By Wayne Gorrett, Lake Garda, Italy
What are the highs and lows?
✔ Clean, unfussy external styling
✔ Good standard kit level
✔ GreenLine variant coming
✖ The ride is a little too pliable
✖ Electronic steering is light but dull throughout
So, what is it?
Okay, hands up…you’ve got me here.
As is human nature, I’ll cover the easy bit first – it is the new Skoda Rapid Spaceback.
Quite WHY it is the new ŠKODA Rapid Spaceback, is an interesting question.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ŠKODA, so by rote it’s a good car. However, it is a challenge to find a pigeon hole the Spaceback could ideally call home, but more on that later.
As an integral part of the VAG Group, it’s generally well known that much of ŠKODA’s model line-up is shared with Volkswagen. However, the Rapid is a unique model that’s twinned only with SEAT’s Toledo. It sits between the Fabia (VW Polo, SEAT Ibiza) and the Golf-based Octavia. In doing so, a little niche was created.
Is it a looker?
It would be too easy to go all Clarksonesque here and be bullishly unkind. But by today’s ever youthful standards of car design (SEAT Leon) no, it’s not a looker. While it may be a car that now or at any time in the future, may deem a second glance to be superfluous, it does have clean, unfussy lines which (as on the new Peugeot 308) I quite like and the angled creases on the bootlid are a neat touch. It is not quite an estate and is closer in appearance to a hatchback, particularly in its profile.
What’s it like inside?
The name is erroneous because, despite the extended roofline, it has less load area that the Rapid sedan on which it is based. The sedan offers 550 litres of natural space while the Spaceback surrenders a significant 135 litres of that with row two in place.
But in that negative comes the cars best positive. The Spaceback’s designers have done a great job of making the available 415 litres a far more practical space than the sedan due to the flatter load area and incorporating the lowest rear-loading sill in this class. There is a goodly 1,380 litres of luggage space with the rear bench seat folded flat. Rear legroom is very good and there are numerous storage spaces.
The Spaceback is still roomier throughout than say, a Kia cee’d or Hyundai i30, cars with which this ŠKODA will undoubtedly compete. The switchgear is of good VAG quality and all controls mirror those of the Rapid sedan, which fall intuitively to hand on the fly.
The interior is not going to flutter many hearts but should appeal to its demanding target market – the young family types. So, that’s it’s durable, practical and offers an efficient, Germanic-like life-style choice is just as well.
What trim levels are available?
The ŠKODA Rapid Spaceback is well equipped and the three specification levels across the range – S, SE and Elegance – are generous and with additional equipment over the Rapid sedan. Aircon is standard across the range as are curtain airbags, front electric windows and a two-way adjustable steering column. SE grades include alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control and Bluetooth, while Elegance adds – among others items – climate control, height-adjustable front seats and cornering fog lamps.
What’s the engine & transmission line-up?
The engine line-up at launch comprises of five power plants. There are three TSi petrol and two TDi diesel units, in 5-speed manual or 6-speed DSG automatic transmission.
Petrol engines: The very willing 1.2TSi is available in two states of tune – 86PS and 105PS and offers manual transmission only, across all grades. The 1.4TSi offers 122PS across all specification grades and is coupled with the excellent DSG auto ‘box. Fuel efficiencies range from 48.7 to 55.4mpg combined, with CO2 emissions starting at 119g/km, topping out at 134g/km for the 1.4TSi DSG.
Diesel engine(s): The one diesel engine is the trusty and uber-efficient 1.6 TDi, available in two states of tune – 90PS and 105PS, delivering 230 and 250 Nm of delightful torque respectively. Fuel efficiencies are exceptional, with both outputs offering 64.2mpg combined and 114g/km CO2.
The already strong case for the ŠKODA Rapid Spaceback in the efficiency stakes is further strengthened with the imminent inclusion of a Spaceback GreenLine version with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km. Further details of the GreenLine variant – while not available at launch – will be known soon.
What’s it like to drive?
Technically, the Rapid Spaceback is a bit of a mongrel. The forward setup of the car has been taken from the current VW Polo with its MacPherson struts and 20mm anti-roll bar. The rear underpinnings are a hangover from the first-generation Octavia and feature a compound-link crank axle with a torsion stabiliser. Spring travel rates on all four corners of the Spaceback have been kept the same as the Rapid sedan, but the shocks have been retuned to deliver a softer, more comfortable and pliable ride.
The steering has been switched from a hydraulic setup to an electro-mechanical one, especially tuned to negate road vibrations and accordingly is entirely mute when disseminating road nuances. The Spaceback’s ride is comfortable and the steering is accurate enough, but the latter is far too light. The penalty (as I apprehensively discovered while running late for our Verona airport departure) is increased body roll as you ‘push-on’. However, most buyers of this car are likely to have family aboard so ‘pushing-on’ is an activity most will neither deploy or indeed enjoy.
Is it safe?
Sure, the Spaceback performed similarly in tests to the Rapid sedan, which received a five-star Euro NCAP rating. Regular safety kit such as ABS and ESC systems are standard across the range, as are six airbags.
Depending on the model chosen, additional safety includes hill-hold control, cornering fog lamps, tyre pressure monitoring and for child safety, Isofix car seats can be secured in the rear seat anchorages and top tether straps, which attach child safety seats securely to the car.