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Skoda Rapid Spaceback: is cheap and cheerful enough?

While not unusual for a manufacturer to sell two versions of the same car in different body styles (say a saloon and an estate), it is quite rare that two cars with mildly different hatchback boots should co-exist.


While not unusual for a manufacturer to sell two versions of the same car in different body styles (say a saloon and an estate), it is quite rare that two cars with mildly different hatchback boots should co-exist.

Welcome to the weird world of the Skoda Rapid. We found the standard model to be a rarely wide of the mark for Skoda, but there is hope that this Spaceback version might find more favour, not least because it’s slightly cheaper.

For that you can thank its smaller boot and a mildly altered engine and specification line-up. This includes just one petrol engine (a turbocharged 1.0-litre) and two diesels of 1.4 and 1.6 litres. An automatic gearbox is available on the petrol engine or the smaller of the two diesels.

In terms of size the Rapid Spaceback doesn’t have much in the way of rivals, although the larger Nissan Pulsar and Fiat Tipo give it a close run on price.

Space 8/10

Big, if not terribly clever

While you sacrifice some 30 per cent of boot space compared with a standard Rapid, the Spaceback still offers enough room for a large suitcase or folded baby buggy and a few extra bags. There is though a high load lip to lift items over, so it’s worth specifying the optional adjustable boot floor to reduce (but not eradicate) this, as well as minimise the step in the load area when the rear seats are folded.

As with the standard Rapid, passenger space for those in the rear is impressive, with excellent head room (provided you avoid the SE Sport model with its panoramic sunroof), just enough width to carry three adults and ample leg room too.

All but the entry-level version come with an armrest in which you can store a wallet or phone, but otherwise in-car storage is limited to a few small open compartments and a medium-sized glovebox.

Comfort  4/10

Disappointing compared with other Skodas

Skoda consistently builds cars that deliver high levels of ride comfort, which makes the underperforming Rapid and Rapid Spaceback rather disappointing. Even on 16-inch wheels the ride fidgets around at lower speeds, while increasing the pace reveals a lack of body control that manifests itself in noticeable body lean through corners.

If you must have a diesel engine we’d opt for the 1.6 over the noisy and coarse 1.4. Better still go for the 1.0-litre petrol unit, which although still prone to sending vibrations into the car is at least fairly quiet. The same can’t be said of road and wind noise, both of which are pronounced once out of town.

On the plus side the driving position is sound, with reach and height adjustment in the steering wheel and a good-sized footrest next to the clutch.

Dashboard layout 5/10

Looks and feels basic

The Rapid and Rapid Spaceback share the same dash layout and hard plastics. That said, whether you opt for the basic heating controls or the upgraded climate control, adjusting the temperature in the car is a doddle.

In isolation the 6.5-inch touchscreen on SE Tech and SE Sport models is also fine, but compared with the unit in Skoda’s Octavia it feels dated and the lack of a standard DAB radio on the entry-level model also seems stingy. We do though like the shortcut buttons either side of the screen and the satnav is easy to operate.

The Rapid is also available with full smartphone connectivity including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Easy to drive  8/10

Rear visibility is a problem

If you’re a nervous parker the Spaceback’s almost flat rear screen will be preferable to the shallow slope of the standard Rapid’s, but even then it’s worth upgrading to SE Tech specification to benefit from rear parking sensors.

Good control weights including light steering contribute to making the Rapid Spaceback a very easy car to drive. The optional automatic is smooth once on the move, but can be fiddly when manoeuvring due to a small delay between pressing the accelerator and the car moving.

Fun to drive 3/10

Thrill-seekers should look elsewhere

While you couldn’t call any version of the Rapid Spaceback sluggish (even the entry-level petrol and diesel models deliver perfectly acceptable performance), there is nothing about the way the car handles that makes it particularly enjoyable to drive.

Grip is adequate but not outstanding, the steering lacks feel and the car doesn’t isn’t particularly agile when asked to change direction. True, it’s no worse in this respect than a Nissan Pulsar or Fiat Tipo, but if you can live with a slightly smaller car the Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta will run rings around it.

Reliability 8/10

Skoda performs well in surveys

Skoda performs consistently well in the JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study. This is reflected in a third place finish in 2017, putting it behind only Kia and Volvo.

That said, the company’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is about the minimum it can get away with when others offer four, five or even seven years of cover as standard.

Fuel economy 9/10

Can’t argue with it here

All versions of the Rapid Spaceback returned more than 60mpg in EU fuel economy tests, with the best being the 1.4 TDI at 70.6mpg.

In practice you can expect as much as 65mpg from a diesel Rapid Spaceback and between 45-55mpg from a petrol model in normal driving.

Affordability 6/10

Cheap to buy, but not to lease

Opting for a Rapid Spaceback versus the standard Rapid will save you several hundred pounds, but it’s still not as cheap as a Nissan Pulsar or Fiat Tipo. That said, company car drivers will benefit from lower CO2 emissions than the Spaceback’s rivals, with all versions emitting less than 110g/km.

Where the Rapid Spaceback doesn’t perform as well is in residual values, which not only means you’ll lose a fair chunk of its value in the first three years but also makes it a relatively expensive option to lease. As such, those using some kind of finance scheme for the Rapid should look to see what else is available for a similar budget, not least Skoda’s larger Octavia.

Safety  8/10

Performed well in crash tests

The Rapid scored a maximum five stars in EuroNCAP’s industry standard crash tests, beating the smaller Fabia in every area but child occupant protection (even then it was only a single percentage point behind). More impressive still it matched the score of the larger Volkswagen Golf for adult occupant protection.

All models are fitted with six airbags, an electronic stability control programme to help you regain control if the car starts to skid, and autonomous emergency braking is available as an option. Unlike small cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Nissan Micra you can’t, however, have a Rapid with lane departure warning or blind spot monitors.

Standard spec 6/10

Worth upgrading to SE Tech

The Rapid Spaceback line-up is slightly different to that offered with the Rapid. It starts with the basic S specification with its 15-inch steel wheels and electric front windows but not much else. Upgrading to SE Tech costs about £1,000 but brings plenty of extra equipment including 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control, rear parking sensors, a leather steering wheel and an upgraded infotainment system with satnav.

SE Sport then adds 17-inch alloys, a panoramic glass sunroof, sporty styling touches and sports seats.

Our favourite version

1.0 TSI 95PS petrol SE Tech, list price £15,645

Options you should add: Metallic paint (£550), space saver spare wheel (£80), variable boot floor (£155), hill hold control (£70), rear view camera (£230), Smartlink smartphone connectivity (£150), Front Assist (£315)

Verdict 6/10

Although cheaper than the standard Rapid and not boasting as much boot space, the Rapid Spaceback is arguably the better car thanks to its superior equipment levels.

That said there are still better options out there for the same or a little bit more money, particularly if you are buying on finance rather than outright.

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