Fleet News

First drive: Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.6 TDI SE car review



Some people questioned Škoda’s decision to bring a budget hatch model to the UK with the Rapid late last year.

Škoda had succeeded in losing its budget-brand image and had begun to establish itself as a high-value and quality alternative to mainstream manufacturers.

While the Rapid felt like a slight disappointment to those aware of how far Škoda has come in terms of quality, the Spaceback helps to fill a gap in the brand’s range, now that the Octavia has become more of an aspirational purchase.

The 1.6 diesel SE is likely to be the biggest seller in the UK. This familiar VW Group engine is perfectly adequate for the car, the engine noise is muted, it’s quick enough around town and on the motorway, but this is not the sort of engine or car that is intended to bring a smile to your face. It does the job.

Brake energy recovery and stop/start as standard on Greentech models help to improve running costs and the Spaceback’s fleet appeal, with the 90bhp 1.6-litre diesel pushing CO2 emissions down to 104g/km.

Air conditioning is standard across the line, along with curtain airbags, front electric windows and a height- and reach- adjustable steering column. SE models feature alloy wheels, acoustic rear parking sensors, cruise control and a Bluetooth telephone connection.

The mid-range trim offers customers a decent level of standard equipment, but as in all VW Group models, the fittings and fixtures will be familiar. This is no bad thing in terms of build quality, but it does mean the Rapid lacks identity.

Škoda says the interior of the Spaceback has been tweaked after customer feedback from the hatchback model.

It still hasn’t moved on as far as the Octavia and the Superb, which are reserved for customers who are not on such a tight budget, but it’s an improvement over last year’s Rapid, which was very basic.

The Rapid hatchback will also be updated to improve material quality on areas such as the dash and door handles.

The Rapid Spaceback is competing with models such as the Hyundai i30, Kia Cee’d and Ford Focus and the Spaceback will find it difficult to convince Cee’d and Focus buyers of its style and desirability.

The price point isn’t great either, with only about £500 between each of the competitor’s entry-level models.

Move up to the SE and that’s where customers will see the value, with a higher level of specification in comparison to equivalent competitors, but even the upgrades to improve interior quality still make the Rapid range stand out as Škoda’s least appealing product offering.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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