When the new BS6 Skoda Rapid was launched in May 2020 at cut-throat starting prices, it didn’t take long for the entry-level ‘Rider’ variant to get sold out. Following this, the ‘Rider’ was reinstated this year with an increment of Rs 30,000 over last year’s listing price. It eventually reclaimed its position of being the most affordable sedan amongst others like the Hyundai Verna, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, Volkswagen’s Vento, and the new Honda City. As for the BS6 edition of the Rapid, in addition to the minor tweaks to the exterior and interior, it is now powered by a new BS6 compliant 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor with the option of a manual or auto transmission.
What we have here is the top-end ‘Monte Carlo’ variant that gets an all-black grille with gloss-black adorning the door mirrors and tailgate spoiler. Then there are dual-tone alloy wheels and also the ‘Monte Carlo’ B-pillar badging to show others where you’ve put your money. All variants also get the ‘quartz-cut’ projector headlamps that get those sexy dark internals. Admittedly, the Rapid may not come across as modern, but the clean body lines give it an elegant appeal. Like how fit Helen Mirren is in her 70s!
On to what’s new. There’s the ‘Monte Carlo’ inscribed scuff plates and cushions, the glitzy leatherette upholstery, and bright red seams running through the flat-bottom steering and the gear lever boot. Another fine addition is the eight-inch Skoda Android touchscreen infotainment system which sounds okay, but despite being based on Android, the user interface needs some getting used to. What remains though, is the well-built cabin that’s uncluttered, ergonomic, and functional. However, it simply looks outdated.
The only thing that felt ridiculously out of place is the USB port that’s mysteriously placed in the glove box! The front seats, as such, are comfortable not only due to the adequate overall support and cushioning, but also as a consequence of the delightful driving position attained through the height-adjustable seats, the height and length adjustments for the steering, and the vast glass area. Furthermore, the rear bench experience is enhanced by the ample knee and foot room, along with a favourable backrest angle.
Moreover, there’s enough space to fit three average adults without a squeeze. Yet, thigh support and headroom could pose a problem for taller occupants. Where this Skoda scores is in the boot department. There’s room for all the practical shopping you can think of, trips to the airport, or even an overnighter. Adding to its set of repertoires is the low loading lip that doesn’t require one to lift their heavy baggage far off the ground, unlike SUVs.
The earlier 1.6-litre petrol/1.5-litre diesel has made way for the new 110bhp/175Nm 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol BS6 engine that’s fittingly mated to either a six-speed manual or an automatic gearbox. We’ve reviewed the manual version for this write-up. As you get going in the Rapid, you’re instantly recipient to the rev-happy persona of this mill. The rpm needle simply races briskly to the red line in what we term as an enjoyable and linear surge of power. Surprisingly, despite there being a steady thrum from this three-cylinder, we simply focussed on the stimulating power delivery.
Since the turbo goes on boost at about 1,500rpm, keeping the revs above it portrays an acceleration that’s simply a revelation to experience behind the wheel. With the particularly strong mid-range along with the fact that it pulls cleanly to the 6,500rpm limit, overtaking and zipping past other vehicles is a child’s play. To put things in perspective, we strapped our VBox testing equipment and eventually learned that this Skoda Rapid reaches 100kmph slightly quicker than the all-new Honda City; which in itself is a big deal.
But, what if I told you that it is also 2.4 seconds faster in the 40-100kmph drivability test (in fourth gear)? Neat, Skoda! On the flip side, there’s some muted response from the engine until 1,400rpm since the turbo is off-boost. For you and me, this means that there will be some more-than-necessary downshifting in slow city driving conditions. Likewise, the overall gear shifting experience felt a tad rubbery. But, other than that, the short and stubby lever has accurately defined gates to go through, with the added benefit of a well-weighted clutch.
As regards the Rapid’s steering, since it’s perfectly weighted and fairly accurate, it provides the driver with immense assurance to keep the intended line while driving swiftly around corners. There’s very little roll too. Ride quality-wise, there’s some stiffness at lower speeds that’s felt, especially when trampling over the harsher irregularities of our roads. But, on the flip side, the Rapid feels supremely stable as it reaches highway speeds while lending a flat ride overall. Even braking is confidence-inspiring, more so under panic braking situations.
It’s obvious that in the current state of affairs (read SUV demand), the Skoda Rapid in all of its road-hugging disposition has limited demand. But with the attractive starting price tag (manual at Rs 9.07-14.10 lakh OTR Mumbai), it will seem like value to those buying hatchbacks. So, I believe it needs to appeal to those buyers, to penetrate that mindset. The truth is, it doesn’t need to try hard.
Sure, I get the fact that it isn’t overflowing with ultra-modern features, and the dated appearance is hard to mask. But having said that, the Skoda Rapid seduces those who love to drive, owing to the zippy engine that’s mated to some seriously stimulating dynamics. Not to forget that it’s reasonably spacious, comfortable, and practical too. Oops, now isn’t that what every car buyer wants?
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi