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