► CAR's 2017 petrol Rapid test
► Family-orientated Spaceback driven
► With six-speed manual
Blink and you’ll miss it: this is the 2017 model-year Skoda Rapid Spaceback. Thrilling, huh? Well, if you’re a young family who just need a car capable of connecting your phone and carrying lots of your stuff, Skoda would suggest this is the right car for you.
Skoda says the Rapid is part of its masterplan to grow sales across Europe and expand into new markets in the future. Rapid sales in the UK are significantly weighted towards the version you see here: the not-quite-an-estate-but-looks-like-one Spaceback model, as opposed to the regular saloon-styled Rapid.
The whole range has just been refreshed to include new 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder petrol engines in place of the previous 1.2-litre models, more connectivity options, and arguably the lightest design facelift ever seen.
We’ve driven the new 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol model in its more powerful tune.
When you say ‘new’ 1.0-litre TSI…
Well alright, it’s not new new, but it is new for the Rapid. It’s essentially the same one fitted to all kinds of small VW Group cars, including the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and even the larger Skoda Octavia.
There are two power outputs available, but the 109bhp version tested here is a little peach. It’s smooth, makes a characterful noise and isn’t significantly less economical than the weaker 89bhp version. Zero to 62mph is dealt with in a steady 9.8 seconds and Skoda claims it’ll manage up to 62.7mpg on a tank.
This engine is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, which feels a little clunky to use. The gearing is set more for economy than speed, but there’s still enough in-gear shove to allow you to overtake without too much fuss.
The engine is super-quiet at speed, but it’s cancelled out slightly by significant wind noise at motorway speeds and a hefty amount of tyre roar too.
How does the Spaceback handle?
It’s neither wallowy nor sporty, it grips well without much in the way of understeer and the ride was only affected by the odd pothole on the German roads we tested it on. It’s... fine – nothing more, nothing less.
Is the interior a masterclass in minimalism?
Yes, both in its design and material quality.
The layout is simple and very easy to get your head around, and our SE Tech car’s infotainment system is a familiar VW Group system. Apple Carplay, Mirrorlink and Android Auto are all standard on SE Tech and above, as is sat-nav, climate control, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
Only real layout niggles are that the front cupholder is too high to hold anything more than a drinks can and the central armrest juts out so far it makes it difficult to change gear when it's in place.
The Rapid’s cheap ’n’ cheerful price is why interior quality is so lacklustre; certain bits of trim seem vulnerably fragile, and some of the areas occupants will be touching on a regular basis feel flimsy or low-quality.
But does Skoda’s rep for practicality remain?
Absolutely. The usual ‘Simply Clever’ touches have been carried over from other Skoda models, so there’s an umbrella under the passenger seat, a ticket holder on the windscreen, a rubbish bin that fits into the door inlays and an ice scraper in the fuel filler cap.
The cabin feels light and airy, and there’s loads of space in the back for adults to sit, even if your driver is over 6ft.
The rather ironically-named Spaceback actually has less boot space than the regular Rapid, but it still has more litreage than a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra – cars that are bigger in terms of outright dimensions.
The Skoda Rapid Spaceback is a very rational car choice. It’s hugely practical, the TSI engine is quiet and smooth and it’s well-equipped – three very attractive qualities for young family buyers. However, it’s all just a little bit... dull. Look up a definition for the word ‘car’, and Rapid Spaceback would be a perfect description. See also: ‘White goods’.