Skoda Rapid Expert Review

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Introduction

The Rapid has always been a steady performer for Skoda. While the big boys from the Czech automaker’s portfolio that is, the Octavia and the Superb always stole the limelight, it was the Rapid that steadily contributed volumes. With the demise of the Fabia brand in India, the sedan has been the most affordable Skoda on sale, for a couple of years.

With the competition picking up steam, Skoda thought it was wise to give the Rapid a nip and tuck, and prep it for yet another stint at the market. What’s changed? Let’s take a look:

Pros
  • Updated 1.5-litre diesel engine is punchy, fun to drive and frugal. Rare for a car to pull all three off.
  • Build quality. Doors close with a reassuring thud, interiors are among the best built in the segment.
  • Well specced variants. Top-spec model gets projector headlamps, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, touchscreen audio system etc.
  • 7-speed DSG automatic paired with the diesel engine is quick and refined. Rarely skips a beat.
Cons
  • Straightforward interior design is beginning to show its age.
  • Occupant space at the rear isn’t at par with rivals such as the Maruti Ciaz or the Honda City.

Stand Out Features

  • 6.5-inch touchscreen features MirrorLink that lets you mirror your smartphone screen. Feels very intuitive to use.

    6.5-inch touchscreen features MirrorLink that lets you mirror your smartphone screen. Feels very intuitive to use.

  • Dual Airbags and ABS offered as standard throughout the range.

    Dual Airbags and ABS offered as standard throughout the range.

CarDekho Verdict

Is the Rapid in its best avatar yet? The answer to that is a resounding yes.

"Is the Rapid in its best avatar yet? The answer to that is a resounding yes."

The biggest shortcomings - a bland design and lack of features - have been fixed, which makes it all the more desirable.

 

Exterior

The Rapid is based on the Volkswagen Vento, and telling them apart got even more tricky with the facelift. Skoda has taken the term ‘facelift’ a tad too seriously; the biggest change on the updated Rapid is its new face. The design team at Skoda India has grafted the face of the Mk3 Fabia (that is on sale globally) onto the existing sedan.

Highlights up front include smoked out projector headlamps with daytime running lamps, Skoda’s new signature butterfly grille and a new bumper that houses a pair of cornering foglamps. The hood has been redesigned to accommodate the updated face, and gets its own set of strong creases that underlines its aggressiveness.

The side shows off a prominent shoulder line, that runs across the length of the car. The new design for the 15-inch wheels look swell too, and aren’t too busy as the ones we saw on the Rapid Black edition. It is also the profile from where the similarities to the Vento become too apparent. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the Volkswagen itself has a clean, clutter-free design itself.

Over to the rear, there’s practically nothing that has been updated. Those with hawk eyes will spot a subtle chrome strip on the boot, a smoked effect on the taillamp lens and a mildly redesigned bumper. There’s a subtle lip spoiler too, which we think looks cool.

The new front profile lends the Rapid an aggressive aura, that the rest of the design sadly fails to live up to. We wish Skoda was a bit more thorough in carrying out the update, which would’ve made the already good looking Rapid even better.

Exterior Comparison

Skoda Rapid
Length (mm) 4413
Width (mm) 1699
Height (mm) 1466
Ground Clearance (mm) 163
Wheel Base (mm) 2552
Kerb Weight (kg) 1182-1210
 

Boot Space Comparison

Skoda Rapid Honda City
Volume 460-litres 510-litres

 

Interior

Step inside the cabin of the updated Rapid, and there’s a clear sense of familiarity - especially if you have been inside a Polo or a Vento. The design of the dashboard, the placement of controls and even the doorpads for that matter are identical to its VW siblings. The new ebony-sand interior theme gives the cabin a classy air.

The layout is logical and doesn’t take too much time to get used to. Getting comfortable in the Rapid isn’t a big ask either - the steering adjusts for tilt and reach, and the seat gets a healthy range for height adjust too. The three-spoke leather-clad steering is just the right size, and houses controls for the audio and the calls. We’d have loved to see a flat-bottom steering (just like the Vento), but that sadly isn’t on offer just as yet.

The meaty centre-console houses a pair of AC vents, the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system and the automatic climate interface. The centre stack is identical to the Vento, if you discount the little card holder that sits right above the audio system. The touchscreen itself is responsive and easy to use. It is paired to four speakers (one in each door) and dishes out reasonable audio quality.

The air-conditioning didn’t give us a reason to complain either. It managed to cool the cabin down quickly. What we did miss here was a ‘Max AC’ button, that many of its competitors get. Also, switching off the climate control unit as a whole isn’t a straightforward process (you need to dial fan speed to zero - wait for a second - and rotate the knob left once more).

Rear occupants wouldn’t crib about feeling the hot sun either. The rear aircon vents go a long way in chilling the rear half. But, once you’re in the rear bench, you quickly realise it isn’t the best seat in the house. The Rapid is a low car to begin with, and the low-set flat bench doesn’t do much either. While it is spacious, the legroom still isn’t as good as the segment toppers - the Ciaz and the City. The backrest is reclined at a comfortable angle though, and the rear armrest ups the comfort factor a notch - at the expense of a fifth passenger, of course. We recommend you leave the fifth occupant outside the car, since there’s not much legspace for him anyway. The high-set transmission tunnel and the rear AC vents bite into kneeroom and footroom, which makes the Rapid a four-seater at best.

The update does just enough to breathe some new life into the interiors. That said, it isn’t a radical departure from the outgoing model, and has the basics such as ergonomics and space done right.

Performance

Engine options remain unchanged for the Rapid, and include a 1.6-litre petrol engine, and a 1.5-litre oil burner. Both engines are available with a 5-speed manual transmission, and optional automatic transmissions - 6-speed torque converter for the petrol and a 7-speed dual-clutch for the diesel.

Petrol

The 1.6-litre ‘MPi’ engine has been among Skoda’s most reliable motors, powering a sizeable chunk of their global portfolio. The four-cylinder engine feels well suited for the size and bulk of the Rapid, and rarely feels out of breath. While it has 105PS and 153Nm on tap, it isn’t exactly a sprightly performer. While maximum shove is available in a relatively narrow band post 3500rpm, peak power is developed only near the redline.

Naturally, you are usually forced to rev the motor to make the most of it. Bottom end is strong enough to let you do 20kmph in third without stuttering. The clutch is light, action is positive and the travel isn’t too long either - so traffic snarls shouldn’t be a big bother. In case you want to give the left leg a rest altogether, there’s an automatic on offer too.

The 6-speed automatic does a good job of swapping cogs. Admittedly it isn’t as good as the 7-speed DSG in the diesel, but it wouldn’t give you a reason to complain on a daily basis. Driving the petrol automatic requires a light and steady right foot, which gives the gearbox enough time to contemplate and execute gear changes. Needless to mention, it will be easier on the pocket that way too.

In case you are eyeing the petrol, bear in mind the motor likes to relax. Hurrying isn’t its cup of tea, and it is far more suited chugging miles at a leisurely place.

Performance Comparison (Petrol)

Skoda Rapid
Power 103.52bhp@5250rpm
Torque (Nm) 153Nm@3800rpm
Engine Displacement (cc) 1598
Transmission Automatic
Top Speed (kmph) 185kmph
0-100 Acceleration (sec) -
Kerb Weight (kg) 1179-1187
Fuel Efficiency (ARAI) 14.3kmpl
Power Weight Ratio 87.80322307039864 bhp/ton

Diesel

The Rapid gets the updated 1.5-litre TDi diesel engine that debuted with the Volkswagen Ameo compact sedan. Power is up to 110PS (from 105PS), while peak torque remains identical at 250Nm. Between the two options, the diesel is easily our pick for its outright oomph and fun to drive factor.

Paired with the 5-speed manual, the 1.5-litre motor is quite a hoot to drive. We wouldn’t blame you if you found yourself keeping the motor on the boil, exploiting all the 250Nm it has to offer. Turbo lag isn’t as perceptible as before, and if you are silly with the throttle, it will pin you to your seat as the tacho climbs past 1500rpm. The clutch on the diesel version is anything but light, though. Prolonged traffic jams will give your calves quite a workout, and we genuinely wish it was a notch lighter to help crawling in traffic.

What about the automatic? Well, it won’t make you miss a manual transmission. It is that good! Shifts are quick - both up and down - and there’s a Sport mode if you want to have some fun too. The gearbox is tuned for efficiency, and will find every little opportunity to shift up. Lay the hammer down with the right foot, and it will hold the revs all the way up to the redline. Nice!

Performance Comparison (Diesel)

Skoda Rapid
Power 108.4bhp@4000rpm
Torque (Nm) 250Nm@1500-2500rpm
Engine Displacement (cc) 1498
Transmission Manual
Top Speed (kmph) 185kmph
0-100 Acceleration (sec) -
Kerb Weight (kg) 1182-1210kg
Fuel Efficiency (ARAI) 21.14kmpl
Power Weight Ratio 91.70896785109983 bhp/ton
 

Ride and Handling

Just like the Vento, the ride has a stiff edge to it, and you will feel a bit of crashing and thudding through potholes. The upside is that ride remains rock steady at highway speeds, with next to no float or vertical movement. The suspension on the diesel variant is set up to be stiffer than the petrol, to compensate for the added weight of the engine. Naturally it feels flatter through the corners, with very little body roll seeping in.

What we weren’t too fond off, is the vague steering through the bends. There’s very little feedback from the wheel, which makes you back off a notch when entering corners. At city speeds, it is considerably heavy compared to the Hyundai Verna or even the Maruti Ciaz, and requires some muscle to go lock-to-lock.

 

Safety

Dual airbags and anti-lock brakes come as standard across all variants of the Skoda Rapid. The automatic variants goes one up, offering Hill Hold Control and the diesel-auto gets Electronic Stability Control as well. Also, in case of a crash, the Rapid automatically cuts off fuel supply.

Safety Comparison

Skoda Rapid
Airbags righticonClose
ABS righticonClose
EBD close

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