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Driven: Skoda’s Rapid relief

The go between: Skoda's Rapid joins the fight to boost sales alongside smaller Fabia big brother Octavia.

Wagon-like Rapid Spaceback eases the ache of no small-car in Skoda's line-up

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Skoda logo7 May 2014

AFTER nearly seven years without a competitively priced and positioned small-car proposition in Australia, Skoda has finally made amends with the Rapid Spaceback.

Priced from $18,990 plus on-road costs for the entry-level NH-series Ambition 77TSI 1.2-litre turbo manual, the five-door hatchback slots between the fledgling Fabia light car and established Octavia midsizer.

The expected volume-selling Ambition 90TSI 1.4-litre turbo DSG ‘automatic’ will kick off from $21,890 – its $2900 premium explained by the larger engine and sophisticated dual-clutch transmission.

A better-equipped variant dubbed the Elegance 90TSI DSG from $23,750 completes the trio of Spaceback variants on offer.

Facing the top-selling Toyota Corolla and Mazda3, Skoda admits the Rapid may take “years” to establish itself in Australia’s most popular and hotly contested new-vehicle segment.

It has no plans for the sedan-shaped Rapid Liftback five-door alternative, nor is there a turbo-diesel or RS performance version in the pipeline for the time being, as Skoda Australia eases itself into the small-car segment maelstrom.

“About 65 per cent of all small car volume is hatchback in Australia,” said company director Michael Irmer. “So we have no plans to bring in the sedan.”

The Spaceback has just been awarded an ANCAP five-star crash-test rating, in part due to its six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic diff lock systems.

Standard 77TSI Ambition features include 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, power windows, air-conditioning, remote central locking and a full-sized spare.

At the other end of the range, the Elegance 90TSI DSG adds 17-inch wheels, climate control air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, privacy glass, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and cornering lights.

However, no reverse camera or satellite navigation options are available.

Made in Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Republic, the Rapid is loosely based on the Volkswagen Group’s A05+ platform – a larger evolution of the existing Polo’s PQ25 architecture that’s designed to maximise rear-seat passenger space and luggage capacity.

Lining up a Spaceback with the current Corolla Hatch, it is clear that the longer Skoda matches or exceeds its Japanese foe in every field bar body and track widths – where the Euro cannot quite break clear of its B-segment roots.

The length, width, height, wheelbase and front/rear track measurements are 4304mm versus 4275mm, 1706mm versus 1760mm, 2602mm versus 2600mm and 1441/1478mm versus 1525/1525mm respectively.

Interior dimensions are correspondingly similar, although the Spaceback is slightly narrower overall, while luggage space is a real Rapid forte against the Toyota, rated at 384 litres versus 280L with the seats upright and 1349L versus 1120L with them folded.

The latter is aided by the Spaceback’s space (and money) saving torsion beam rear suspension layout, which is typical of a Volkswagen Group car that prioritises low pricing. The front suspension consists of MacPherson struts with coil springs.

On the other hand, like the upcoming Polo V GP facelift, the steering system features a new rack-mounted electro mechanical rack and pinion set-up rather than the older electro hydraulic item.

Volkswagen orthodoxy also prevails beneath the Spaceback’s bonnet.

The base variant has its front wheels driven by a 1197cc 1.2-litre direct-injection overhead-cam four-cylinder 77TSI petrol engine developing 77kW of power at 5000rpm and 175Nm of torque between 1550rpm and 4100rpm.

Available solely with a six-speed manual gearbox, the 77TSI Ambition requires 95 RON premium unleaded to help the 1155kg Rapid hit 100km/h from standstill in 10.2 seconds, a combined average fuel consumption figure of 5.4 litres per 100km and 125 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.

For an auto Spaceback buyers must step up to the 1.4-litre direct-injection overhead cam four-cylinder 90TSI unit delivering 90kW at 5000rpm and 200Nm from 1500-4000rpm via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission.

The 90TSI raises the top speed by 10km/h to 203km/h, fuel consumption by 0.6L/100km and CO2 emissions by 14g/km, but slices 0.8s from the 0-100km/h-sprint.

After a strong response in the Octavia launched last December, Skoda is hoping for a similarly high take-up for the Spaceback’s specialised package options.

The Sport Pack – costing $1600 extra in the Ambition and $1000 in the Elegance – adds Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, front sports seats, rear parking sensors (where not already fitted), a double-sided mat in the boot and stainless steel pedals.

Stumping up for the racy Style Pack – $1800 more in the Elegance and a $2100 premium in Ambition – ushers in 17-inch alloys, a glass panoramic roof, darkened tail-lights, fog lights in a dark finish and blacked-out side mirror cappings.

However, note that no reversing camera or satellite navigation systems are on offer.

Finally, every Spaceback is covered under Skoda’s capped price servicing regime while an extended factory warranty is also available for extra outlay.

The Rapid Liftback was unveiled in April 2012, followed by the Spaceback last year.

Skoda Rapid pricing*
Ambition 77TSI$18,990
Ambition 90TSI (a)$21,890
Elegance 90TSI (a)$23,750
*Excludes on-road costs.

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