£14,630 - £18,925 Price range
57 - 58 MPG
If you like the idea of Skoda’s penny-pinching Rapid but aren’t as keen on the frumpy styling, than the sportier Rapid Spaceback might be the car for you.
Reviews aren’t as positive as you might think, though – for its improved styling and equipment, a raised price and an average drive mean many testers would look elsewhere. Read on to find how the car scored in specific areas.
The Spaceback name is rather deceiving – thanks to the shortened tail, there’s less boot volume here than in the normal Rapid. The regular model came top of our list of big booted family hatchbacks at 550 litres – the Spaceback’s 415 litres would have dropped it to fourth place.
That’s still not bad of course and the Spaceback’s interior ambience is better than the standard car. Testers appreciate the quality and touches like the Octavia-style steering wheel – it makes for a classy cabin. Passenger space too is more than adequate and Skoda’s ‘Simply Clever’ features like a parking ticket holder and hi-viz jacket drawer under the front seats are thoughtful touches.
A major criticism of the standard Rapid was its ride quality – the car jiggled on rough roads and sends shudders through the cabin. Skoda has tweaked the Spaceback to minimise those issues, though a few reviewers remain unconvinced that it’s worked. A few drivers say it’s “smooth and compliant” but another suggests it’s “busy and unsettled” and “thuds” over bumps. Best drive it on your local roads and form your own opinions…
Handling is little better, but that’s down to a lack of fun rather than lack of competence. Light, feel-free steering conspires to distance you from the road. It’s accurate though, and that lightness means the Rapid is very easy to drive – something backed up by a neat manual gearshift and good visibility.
Several engines are available in the Spaceback. There’s a brace of 1.2 TSI (TSI is Volkswagen Group speak for petrol), a 1.4 TSI, and 1.6 TDI diesels in two power outputs. VW’s dual-clutch DSG gearbox is available on most, and others have fuel-sipping GreenTech additions.
Of the units tested, it’s the 1.2-litre TSI that most favour. While it lacks the shove you’ll find in the 1.4 TSI or the outright frugality of the diesels, it’s a smooth, free-revving unit with more than adequate performance (little over 10 seconds to 60) and mid-fifties economy. It’s also cheaper than the diesel, which goes some way to making up its mpg deficit.
The diesel would have been the best choice in days gone by, but now it’s criticised for feeling a “touch unsophisticated” – there are rattles at startup and a constant thrum on the move. A new lower-power 89hp option also feels a bit tardy. Still, 60-70 mpg economy can’t be sniffed at.
Power comes from a 104 horsepower, 1.2-litre petrol engine with both manual and DSG automatic transmissions available. A 10.2 second 0-60 sprint isn't bad and drivers say it feels punchy, thanks to a wide band of torque.
Economy is good too - 52 mpg combined, or enough to make you think twice about the diesel if you do shorter journeys. The main benefit is refinement though - it's an "enthusiastic" engine and smooth in a way the diesel doesn't get close to.
There's no denying the 1.6 TDI's economy - a combined 72.4 mpg is nothing to sniff at - but refinement is sub-par. "There's a loud clatter on start-up" says one review, another saying "it's a touch unsophisticated".
Lacking too is power from the new lower-output diesel available. With 89 bhp it's a bit behind the more expensive 104 bhp unit and feels it. There's a "noticeable lull before power arrives" and even with the DSG auto it can feel "dull witted".
If you're buying a Rapid diesel, spend the extra for the more powerful car. But the 1.2 TSI petrol is the more pleasant engine to use.
The Spaceback hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the results will be nearly identical to the regular Rapid, which achieved strong scores. Like the regular model, it comes with all of the safety kit you’d hope for: IsoFix child seat mounting points, electronic stability control, and six airbags all equipped as standard.
The Rapid Spaceback also falls down a little here. While the standard Rapid offers good value, you pay more for the Spaceback’s styling and interior tweaks and it raises pricing uncomfortably close to the larger Octavia – and above it, for some models.
That means some Spacebacks make little financial sense – the Octavia is a demonstrably better car overall, offering both more space and sophistication. The Spaceback looks a little better next to cars of a similar size – its low-£14,000 entry point matches that of its Hyundai and Kia rivals – but you do have to wonder whether the sub-£13,000 Rapid doesn’t make more sense.
If you’re going to spend a little more on your Rapid, you might as well go all-out and specify the panoramic roof option – it adds around £1,200 to the price but the glass roof and extended glass tailgate enhance the airy feel in the cabin no end.
It’s hard not to judge the Rapid Spaceback as a little disappointing on the strength of its reviews. It promises a more stylish, more youthful car than the Rapid, but there’s so little room to manoeuvre between the Rapid and Octavia that its pricing has come too close to the latter – a car built on a more modern platform than the Rapid’s Polo-derived undercarriage.
If you truly need a value-driven family car we’d be tempted to overlook the regular Rapid’s lack of style and enjoy its larger boot and cheaper price tag instead.
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