was no excuse for lack of refinement. The worst gave the rear seat passenger's feet vibro massage of an almost medical kind. Coupled with poorly shaped, slippery seating and you can gather why my reaction was "Huh!" I have been careful not to comment on the driving experience which may well display merits not evident to a mere passenger.
Now I will indeed call quits
PH

Your comments are biased and predictable. You attempt to cover this by masquerading them as considered judgements. A little more commonsense would considerably enhance your profile on this site. At the moment few people take your posts seriously.

I did say I was calling it quits but alas you persist in raising the matter again. You don't have to agree with my position but it is certainly a considered one. As for "commonsense", it is merely a euphemism for "in my opinion" and thus used as a means of bolstering an entirely subjective argument.

Noisy? When will you publish dBA figures at 60 mph for both the petrol and diesel cars?! My 2001 A2 is quieter than the new bmw i3 BEV at 60 mph!

....and first prize in the 'Dull As Ditchwater Award' goes to....

Skudfan,interesting you mentioned profitability because Suzuki Japan is the ONLY car company in the world to make profits EVERY year they have made cars. (since 1953) Profit doesn't mean it's a great car,only that the company's good at making money.Suzuki's are one of the most reliable cars available and while VW group cars are very good and refined,(I really like them but...) they aren't the most reliable and are expensive to fix when giving trouble.(at least in Australia) The DSG problems come to mind.They ignore peoples trouble with them for years until they were forced by governments to recall.Sales halved here as we buy mostly automatics.

Ultimately, VWAG doesn't give a "flying f***" about a small, backwater, redneck market like Australia.

How uncouth,only a redneck would make a comment like that.

Last updated: 2 Jun, 2014
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