Skoda Rapid SE Sport 1.6 TDI CR 115PS (Tested: October 2017 by Richard Kilpatrick)
‘Competent and well-equipped, but unexciting'
A front-wheel drive, relatively small car with a torquey diesel engine? It's been a winning formula for most manufacturers in one form or another for years, and the Rapid Spaceback is a handsome option. Things are moving on, though.
The 1.6-litre 115hp TDI is fairly well-insulated, but has a coarse engine tone. It's paired with a five speed manual gearbox, which will please traditionalists but feels like an opportunity for long-distance economy has been missed via a tall sixth gear.
Where the Rapid works well is on a flowing A-road, where the well-spaced ratios let the car coast on ample torque and the competent chassis keeps everything tidy through bends. We really like this combination for the straightforward engineering, light gearchange and feel of effortless progress. On test the trip computer reported 58.1mpg despite an extended period of queueing traffic on one run.
It's not an involving car to drive, though, which is at odds with Skoda's assertion that the Rapid is a more exciting option than the Fabia. The light steering somehow manages a comfortable, relaxed response yet transmits every road imperfection, breaking the impression of mature isolation without delivering a truly sporty feel.
Adding to this detached feeling, though the chassis and engine are more than capable of an appropriately rapid pace, the brakes lack feel and don't inspire confidence during spirited driving.
Although the Rapid Spaceback is visually attractive, and the panoramic glass roof definitely helps it to feel special for rear passengers in particular, it's hard to see £19,815 (with cruise control and metallic paint) worth of appeal in this car.
The seats are attractive to look at, but have oddly firm bolsters that give a sporty impression without actually being particularly comfortable. Throughout the experience there's the impression that there's a great, efficient and comfortable family car in the mix that is being hampered by occasional nods towards the Hot Hatch Brigade; a veneer that really isn't necessary.
The interior looks good, neither depressingly spartan or desperately overstyled, and despite some fairly low-quality plastics and occasional sharp edges feels very well made and able to shrug off years of abuse.
Helping to keep away from a bargain-basement feel, the standard infotainment system is well-designed and intuitive - though CarPlay/Android Auto is a £150 option that tantalisingly comes up requesting an activation code. At this price, we would expect that to be standard.
Therein lies this Spaceback's weakness. As the most expensive model of a budget car, it is 33% more than the entry level 1.0 S, which has many of the practical aspects in common. The SE Sport needs more focus on driver involvement though; at this price the buyer deserves a fully-fledged sporty chassis, rather than some grippy seats and a leather steering wheel.
It has the looks and attitude to carry it off, after all.
Skoda Rapid SE Sport 1.0 110 (Tested: September 2017 by Lawrence Cheung)
‘Did the Skoda Rapid Spaceback need an even smaller engine than the 1.2-litre TSI?'
Skoda reckons so and replaced the previous four-cylinder engine with a diminutive 1.0-litre three-cylinder as part of the 2017 facelift.
Power and top speed matches the old 1.2-litre engine, but there’s 25Nm more torque and CO2 emissions drop from 111g/km to 106g/km.
For a modestly-powered small capacity engine, this 1.0-litre TSI performs well. The six-speed gearbox may be configured to deliver maximum fuel economy, but it doesn’t take much encouragement for the engine to wake up and get into its stride; acceleration feels more eager than cars in the class below - such as the Ford Fiesta and SEAT Ibiza - despite a slightly slower 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds.
It’s frugal enough if driven gently too, managing to average around 45mpg over a week of mixed driving with the air-conditioning mostly on. This is some way off the claimed 61.4mpg, but with the engine spinning just above 2,000rpm at motorway speeds, we’d expect to see it nudging towards 50mpg on a long motorway stint.
Any drawbacks? The engine does send more vibrations through the steering wheel and gearlever than the old 1.2-litre engine. You do get road and wind noise filtering through into the cabin, however the engine remains quiet enough; with a distant off-beat warble adding a small dose of character throughout the rev range.
The handling is safe and neutral - there’s plenty of bodyroll to stop you mistaking this for a sporting hatch - but the relatively quick steering, short stubby gearlever and responsive pedals are just enough to make this unassuming-looking hatch a decent amount of fun.
Combine this with better refinement over the 1.4TDI (see below) and this might just be the engine to pick in the range.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback SE Sport 1.4 TDI CR 90PS (Tested: August 2016 by Lawrence Cheung)
‘Sporty looks but the performance hardly lives up to it’
If the ‘space’ part of the name conjures up an expectation of vast estate-like levels of boot room, then prepare for disappointment. This car not only has a smaller boot than the regular Rapid hatchback, but is beaten in sheer volume by its smaller Fabia Estate sibling.
The car on test is powered by the smallest and least powerful 90hp diesel engine in top-spec SE Sport trim. Bringing a suite of equipment over SE Tech models, you get 17-inch black alloy wheels complemented by other exterior black detailing and a panoramic roof with extended tailgate glass.
For a base-level diesel engine this 1.4-litre TDI performs very well. It eagerly gets into its stride under acceleration and feels quicker than the claimed 0-62mph time of 11.6 seconds suggests.
It’s frugal too, managing to average 52mpg over a week of mixed driving with the air-conditioning mostly on. This is some way off the claimed 78.5mpg but we’d expect to see around 60mpg on a long motorway stint.
This is not an engine you want to work hard through its rev range – chiefly because it runs out of steam by 3,000rpm, but also due to the high-levels of engine noise booming into the cabin as the revs rise.
The more mature Fabia Estate with the same engine may feel less sprightly but it goes about its business in a more hushed manner.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback SE 1.6 TDI 90PS (Tested: December 2013)
‘The Spaceback doesn’t live up to its lofty price tag’
We’re testing the Spaceback with the lower-powered 90hp 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine (a beefier 105hp version of the same engine is available) in SE trim, which is the middle of the three equipment grades available.
Our car also had a few optional extras. Most expensive of these was the ‘Amundsen’ multimedia system at £550, which includes sat-nav, DAB radio and a touchscreen unit lifted from other Volkswagen Group products.
Also fitted were a temporary spare wheel (£75), climate control (£300) and textile floor mats (a fairly steep £75). With those options in place, the price tag ramps up to £18,280. That’s a bit of a stumbling block because, to be frank, the Spaceback doesn’t feel like 18 grand’s worth of car.
Essentially it’s a budget car but this isn’t priced like one. For a brand that’s built on value, that doesn’t quite add up.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback SE 1.2 TSI 105PS (Tested November 2013)
‘Go for the 105hp version of the 1.2-litre petrol over the timid 86hp edition’
At the time of testing there are five different engine options available, three petrol and two diesels. The car on test is the higher powered 105hp 1.2-litre TSI (as opposed to the 86hp version) in SE trim.
SE is Skoda’s middle-level spec and for the £16,180 standard price of this test car, you will get 15-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control, tinted glass, Bluetooth connectivity, all-round electric windows and six speakers for the audio system.
Despite this test car missing out on the panoramic sunroof and extended tailgate glass, it still feels very spacious inside. Headroom and legroom is particularly good, especially for those in the back, and there are lots of useful storage options, cup holders and a big glove box on offer.
The engine is punchy and you can be confident it has plenty of pull in the lower gears, so it accelerates smartly. The steering is precise and body roll is minimal, while comfort levels are also good thanks to compliant suspension and lack of engine noise.
When it comes to fuel economy, the official consumption figure is 52.3mpg, not bad for a petrol; CO2 emissions are a competitive 125g/km.
The lower-powered 1.2 TSI 85PS isn’t that much more economical at 55mpg and emissions of 119g/km, so it’s not worth sacrificing that extra 20hp.
The car is a good all-rounder but it is too conventional and uninspiring to be considered desirable.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback model history
- October 2013 – Available to order ahead of its January 2014 availability in showrooms, the Spaceback is a shorter, more contemporarily-styled version of the otherwise similar Rapid hatchbach. S, SE and Elegance specifications are on offer, with a broad engine range consisting of 1.2 TSI (86hp and 105hp) and 1.4 TSI (122hp) petrols, with the 1.6 TDI diesel in 90hp and 105hp forms.
- November 2013 – GreenLine with a 90hp 1.6-litre TDI diesel available to order ahead of deliveries in spring 2014, with efficiency claims of 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km.
- July 2014 – Limited availability Black Edition with black alloy wheels and exterior detailing among other enhancements to the SE specification. Engine choice restricted to the 105hp 1.2-litre TSI petrol.
- May 2015 – Range revised with S, SE Tech and SE Sport trims at significantly lower prices than their predecessors. Petrol engine line-up now consists of 90hp and 110hp 1.2-litre TSIs, topped with a 125hp 1.4-litre TSI, while the diesel range comprises of 1.4- and 1.6-litre TDIs in 90hp and 115hp guises, respectively.
- April 2017 – Facelifted range available to order with subtly modified lights front and rear, new wheel designs and a 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine replacing the previous 1.2 unit. These cars are available to order now and will be delivered in the summer.
Buying a new Skoda Rapid Spaceback
- Not as cheap as you might expect
- Avoid high-spec models
- Push hard for a discount
Skoda expects that around 80% of Rapid sales will be the Spaceback, and that most Spaceback customers will be private buyers, compared to the majority of saloon buyers coming from fleet sales.
If you are looking to buy a Rapid Spaceback, your local Skoda dealership should be your first port of call.
Choosing higher specced versions will help to retain the cars value, Skoda expects the SE trim to be the most popular and will probably be the easiest to sell on. It’s worth noting the optional panoramic roof is a real talking point on the car and may help your car stand out when you come to sell it.
Buying a used Skoda Rapid Spaceback
- SE trim best all-rounder
- Reasonable number available
- Good value for money used
A lot of the stigma surrounding the Skoda brand has long been forgotten, and as a used car they present attractive proposition. The Rapid Spaceback should make for a great used buy and the SE trim is likely to be the best value for money. How many on sale can vary, but sometimes there can be as many Rapid models on sale as small Citigo city cars.
Build quality is good and the engines are proven throughout the VW group.
If buying from a previous retail owner, ensure that the service history is kept up to date. With ex-fleet cars they will have been serviced and maintained to schedule, though it’s always worth double checking.
If buying used direct from a Skoda Approved Used dealer, you will have a bit of added peace of mind, thanks to one year’s warranty and one year’s roadside assistance coming with the car. There’s also an offer of two services for a fixed price.
Make sure you inspect the car thoroughly including the brakes and tyres and don’t forget to get a Parkers Car History Check carried out on the car to make sure there are no hidden surprises.
Selling your Skoda Rapid Spaceback
- Keep an up-to-date service record
- Have the car serviced appropriately
- Construct an attractive advert
You need to ensure that you keep an up to date record of your Skoda Rapid Spaceback’s service and maintenance history so when it comes to selling on, you have everything in order. Having the car serviced at your local Skoda dealership will also help to sell the car and if you’ve added any aftermarket modifications then consider removing them before selling to boost its appeal to a broader spectrum of the market.
There are a number of ways to sell your Rapid Spaceback either on forums, in your local newspaper, or online.