2014 SKODA RAPID REVIEW
What’s Hot: Killer entry price, handles great, perky engines.
What’s Not: Interior quality a let-down, no reversing camera or sat-nav options.
X-FACTOR: The most affordable European in the small car segment, and it drives pretty well
Vehicle Style: 5-door small hatch
Price: $18,990-$23,750 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 77TSI: 77kW/175Nm turbo petrol 4cyl | 6sp manual, 90TSI: 90kW/200Nm turbo petrol 4cyl | 7sp DSG
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.4 l/100km (77TSI), 6.0 l/100km (90TSI)
The Skoda Rapid has launched into Australia as the cheapest European in the small car segment. Though its underpinnings are shared with the VW Polo, it slots neatly between Skoda's Fabia light hatch and Octavia midsizer.
Only available in the Spaceback hatch bodystyle, the Rapid promises European build quality and refinement, and for the most part it delivers.
Our first drive of the Rapid range revealed it to be a more than worthy competitor to other sub-$20k hatchbacks.
There are however a few gaps in the equipment list and the absence of an auto option for the base 77TSI Ambition model could prove a handicap.
- 77TSI: Power windows, powered and heated mirrors, cloth upholstery, leather steering wheel, trip computer, cruise control, manual air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with CD, SD and USB/aux inputs, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, 16-inch alloys
- 90TSI: (in addition to above) climate control, 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, privacy glass, front fog lamps
- Boot capacity: 384 litres minimum, 1349 litres maximum
The badge might be “Euro”, but the cabin presentation is definitely “budget”.
There are some nice plastics on the dash, and the steering wheel and gear lever are wrapped in leather, but the headliner is cheap cardboard and we noticed a persistent rattle coming from the dashboard.
The seats are roomy enough, though lacking lateral support as well as lower-back support. The optional Sports seats are a solid improvement though.
There are a few oversights when it comes to standard equipment.
While reasonably well-equipped with cruise control, USB audio inputs, Bluetooth audio and phone integration and alloy wheels, you won't find a reversing camera or integrated sat-nav anywhere on the Rapid's spec sheet - not even as options.
Rear parking-sensors are only standard on the 90TSI, and only become available on the 77TSI when you tick the box for the $1600 Sports Pack. If you want front parking sensors too, you’re fresh out of luck.
On the plus side, the Rapid is pretty spacious considering its Polo-based floorpan. The back seat has the width, headroom and legroom necessary to carry two adults in reasonable comfort.
ON THE ROAD
- 77TSI: 77kW/175Nm turbo petrol 4cyl | 6sp manual
- 90TSI: 90kW/200Nm turbo petrol 4cyl | 7sp DSG
- Front wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension
- Disc brakes.
The Rapid’s two petrol powertrains will be familiar to those who've ever looked at the Yeti's spec sheet. The entry model 77TSI sports the VW group's familiar 1.2 litre 77kW/175Nm turbo four and the 90TSI the 90kW/200Nm 1.4 litre turbo four-cyl.
The 77TSI manual is actually a pretty sweet deal. Not only is it the cheapest model in the range, it's also the most satisfying to drive.
The 1.2 turbo may not wow anyone with its power or torque, but the engine is happy to rev, the gearbox is slick and there's enough midrange torque to deal with hills without having to madly downshift.
The 90TSI is only available with a seven-speed DSG automatic, and while it's not as involving to drive as the 77TSI manual it's certainly an easy car to pilot thanks to its extra torque and higher gear count.
The twin-clutch auto rarely puts a foot wrong when it comes to gear selection, and low-speed drivetrain refinement appears to be improved over previous Skoda DSG efforts.
Regardless of powertrain, the Rapid possesses surprisingly good dynamics. Suspension is identical between the two models and the Sport Pack doesn’t mess with the chassis either.
The only real difference is that the 90TSI is shod with 17-inch alloys rather than the 77TSI’s 16s, but ride comfort and on-road performance isn’t dramatically compromised by the 90TSI’s larger rolling stock.
Grip is plentiful, even though there’s heaps of bodyroll. The suspension’s softness does mean that a harsh mid-corner bump could see the suspension briefly kissing its bumpstops, but it takes a lot to unsettle the Rapid.
The electric power steering is actually pretty good too, especially compared with similar setups from the Rapid's Korean competition. There’s no vagueness to it, and although it’s heavily-assisted, it’s also quite precise.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: the Rapid scored 35.7 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, six airbags and three-point seatbelts are all standard on the Skoda Rapid.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Rapid’s keen entry pricing sees it undercut not only every other European small hatch, but also many Japanese and Korean models like the Toyota Corolla and Kia Cerato.
It competes at the budget end of the market though, so don’t see the Rapid as a Golf or Mazda3 rival.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As accomplished it might be on the road, the Rapid’s unique selling points are that a) it’s incredibly affordable for a small car, and b) it’s built in Europe.
If those two things matter most to you, then the Rapid will likely be right up your alley.
However, if you’re after something with a more well-rounded standard specification list, you may be better off paying a little more and looking elsewhere.
That said, the Rapid is a great little car in isolation. It rides well, is quite spacious and has a pair of powertrains that should cater to anyone shopping in this segment.
It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re after a small hatch that won’t break the bank.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Rapid Spaceback Ambition 77TSI manual - $18,990
- Rapid Spaceback Ambition 90TSI DSG - $21,890
- Rapid Elegance 90TSI DSG - $23,750
- Style Pack [Ambition] - $2,100
- Style Pack [Elegance] - $1,800
- Sports Pack [Ambition] - $1,600
- Sports Pack [Elegance] - $1,000
- Sports Pack [Ambition with Style Pack] - $1,400
- Sports Pack [Elegance with Style Pack] - $1,000