Skoda's Rapid Spaceback is the brand's most competitive try yet at the Focus-sized family hatchback segment. We reckon the latest 1.0-litre TSI petrol variant is the one to choose. Jonathan Crouch looks at what's on offer.
Ten Second Review
Skoda's ordinary Rapid may be a five-door hatch but it's not a very conventional one. This separate Rapid Spaceback model though, is much closer to the kind of thing that buyers in the Focus-sized family hatchback segment will be expecting - and this revised version is the most class-competitive model the brand has yet bought us. It's bigger inside than most of its rivals, more affordable and better equipped. Let's check it out in 1.0-litre TSI petrol form.
Skoda is changing. Once a brand exclusively the preserve of older buyers, it's now courting younger ones, not only with its sporty vRS hot hatch models but also with mainstream fare - cars like this one, the Rapid Spaceback.
The 'Spaceback' name might lead you to expect some sort of estate car - or at the very least, a variant with a bit more room than the standard Rapid model can offer. In fact, this car is slightly more compact than its stablemate and the name is merely Skoda-speak for the kind of more familiar bodystyle more likely to appeal to the kind of buyer wanting a better value alternative to their usual Golf, Astra or Focus. It gives the brand a credible mainstream presence in this segment - and it's a car we're going to look at in 1.0-litre TSI petrol form.
'Effective' is a word you keep coming back to after a drive in this car. There's nothing particularly enjoyable about the way it goes about its business, but most likely buyers don't seek that in affordable five-door family transport. In any case, there are plenty of other attributes on offer that target customers will probably value more highly. They might find the ride a little on the firm side of comfortable but they'll very much like the narrow body that makes parking and road width restrictions easier to negotiate aided by the excellent all-round visibility, the light, consistently-weighted controls and the simple switchgear that, thank goodness, features a proper conventional handbrake. For this car, Skoda's engineers developed a more accurate C-EPS Column-Electric Power Steering steering system. It could still do with a bit more feel but it certainly makes the car a more willing dynamic companion.
And under the bonnet? Well the major change with this revised model is the introduction of the three cylinder 1.0-litre TSI petrol unit that's been seen in so many other Volkswagen Group products. Here, it replaces the old 1.2-litre TSI unit and is available in two states of tune - with either 95 or 110PS. The pokier powerplant manages 62mph in 9.8s on the way to a maximum of 123mph and delivers its performance with a raspy engine note that's quite endearing, encouraging you to use the inherent flexibility of the engine.
Design and Build
The 'Spaceback' name is perhaps a piece of ironic Czech humour given that in actual fact, 'space in the back' has necessarily had to be reduced in comparison to the ordinary Rapid, due to this model's shorter length. Hence a reduction in luggage capacity from 550 to 415-litres. Mind you, that's still very good by family hatchback class standards. The luggage bay can be specified with a double floor to ensure that valuables are kept out of sight. Fold the 60/40 split rear seats and you get up to 1,380-litres of luggage capacity (down from 1490-litres in the standard Rapid).
Updates made to this revised Rapid Spaceback model are subtle and mostly limited to plusher trim levels. At the front, there are modified foglights, a redesigned bumper and plush variants get some extra chrome, plus the headlamps can be ordered with bi-xenon beams. At the rear, the tail lights now have black-tinted covers and can be ordered in LED form. Otherwise, it's as you were. As before, we'd recommend the optional panoramic glass roof which combines neatly with a 'prolong' tinted rear screen for a contrasting look that works best on pale coloured cars.
Inside, the ambience of the cabin has been lifted with new door inlays, while the airvents, the instruments and the air conditioning controls have been redesigned. That's all this interior really needed.
Market and Model
Rapid Spaceback pricing is now much keener these days, sitting in the £14,000 to £20,000 bracket. Assign a budget of around £16,000 to purchase of this 1.0 TSI variant and you should hit the sweet spot in ownership of this model. Rapid Spaceback pricing significantly undercuts that of the standard Rapid model, though partly that's because this Spaceback derivative offers more affordable trim options. Standard specifications see air conditioning as standard across the line-up, along with curtain airbags, front electric windows and a height and reach adjustable steering column.
As part of this model upgrade, Skoda has introduced plenty of extra tech to the car, a good example of that being the optional 'Skoda Connect services' package. This consists of two things; 'Infotainment Online' gives you online traffic information and can update you on things like fuel prices, parking spaces, current news and weather. Then there are the so-called 'CareConnect Services' which allow you to monitor your car from your smartphone, plus the set-up includes a breakdown call function and will automatically alert the emergency services if the airbags go off in an accident. There's plenty of safety tech too, including 'Front Assist' autonomous braking, fatigue detection and 'multi-collision brake' which after you've hit something, applies the brakes to stop you from going on to hit something else.
Cost of Ownership
The 1.0 TSI version of this Rapid Spaceback returns the kind of figures that previously would have been the preserve of diesel models. Even the pokier 110PS variant manages 61.4mpg on the combined cycle and 106g/km of CO2.
What else? Well, with low Benefit in Kind (BIK) ratings, the Rapid Spaceback is expected to continue to provide a boost to the brand's rapidly expanding fleet sales. And it'll probably help here that maintenance costs will be affordable, with a choice between servicing regimes based or either fixed or variable mileages, depending on whether the annual distance you cover is short or long. There's a three year/60,000 mile warranty that you can extend to four or five years if you wish. If you've got a Spaceback variant able to access the 'Care Connect' features in the 'Skoda Connect' app, there's a 'Proactive Service' element included which, when activated, can send all the data needed from your car in advance to your local Skoda dealership prior to a service visit.
This more conventional-looking Rapid Spaceback model will continue to be a much easier sell than its standard Rapid hatch stablemate. Although its angular shape is distinctly different from that of, say, an equivalent Focus or Astra, customers can clearly see that those kinds of rivals offer direct competition. People like what they know - and they know what they like.
So should buyers previously foreign to the Skoda brand be won over by this car? Possibly. It won't suit those always yearning for a spirited drive but otherwise, its list of attributes ought to be enough to earn a place on your family hatchback shortlist. After all, this car's more affordable than most of its rivals - and more spacious too. Plus it's well built, acceptably efficient in this 1.0-litre TSI petrol guise - and really quite stylish too, if you stretch to the extra-cost Style Pack with its smart, extended panoramic glass roof.
Think of it as a much more affordable take on something like an Audi A3 Sportback and you'll probably have summed up for yourself what this car's really all about. Younger buyers will like that. So will older ones. Both groups then, have reason to visit a Skoda showroom. Just as the brand intended.