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Geneva show: Rapid approach for Skoda’s small car

Rapidash: Skoda is hoping its new-look Rapid will make inroads into Australia’s competitive small-car segment with a boost in technology, equipment and performance.

Australian September launch earmarked for refreshed Skoda Rapid small car

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Skoda logo23 Feb 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

SKODA’S fresh-faced Rapid hatchback will land in Australian showroom in September with updated looks and technology to coax small-car buyers away from the likes of the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3.

Skoda Australia general manager of corporate communications Paul Pottinger confirmed the third quarter launch, while also hinting the Rapid could be a better performer for the Czech brand on the Australian market.

“It has been kind of anonymous for a while,” he said. “It’s here to establish the name and I think we will find it a lot more competitive after this.”

Launched in 2014, the Rapid failed to make a dent in Australia’s small-car segment, which is the nation’s largest market and one dominated by the often chart-topping Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.

Last year, Skoda sold 367 Rapids – an 18.1 per cent drop over 2015’s total – while the aforementioned Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai models enjoyed sales successes to the tune of 40,330, 36,107 and 37,772 respectively.

However, the refreshed Rapid will land with increased levels of equipment and safety to differentiate it from the small-car pack.

Headlining the new additions, at least in overseas markets for now, is the inclusion of a permanent SIM card to facilitate a continuous wireless internet connection from the Rapid.

This will turn the Rapid into a wireless hotspot, allowing smartphones, tablets and other devices to stay connected even while on the move, and enable owners to remotely access vehicle information including parking location, fuel levels and whether the windows, doors and sunroof are closed.

The online connection also facilitates Skoda’s new Connected services feature, which will push real-time traffic information, as well as fuel prices, parking availability, news and weather to the Rapid’s infotainment system.

The Rapid will also be able to send maintenance-related information to dealerships to better expedite vehicle servicing.

However, while the feature is not yet confirmed for local Rapids, Mr Pottinger said the constantly online attribute is on the wishlist for the local car.

“We’re certainly looking at it, but we can’t absolutely say at the moment,” he said. “Sometimes these things aren’t altogether compatible with what we have here, but yeah we’ll consider all options on that.”

Overseas versions will also gain access to a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, in addition to the carryover 1.4-litre petrol and two turbo-diesel offerings, but Mr Pottinger has confirmed Australian Rapid buyers will make do with a single powertrain.

“I think we’ll continue with just the one engine type, the 1.4,” he said. “It’s just going to be a question of what output that has, so we’re still not sure about that.

“Obviously (Volkswagen) Golf’s going to go up to 110 (kW) and you can expect, generally, an enhanced offering.”

The existing Rapid’s 1.4-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder produces 81kW of power in manual guise, while opting for a dual-clutch automatic transmission will bump performance to 92kW.

Safety systems are also reworked, with the inclusion of electronic stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring, driver fatigue detection, autonomous emergency braking, six airbags, and hill-climb assist.

Differentiating the facelifted Rapid from the outgoing version will be a new front fascia with a redesigned lower bumper, updated fog-lights, automatic bi-Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights.

The rear receives black-tinted tail-lights and an extended rear window, while the Rapid will roll on new-design alloy wheels ranging in size from 15 to 17 inches.

More details are expected when the Rapid is officially unveiled at next month’s Geneva motor show, while more Australian-spec information is likely to come closer to launch.

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