Overall rating: 4/5
The Octavia and Superb models helped Skoda earn a good reputation for solid saloon cars, but the smaller Rapid saloon, which was introduced last year, didn't quite have the same impact. The Czech manufacturer is now introducing this hatchback version called the Rapid Spaceback.
In the Metal:
When looking at the Rapid Spaceback from behind you would be forgiven for first thinking that you were looking at the estate version of the smallest of Skoda's current range of saloons. It is only when you look at it in side profile that you notice a silhouette that is a new departure for Skoda, but is one that works well in a car of this size. Visually there really is nothing to differentiate the Spaceback from the saloon version of the Rapid ahead of the rear doors.
On the inside, Skoda's designers have upped the quality of the materials used in order to move away from the rather basic look and feel that the Rapid saloon had been criticised in the past for having. One point worth noting is that these changes have also been applied to the saloon version with immediate effect. New three-spoke steering wheels have also been added across all three trim levels.
Another new feature is the option of a two-metre-squared glass panoramic roof, which is visually very impressive and will be available as part of a Style Pack that also includes black 17-inch alloy wheels, black fog lamps, black side mirrors and the larger glass tailgate - all for €1,220 on the Elegance trim. A slightly cheaper optional extra, which utilises Skoda's design mantra of 'simply clever' is a small waste bin that clips into the lower section of the door card - a slightly gimmicky idea, but finding replacement miniature rubbish sacks in Tesco may prove difficult! With 451 litres of boot space, carrying capacity is less than that of the Rapid saloon (which has 550 litres), but the ease of access that the hatchback offers means that it will remain practical enough for the majority of users.
It would be fair to say that the Rapid saloon doesn't deliver the best quality drive - in fact it is disappointing. As with the saloon, the Rapid Spaceback is one of the few new cars in the densely populated Volkswagen Group that isn't built on its versatile new MQB platform. The saloon did suffer from a poor suspension setup, which led to sub-standard ride and in-cabin noise levels, but this has now been addressed and vastly improved with some reworking of the rear suspension that includes new coil springs and dampers.
Changes have also been made to the steering, which sees a new Column-Electric Power Steering (C-EPS) replace the electro-hydraulic system that was in the saloon. This new system works though an electric servo motor mounted on the steering column and is speed-dependent. Realistically, few people will notice the change, but the new system does now do away with the need for a hydraulic unit, servo-pump and hoses thus further reducing weight.
The 86hp 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine may not look over-appealing on paper, but thanks to the Rapid Spaceback's low 1,055kg weight, it actually delivers a more than adequate level of performance for everyday use. Fuel economy figures don't quite match that of the diesel offerings, but the significantly smoother petrol engine doesn't lag very far behind.
What you get for your Money:
Skoda will offer the Rapid Spaceback with its usual Active, Ambition and Elegance trim lines, whilst a strong engine line-up will appeal to those keep to keep their motoring costs relatively low. The starting price of €17,495 does see it undercut the saloon by just €200 in petrol guise which leaves the decision as to which model to go for less to do with price influence and more down to model preference.
In terms of speccing up a Rapid Spaceback, a number of package options are available all of which offer some very good value. The option of adding satellite navigation and cruise control - which make up the Technical Package - costs just €249. For the image conscious, the Style Pack which costs €1,400 on the Ambition trim level does group together a lot of options such as 17-inch split-spoke alloy wheels, glass tailgate and that large panoramic glass roof.
What you get for your Money:
Skoda will offer the Rapid Spaceback in its usual Active, Ambition and Elegance trim lines, whilst a strong engine line-up will appeal to those wanting to keep their motoring costs relatively low. The starting price of €17,495 does see it undercut the saloon by just €200 in petrol guise, which leaves the decision as to which model to go for less to do with price and more down to model preference.
In terms of speccing up a Rapid Spaceback, a number of package options are available, all of which offer good value. The option of adding satellite navigation and cruise control - which make up the Technical Package - costs just €249. For the image conscious, the Style Pack, which costs €1,400 on the Ambition trim level, does group together a lot of options such as 17-inch split-spoke alloy wheels, glass tailgate and that large panoramic glass roof.
The Rapid Spaceback may appear smaller than the saloon but realistically lacks little in terms of carrying space. The boot is slightly smaller but also has a false floor that can be lowered to add a further 20 litres of space. In addition, the 60:40 split-folding rear seats fold flat.
Had the mechanical setup changes not been made to the Rapid Spaceback it would not be the appealing car it now is. Despite what may seem like only minor alterations, Skoda has transformed this car and with its new body style should now appeal to a different audience. The car's overall low weight gives the 1.2-litre petrol engine an opportunity to shine and prove that it should still be the default choice for most buyers.