Skoda Rapid Spaceback vs Dacia Logan MCV vs Fiat Tipo
Facelifted Skoda Rapid Spaceback meets Fiat Tipo and Dacia Logan MCV in practical small car battle
Skoda is on a roll, with the Octavia Estate, Superb family car and Kodiaq SUV all picking up Auto Express awards for being at the top of their classes in 2017. But the Rapid has never enjoyed the sales or critical success of its siblings – so the brand has launched an updated version in a bid to redress matters.
The Rapid Spaceback is more of a traditional hatch than the normal Rapid, and it’s the bigger seller in the UK, so we’ve chosen that version to take on its closest rival, the Fiat Tipo, as well as an outsider that should also be on your shortlist: the Dacia Logan MCV, here in chunky, crossover-style Stepway form.
The Rapid and Tipo sit in an odd class, somewhere in between superminis and family hatchbacks, and are designed to offer loads of space for not much cash. Question is, do they deliver?
Dacia’s model is more of an estate than a hatch, and it’s far cheaper than its rivals. But while it’s not as well equipped, it shares the same ‘lots of car for not a lot of money’ ethos as the other cars in this test. Read on and we’ll find out which model really does offer the best value.
|Model: Skoda Rapid 1.6 TDI CR SE Sport 115PS
|Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl diesel, 113bhp
|0-60mph: 10.3 seconds
|Test economy: 54.1mpg/11.9mpl
|Annual road tax: £140
The Skoda Rapid Spaceback sits in between the Fabia supermini and the Octavia family hatch in the brand’s range, in terms of both size and pricing. Here we’re testing a 1.6-litre diesel model in top-spec SE Sport trim, which costs from £19,210.
While it’s not as composed as rivals from the family hatch class, the Skoda Rapid is still the most comfortable car in this test. It tackles bigger bumps well without feeling too bouncy, like the raised-up Dacia does, and it’s a little better at dealing with small undulations on the motorway than the Fiat.
None of our trio is particularly good to drive, and although the Skoda’s light, smooth gearshift and punchy diesel engine work well together, the rest of the driving experience will leave enthusiasts cold. Numb steering, disappointing body control and a noisy diesel rattle take away from the driving experience; and while the Rapid is ahead of the Logan MCV, it’s the Tipo that serves up the most fun from behind the wheel.
The 1.6-litre diesels in the Rapid and Tipo are both noisy, and the Skoda was loudest at 70mph in our tests, so while the ride is smooth enough, longer trips tend to be a drag in all three cars.
Dacia Logan MCV Stepway
|Model: Dacia Logan MCV Stepway 1.5 dCi SE Summit
|Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl diesel, 89bhp
|0-60mph: 12.4 seconds
|Test economy: 49.9mpg/11.0mpl
|Annual road tax: £140
In SE Summit trim as tested here, our Dacia Logan MCV Stepway is the most expensive model in the range. It’s still the cheapest car on our test by far, though, starting at £13,895.
While the soft suspension means the Dacia deals with bumps well, it does take longer to settle when you hit a large dip in the road than its rivals here. The higher driving position also means you feel the movement in the body of the car more, but aside from there being no space for you to put your foot to the left of the clutch, the Logan Stepway is still a pretty comfortable car to sit in.
Body control when cornering is well behind the Tipo and Rapid, and there’s not a huge amount of grip, either, so the Logan doesn’t inspire confidence on a fast road. The steering is too light and vague as well, so the Logan is at its best on a more relaxed route.
Dacia’s unit is torquey enough, with 220Nm at 1,750rpm, but the Skoda’s 250Nm and the Fiat’s 320Nm meant they were both quicker than the Romanian model in our acceleration tests.
The 0-60mph sprint took 12.4 seconds in the Logan, behind the 10.3-second and 10-second times for the Rapid and Tipo respectively. From 30-70mph, the Skoda managed 9.6 seconds, while the Fiat took 10.1 seconds and the Dacia took 12.4 seconds. None of our cars is particularly quick, but on the road they all feel punchy enough to keep up with traffic, thanks to torque low in the rev range.
Model: Fiat Tipo 1.6 MultiJet Lounge 120HP
|Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl diesel, 118bhp
|0-60mph: 10.0 seconds
|Test economy: 48.8mpg/10.7mpl
|Annual road tax: £140
The Fiat Tipo arrived last year, adding a new budget model to the Italian brand’s range in both hatch and estate form. Here we’re driving the hatchback version in Lounge trim, fitted with the 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel engine. It costs from £18,795.
Keen drivers will find little to get excited about in any of our three test cars, but the Tipo is the best of the bunch from behind the wheel. While the steering doesn’t have a lot of feel, it’s weighted well enough, and there’s plenty of grip. The gearshift sits in between the smooth Skoda and the vague, rubbery changes in the Logan. It’s a reasonably short shift, but getting it into gear can take a bit too much effort.
The Tipo does have the most powerful engine here as well. Thanks to 118bhp and 320Nm of torque it took just 3.3 seconds to go from 30-50mph in third gear, and 6.4 seconds to go from 50-70mph in fifth. That was faster than either rival, although it’s also because the six-speed box allows those gears to have shorter ratios. It was still quicker than both from 50-70mph in top gear: the Tipo took 7.8 seconds in sixth versus the Skoda’s 10.3 seconds and the Dacia’s 13.4 seconds in fifth gear.
While the Tipo is a little behind the Rapid for ride comfort, there’s really not much in it and the Fiat does tackle bumpy roads pretty well, as well as keeping small imperfections in the background.
The seating position feels lower than its rivals’, although no more comfortable. Sadly, the Tipo suffers from the same problem as the Skoda in terms of refinement, with the 1.6-litre diesel engine being rattly and sounding unpleasant in the cabin.
First place: Dacia Logan MCV Stepway
If you’re going to buy a budget car, the Dacia is the one to go for. While the other models pretend to be cheap, really they don’t cost much less than a family hatch such as a Vauxhall Astra. The Logan is more practical than either, while costing far less. It’s economical and comfortable, too, and has just as much kit. Its back-to-basics nature means it has a certain charm, where the others are a bit dull.
Second place: Skoda Rapid
The Rapid Spaceback’s comfortable ride, better infotainment system and lower monthly cost mean it finishes ahead of the Fiat Tipo here by a slim margin. It’s practical enough, even though it falls behind its rivals on boot space, and it’s decent to drive. The Rapid is still outclassed in every area by the Skoda Octavia and other family hatch rivals; it’s just not very good value.
Third place: Fiat Tipo
While the Fiat Tipo is decent to drive, comfortable and has a lot of space inside, it’s simply too expensive to recommend. Poor residual values and disappointing economy figures hurt its running costs as well. If you prefer the handsome looks of the Fiat to the Skoda, it’s a worthy alternative, but neither is a good buy. Other rivals (below) offer better value overall.
Other options in this price range...
Vauxhall Astra Tech Line Nav
Price: £19,375Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 108bhp
The Vauxhall Astra is one of the best family hatches around, with impressive refinement, a spacious interior and fun handling. A diesel Tech Line Nav car is just a few hundred pounds more than the Rapid we tested.
Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI SE Sport (used)
Price: £13,985Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 108bhp
We found a pre-facelift Skoda Octavia with 6,000 miles, on a 17-plate, for £13,985. The car is very practical, good to drive and comfortable. At nearly the same price as the Dacia, it’s a bargain and great for cash buyers.
|Dacia Logan MCV Stepway 1.5 dCi SE Summit
|Dacia Logan MCV Stepway 1.5 dCi SE Summit
Fiat Tipo 1.6 MultiJet Lounge 120HP"
|On the road price/total as tested
|Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)
|Annual tax liability std./higher rate
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)
|Insurance group/quote/road tax
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service
|£409 (3 years)
|£279 (2 years)/£149
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel
|55 lts/space saver (£80)
|50 litres/space saver
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery
|Service intervals/UK dealers
|12,000 miles (1yr)/127
|10,000 miles (1yr)/135
|18,000 miles (1yr)/96
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th
|50-70mph in 5th/6th
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range
|Actual/claimed CO2 /tax bracket
|Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEB
|Climate control/leather/heated seats
|Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go