Skoda Rapid Facelift - First Drive Review
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Words by Jagdev Kalsi | Photography by Vikrant Date
Car Tested – Skoda Rapid facelift
Engine – 1.5-litre Diesel Automatic I 110PS/250Nm & 1.6-litre Petrol Manual I 105PS/153Nm
The Skoda Rapid is the most important product in the Czech carmaker’s India line-up. It is an India-specific product and a volume player for Skoda. Half a decade into its life, the Rapid gets its first major design revamp and sheds the face it inherited from the Fabia. We hit the road with the aesthetically sharper, more powerful and better equipped Rapid to see just how much more appealing and fresh it feels now.
The new Skoda Rapid is based on Skoda’s Crystalline design theme that focuses on straight lines and sharp angles. From the front, the Rapid facelift bears a strong similarity to the European Rapid although it’s manufactured on a completely different platform in India.
From the outset, the new Rapid identifies itself as a Skoda thanks to the new chrome-outlined family butterfly grille. To up the premium quotient, the headlamps get integrated DRLs with the eye lash effect, as Skoda likes to call it. Donning the Crystalline design philosophy associates the Rapid facelift with the new Octavia and Superb. There’s also a slight hint of Vento now in the basic headlamp outline, but that’s the only bit. The new Rapid has grown longer by 27mm with the new front and rear bumpers adding the extra millimetres.
In profile, the new and the previous Rapid are nearly identical with only the front fenders redesigned as per the new headlamp design and the new bumper. Slender turn indicators on ORVMs and subtle chrome embellishment on door handles add class. The top-of-the-line Style variant gets new 15-inch, 5-spoke Matone alloy wheels.
There’s a chrome strip on the boot as well, however, Skoda has made measured used of chrome, and therefore, the Rapid seems striking, not gaudy. A redesigned bumper, smoked effect on the tail-lamps and a thin spoiler are the other new additions at the rear. Forget the rear and you may even think of it as a generation-change than a mere facelift; the design update is that significant and effective.
Interiors and features
We were delighted to see the new Rapid with the Ebony-Sand interior theme at the launch. While Rapid’s interior quality has been admirable, the cabin appears livelier in the new colour combination. The doors still close with the same resounding thud but the focus on safety is higher now with ABS as standard across the Rapid range.
The top-spec Rapid also gets a 6.5-inch entertainment system with capacitive touchscreen that accepts touch inputs more intuitively now. Electrically foldable ORVMs with turn indicators, tilt & telescopic steering wheel, climate control, cooled glovebox, leather upholstery, dual airbags, projector headlamps and LED DRLs are other key features that buyers may look for in a car of this segment.
The Rapid misses on the rear parking camera but gets parking sensors. The boot doesn’t get a button-type unlock switch (generally near the license plate lamps) for release although you can open it either via the key-fob button or a well-placed switch on the driver’s door. Another annoying bit is the bonnet opening lever than can be operated only when the driver’s door is opened (not just unlocked).
Power to Diesel!
The new Skoda Rapid is available with both petrol and diesel engines. The 1.5-litre, turbocharged diesel engine in the Rapid now produces 5PS more power and the final output is 110PS. Max power is also available 400revs lower in the range, although the overall impact on outright performance isn’t noticeable but the spread of power and torque throughout the range is likeable.
The diesel unit is a strong performer; it has 250Nm of torque from 1500rpm and revs eagerly, too. The lively engine combined with the 7-speed DSG transmission proved to be a potent package, as the quick gearbox selected the right ratios to tackle whatever inclines that came our way. Besides the power surge, Rapid’s spec-sheet also registers a slight increase of 0.06kmpl in the claimed fuel-efficiency, which now stands at 21.72kmpl for the diesel automatic version.
The 1.6-litre MPI petrol engine makes 105PS of maximum power between 5200-5250rpm and delivers 153Nm of maximum torque between 3750-3800rpm. Although power figures for both the engines are closely spaced, the petrol engine doesn’t like to be hurried and gets quite audible when pushing hard.Since it’s not a rev-happy engine, it takes time to get into the max power range and appears slower to 100kmph compared to its diesel counterpart. On-papers, however, the manual petrol Rapid is quicker than the manual diesel in the 0-100kmph run, albeit by just 0.1s.
On a positive note, the 1.6-litre, MPI engine has decent pull at the bottom end of the rev-range although maximum torque is available at 3750rpm.It is, therefore,a good ambler for leisurely runs as it doesn’t require frequent gear changes to maintain consistency.
Skoda offers a 5-speed manual transmission with both petrol and diesel Rapid, however, we feel a sixth ratio might do better justice to the engines. It will not only help the Rapid cruise comfortably in three digits but should also make the run more frugal.
Comfort & Stability
The suspension setup on the Rapid remains the same as previously, which is good considering the Rapid has always been comfortable on the move. Rapid’s ride settingsseem consistent with the engine characteristics as the petrol Rapid rides considerably softer than its diesel counterpart.
Between the petrol and the diesel Rapid, the petrol is lighter than the diesel by about 70kg for the manual version and 40kg for the automatic. The weight gain and stiffer setup results in a better grip for the diesel Rapid which inspires confidence at higher speeds. The diesel Rapid is also a bit more engaging for the same reasons although the electro-mechanic power steering doesn’t deliver much feedback. The steering feels light and doesn’t weigh a great dealat higher speeds. That said, the steering never appeared vague at any speeds; it’s just light but precise. Considering that the Rapid rides a bit soft, body roll is well contained and the cabin doesn’t unsettle unless it is driven rash.
Living with it?
Skoda’s recent product offerings in India have been impressive. The Superb, for example, exudes unmatched luxury for its segment while the Octavia impresses you with its quality, fit & finish and space. The Rapid has also been a benchmark in its segment for its interior quality and safety and it’s been all-praises for the DSG transmission as well. But the big question is - will the Rapid’s new design and a more powerful diesel engine be able to overcome Skoda’s uninspiring after-sales reputation?
The Czech carmaker has been tirelessly working for the past year or so to sanitise its after-sales ecosystem and has taken multiple steps to increase transparency on the buyer’s end to help matters. Whether it is rolling out an app-based service and spares cost estimator or being available over a call for its dissatisfied customers, Skoda has been diligent to sort service related issues in India.
With the new Rapid, Skoda has gone a step further and introduced a 4-year maintenance package that we believe can inspire confidence in potential buyers with regard to high maintenance costs. The Rs 29,999 package that can be bought with the new Rapid includes 4 periodic services every 15000km upto 4-years and 60,000km at all Skoda service centres.
The Skoda Rapid was always a competitive product considering its underpinnings, engines and powertrain, and the Rapid facelift is just a cosmetic update, albeit a welcome one. It was amongst the most outdated looking models in its segment and the facelift has given the Rapid a new lease of life. The new features improve its VFM factor and that should help Skoda build traction. The company says it has taken many steps to improve its after-sales customer experience by making the process more transparent and thereby empowering the buyers.
Prices for the Rapid facelift start from Rs 8.27 lakh for the entry-level petrol variant and go upto Rs 12.67 lakh for the fully-loaded, DSG equipped diesel variant. Interestingly, only the VW Vento and Skoda Rapid get a dual-clutch automatic in this segment while Honda and Maruti Suzuki are yet to offer an automatic gearbox with the diesel City and SHVS Ciaz, forget the dual-clutch tech. The Rapid also undercuts its German cousin on the prices and that’s where it scores. Overall, with the new service package, we believe the Rapid is even more attractive in more ways than one and deserves a closer look for those wanting a stylish and solid midsize sedan.