MODEL TESTED: Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.6 TDI CR SE Sport 115PS
PRICE: £19,210 ENGINE: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 113bhp
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.