RAPID is a great name for a car in an age when the stylish monikers of a glorious automotive past — such as Thunderbird, Stingray and Viper — is considered decidedly retro. The 21st century is an age dominated by what you might call abstract consumerism, or “dulling down”. This is not the same as dumbing down because the majority of consumer products today are smart — and trumpet the fact loudly.
The name of the game for most contemporary products, including cars, is that names have been dropped in favour of numbers, so we should welcome the rather glamorous handle on this week’s drive, the new Skoda Rapid Spaceback.
This is a car that is hard to define. It is not an estate but has the room of a compact one. It is said to be a hatchback yet has distinct “estate” influences in its design. So when one comes to assess the Rapid Spaceback it could be argued that there is a blurring of the category lines.
Marketing people will probably tell you that blurring is not good when it comes to selling any product. But equally these same smart folk have already invented another term for products that do not fit the status quo: it’s called niche marketing.And whatever niche the Rapid Spaceback falls into, above all this car represents excellent value for money.
What really strikes you about the Rapid Spaceback is the abundant room for driver, front- and back-seat passengers in the cabin overall and a massive loadspace for what is essentially a small car.
In its brochure Skoda goes large on space in the Spaceback. Actually Skoda calls the car a compact hatchback that offers “rear passengers the most knee space and headroom in its segment”. And the luggage compartment is the “largest in its class”.
I cannot argue with that. I found the car singularly useful on a trip to a garden centre. The boot space — rather like the best of estate cars — swallowed easily a 50-litre bag of compost, five bags of firewood logs, various plants and additional bags of food shopping picked up on the way home.
The engines available on the Rapid Spaceback are three petrols and two diesels, including one new to the range, an 89bhp 1.6 TDI. This 1.6 engine in the test car was very able, if a tad noisy on start-up. I would have preferred a six-speed manual gearbox but the fitted five-speed manual box was more than adequate. On motorway driving I liked the higher gearing of this diesel that enabled you to cruise at a good, steady speed and in comfort. Around town and on smaller roads the worker-bee diesel also did its stuff: it would be interesting to compare this diesel model with a petrol version.
Actually I am more inclined to favour diesel these days for its economy and this Rapid Spaceback returned 64.2mpg on the combined cycle.
On the comfort front I think with these types of cars that offer value for money it is worth paying extra to enjoy a higher spec. The test car had a £1,600 Sport pack fitted which included sports seats, sunset glass and 17in Camelot alloy wheels while the Style package adds a lot to the Rapid Sportback’s nice low-lying looks — fixed panoramic glass roof (clever touch), elongated tailgate glass, black rear spoiler, black door mirrors, black rear lights and black cornering front fog lights.
So an interesting car and one worth checking out if you are looking for a roomy, “estate-car”-like hatchback at a price — including some good optional extras — at just over £20,000.
Car tested: Skoda Rapid Spaceback SE 1.6 TDi
• Price: on-the-road £17,930 (test car with options fitted £20,530)
• CO2 emissions: 114 g/km
• Max speed: 118mph
• 0 to 62mph: 10.3 secs
• Standard equipment includes six loudspeakers, three-spoke leather MFSW with controls for radio and telephone, cruise control and tinted glass
nection with Bluetooth GSM II