The Skoda Rapid has been in our market for the past five years, but its success rate hasn’t been what the Czech manufacturer was hoping for. Buyers primarily preferred the ever dependable Honda City or the flamboyant Hyundai Verna or the value for money Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. The fact that it felt too similar to the Volkswagen Vento and people apprehension over Skoda’s aftersales service quality further put it out of preference.
Now though, Skoda has launched the updated Rapid and the changes aren’t just skin deep. You also get the upgraded 1.5-litre diesel unit which makes more power than before. To address its aftersales issue, Skoda is also offering a comprehensive 4-year maintenance plan with the car. So are these factors enough to get the buyers back in Skoda showroom? We drove the car in picturesque Mussoorie to find answers
One look and you will notice the peculiar familiarity of the new Rapid with the Skoda Octavia and the Superb. The fascia is more slender than the old car and it now features sleeker headlamps like in the Octavia. These projector units also feature DRLs that just adds to the Rapid’s more premium looks. The signature moustache grille is carried over, below which is a redesigned bumper with restyled air dams and fog lamps. Moving to the side of the car, the only change is the chrome embellishment on the door handles. At the back, you get smoked tail lights, a slim spoiler and a chrome slat on the tail gate. All these changes have made the Rapid look fresher and sharper than the outgoing model.
Unlike the exterior, the cabin layout in the Rapid facelift stays more or less the same. So you get the same ergonomically designed dashboard from the Vento and everything falls to hand easily. Traditionally Skoda have always been quite generous with equipment levels and this top-spec Style variant is no different. That said, it still misses the push start-stop button and a reversing camera. However, you do get rear parking sensors and premium features like rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, electronically retractable OVRMs, auto-dimming IRVM, one-touch all-four power windows with anti-pinch and cruise control, which are absent in most of its rivals. The biggest addition is the 6.5-inch touch screen system. This capacitive touch display is clear, quick enough and is easy to scroll through. The audio system, which gets Skoda’s new Mirrorlink system, does the job well while the speakers have a good sound output. Dual front airbags and ABS are standard safety features across the trims.
Thanks to the tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, finding a comfortable driving position is easy. The front seats are comfortable with good side bolstering and generous thigh support. Similar is the case in the second row, which offers great space and a well-designed bench. Thanks to the flat floor, generous knee room and wide cabin three people can sit here in good comfort. The Rapid like before is very practical and it boasts of thoughtfully designed storage spaces and loads of cup and bottle holders too. On paper the 460-litre boot sounds a bit less, but it is well shaped and can take your weekend’s luggage with ease. Ergonomically the only grouse we had with the Rapid was the front centre armrest, which is placed too high and fouls with your elbow every time you make a gearshift. Like before the overall quality of materials in the cabin is good and everything feels well screwed together.
We reviewed the new 1.5-litre TDI diesel paired to a five-speed manual. It also can be had with an optional seven-speed DSG transmission. Then there is also a petrol variant powered by a 1.6-litre MPI unit mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. Start the Rapid facelift's updated diesel engine, and it settles down to the same clattery idle as before. Thanks to the update, the power output has now gone up from 105bhp to 110bhp but the torque figure of 250Nm remains the same. It clearly felt more responsive than the old unit and there is loads of pulling power from as low as 1,500rpm. Such is the flexibility of this motor that you can get away with being in a higher gear at crawling speeds, which makes it quite stress-free to drive. Go past 2,000rpm however and this motor really gets in its stride, as it pulls relentlessly to around 4,500rpm, post which the power tapers off. The five speed gearbox is quite direct but the clutch action feels too heavy and long. Thankfully the torquey motor doesn’t warrant too many gearshifts to make quick progress.
Driving around slow moving traffic and by lanes, we really appreciated the direct and easy to twirl steering which makes it easy to maneuver. Low speed ride is absorbent and pot-hole infested roads were also dismissed without any problem. But large road imperfections do make their presence felt in the cabin, as the suspension thuds through them. On the highway, the Rapid displays good stability and the comfortable ride makes it an able cruiser. Over undulating surfaces it does tend to bounce a bit and a flatter ride would have been welcomed. Around twisty sections, the Rapid feels willing and the direct steering, good body control and loads of grip gives you lot of confidence. The brakes too offered good bite and stopping power felt more than adequate.
|Variant||Style 1.5 TDI|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||109bhp @ 4,000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||250Nm @ 1,500|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||55|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15|
|ABS and EBD||Yes|
|Projector headlamps with DRLs||Yes|
|Auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers||Yes|
|6.5-inch touch screen system with Mirrorlink||Yes|
|AC with automatic climate control||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||Style 1.5 TDI||VX Diesel|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||109bhp @ 4,000||99bhp @ 3,600|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||250Nm @ 1,500||200Nm @ 1,750|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||55||40|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15||175/65 R15|
Thanks to modern creature comforts, good ride and a powerful diesel engine, Skoda has surely put forth a competitive package. It still has the old cars robust build and material quality is really good too. So in a way it should be just right for most buyers even if it might not exceed expectations of some. Skoda is also revamping its after-sales service and now has well thought offers for buyers. The Rapid is being offered with a four-year warranty, road-side assist and maintenance package, all-inclusive in the ex-showroom Delhi prices that start at Rs 9.49 lakh. So the competitive pricing with added benefits does make the updated Rapid a more lucrative buy.
Pictures By - Kapil Angane