MODEL TESTED: Skoda Rapid Space­back 1.6 TDI CR SE Sport 115PS

PRICE: £19,210 EN­GINE: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 113bhp

Auto Express - - Road Tests -

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.

DE­SIGN & ENGI­NEER­ING

THE re­cent facelift means the Rapid now fits in well with its Skoda sib­lings, with a large grille and bold head­lights at the front. The large glass sec­tion on the tail­gate is the Space­back’s dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture, along with Skoda’s usual sharp body­work creases.

It looks the part on the out­side, but the car is ac­tu­ally based on an old plat­form and not the MQB ar­chi­tec­ture used by most VW Group cars th­ese days. Its PQ25 plat­form is a de­vel­op­ment of the me­chan­i­cals that un­der­pinned the orig­i­nal Skoda Fabia in 1999. Al­though it’s clearly had a lot of de­vel­op­ment over that time, the Rapid still feels like a blast from the past, par­tic­u­larly on the in­side.

The cheap-look­ing plas­tics all around the cabin are nearly as much of a give­away as the dated in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, and while the in­te­rior de­sign isn’t bad, you can tell that this is a car con­ceived on a tight bud­get. How­ever, that’s true of all of our con­tenders here, and the Skoda’s in­te­rior is prob­a­bly the best of the bunch in this test since it fol­lows the Czech brand’s neat de­sign cues and er­gonomics.

It also comes pretty well equipped, and with this SE Sport car you get sat-nav, Blue­tooth, DAB ra­dio and park­ing sen­sors as stan dard.

DRIV­ING

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.

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

EVEN though it’s a big­ger seller than the stan­dard Rapid, the Space­back model ac­tu­ally has less boot space. With the seats in place, there’s 415 litres; the stan­dard model has 550 litres. That means the Skoda has the small­est boot here, be­cause the Tipo’s load bay of­fers 440 litres and the Lo­gan MCV Step­way pro­vides 573 litres. The Rapid Space­back can’t be marked down too much for prac­ti­cal­ity, be­cause it’s still more than 100 litres big­ger than the lug­gage area in a Fabia.

The Space­back makes clever use of the avail­able space, with side pock­ets and ex­tra cub­bies in which to store smaller items, but there’s no get­ting away from the fact that it’s the small­est car here.

It’s a win­ner when it comes to legroom in the back, be­cause there’s enough space for adults to sit com­fort­ably. Head­room is good, too, even with our car’s stan­dard panoramic sun­roof fit­ted. The seats are com­fort­able as well, and the cabin doesn’t feel as dark as in the Tipo.

All three cars get Isofix as stan­dard, so there’s no prob­lem fit­ting child seats, but the Skoda does miss out on a park­ing cam­era, where the oth­ers get one as stan­dard. It’ll cost you £230 to add one here, which stings even more since the Space­back is the model with the high­est list price in the fir st place.

OWN­ER­SHIP

OUR Driver Power 2017 cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey saw Skoda placed sec­ond over­all in the list of man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The av­er­age share of own­ers who ex­pe­ri­enced a fault with their car was 9.8 per cent, which is bet­ter than the 11. 2 per cent of Da­cia driv­ers and 12.1 per cent of Fiat own­ers who re­sponded to our poll.

Cus­tomers rated their Sko­das highly in ev­ery area, al­though prac­ti­cal­ity and safety were par­tic­u­lar plus points with own­ers. The Czech man­u­fac­turer scored much higher than Fiat (17th place) and Da­cia (27th place) in the poll’s rank­ings, which is a good sign for any prospec­tive Skoda buyer.

RUN­NING COSTS

IT ’S billed as a bud­get car – the range starts at £14,410 – but the Rapid Space­back SE Sport 1.6-litre diesel has the high­est list price on test, and starts from £19, 210, which trans­lates as £293 a month on our ex­am­ple PCP fi­nance deal (see Through the Range, op­po­site).

We wouldn’t call it good value, es­pe­cially since the more prac­ti­cal, bet­ter-to-drive and bet­ter-equipped Oc­tavia, with the same en­gine as our car, in SE spec costs just £7 more a month with the same de­posit.

That fi­nance deal works out so pricey be­cause the car’s resid­ual val­ues are very poor. Af­ter three years the Rapid will re­tain just 33.5 per cent of its value, ac­cord­ing to our ex­perts, which means pri­vate buy­ers would lose £12,784 over that pe­riod.

The Tipo will keep 39.8 per cent of its pur­chase price. The Da­cia isn’t just the cheap­est car to buy here; it will also hold on to 40.7 per cent of its value, so you’ll lose just £8, 245 af­ter three years.

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