Skoda Atero student concept is racy Rapid coupe

Third Skoda Academy apprentice car is one-off sleek coupe based on Rapid Spaceback hatch

Skoda is beginning a tradition of building bespoke cars – but not ones made for customers. In 2014 we saw the wacky ‘Citijet’ roofless Citigo hatch, and in 2015 there was the unique Fabia FUNstar, a supermini turned pickup truck. Now, there's this: the Atero - a two-door coupe version of the Rapid.

What do these three cars have in common? Well, rather than products Skoda’s large design and engineering teams, these creations are the brainchild of young apprentices from the Skoda Academy in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic. A team of 26 students, mostly 17 years of age, designed and built this ‘Skoda Apprentice Car III’ – or Atero – using an extensive Skoda parts bin and their own bespoke skillset.

• Zagato's greatest ever cars 

The project began at the end of 2015 and took 1,700 hours to complete. It was the result of an in-house competition to see who could design the most desirableconcept car, and build it themselves. Although some of the work was completed as part of the school project, a large amount was done in the apprentice’s spare time. Members specialising in various areas, from bodywork to interior design, came together to complete the Atero. Team spokesman Daniel Voce claimed the students “had never met before the project”.

“That was the hardest part: deciding what we should all work on and making compromises. It took us two months to decide on the Atero’s outside design. Other design ideas we had included a limousine and a Paris Dakar car, but the coupe was the one we all agreed was a good idea”.

The students took the existing Rapid Spaceback and gave it a completely bespoke rear body section, removing the rear doors and B-pillar, adding 10cm to the front doors, and giving it a coupe profile. A large perspex rear window extends halfway up the roofline, while the boot is specially adapted from the Rapid saloon. The exterior look took three months to complete, and the rear panels were the result of “many long hours of fabricating”. The apprentices claim they were inspired by the original Skoda Rapid, a ‘fastback’ coupe first built in 1984, hoping to “take elements from the car’s history and make it 21st century”. 

At the same time, the apprentices took the opportunity to spice the Rapid’s bodywork up a bit. As ‘Atero’ is Latin for ‘black’, the concept is painted in Skoda’s traditional Black Magic paint. A contrasting lower bodykit and spoiler, 18-inch alloys snatched from an Octavia vRS, bonnet vents with red LED inserts and LED underbody lighting to give it serious presence.

Inside, there’s quilted fabric trim on the doors and centre console, plus multi-colour upholstery from the firm’s Monte Carlo special editions. In the boot, the students added a super-loud 1,800 watt sound system with pulsating LED lights.

It’s not the only thing making noise on the Atero concept. The engine might be the familiar 123bhp 1.4 TSI unit found in many VW Group products, but the students have added the exhaust from the Octavia vRS 230 removing the catalytic converter and baffles to add volume. On startup, the noise is completely unique and seriously loud, echoing throughout the cabin.

Behind the wheel of the Skoda Atero

As it is a concept, our drive in the car was limited to a small test track at speeds below 30mph, but on that evidence it seemed to drive much the same as a regular DSG-equipped Rapid (save for the exhaust racket). The perspex rear window makes the cabin very light and airy, but rear visibility is poor due to the high bootline. 

Of course, this is a design exercise and not a production model, so such concerns aren’t as important. Despite the huge structural changes, however, the chassis and bodyshell still felt stiff while driving. “we wanted to make the Rapid feel more sporty to drive” said Daniel.

All the students involved in the project, and all those who successfully complete the Skoda Academy’s three- or four-year specialist courses, are offered a job somewhere in the Czech brand’s operations. Daniel, along with the other students in the project, is “very hopeful” that the Atero will land him his dream career.

Should Skoda's apprentices be hired or fired on the strength of this concept car? Give your verdict in the comments...

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