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2013 Skoda Spaceback First Drive

By raccars Published

The new Skoda Rapid Spaceback looks like a value-priced Audi A3 Sportback, packs in a lot of practicality and usability and, as we discovered on the launch event, offers a perfectly adequate drive. It’s the regular Rapid’s stylish cousin: and at this price, what’s not to like?

Price: From £14,430 (test 1.2 TSI 105 SE GreenTech: £16,375)
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Top speed: 119 mph
Fuel economy: 52.3 mpg
CO2: 118g/km
On sale: Now
Insurance group: TBC

Three UK Skoda Spaceback facts

  • Rapid Spaceback prices start from £14,430 – every UK car has a turbo engine and standard air con
  • The model line-up spans S, SE and Elegance variants
  • All Rapid Spaceback get air con, stability control, six airbags… and an ice scraper in the fuel filler flap!

What is it?

The Skoda Rapid was, when launched, a marked return to the roots of the Czech brand. Instead of trying to offer a Volkswagen-like premium experience in a cheaper package, it instead focused on ultimate value for money. It was simple, straightforward, no-nonsense and packed in as many real-world attributes as possible.

It wasn’t as stylish as other Skodas, and the interior was in places built down to a price. But, for the money, few cars offered more space, and the sub-Ford Focus-sized five-door hatchback has gained a small but loyal following.

Skoda, though, has bigger ambitions for the Rapid range. And so it has now launched a new variant – the Rapid Spaceback. This is Skoda’s take on the Audi A3 Sportback: a sort of lifestyle estate-look hatchback, complementing the regular saloon-look Rapid hatchback.

It’s more stylish than the standard car but doesn’t cost much more, and comes with a well-judged round of improvements to interior and ride quality, plus other detail changes.

We like it a lot. It’s more modern and contemporary-looking than the regular Rapid, with the optional glass roof and hatchback creating a very modern and striking effect – the black tinted glass looks great when contrasted with a bold paint colour. On the Italian launch event, it cut quite a dash…

Performance

It’s an all-turbo line-up of engines for the Rapid Spaceback. The lowest-power 1.2-litre TSI puts out 86hp and even the most powerful only puts out 122hp: Skoda isn’t targeting power fiends with this car.

The TSI petrol engines are all superb though, and their turbo-assisted pulling power more than makes up for any perceived lack of horsepower against key rivals. We think the 1.2 TSI is an absolute delight and it makes the Rapid Spaceback a really enjoyable car to drive.

Skoda also offers 1.6-litre TDI diesels, which a big proportion of buyers are expected to choose. Again, these are good, but they’re not as impressive as the TSI petrols. We think the engine is starting to feel a bit unrefined compared to the class-best diesels; the lack of a six-speed gearbox doesn’t help here.

Overall then, not a car for sporty and spirited driving, but one that will deliver easy everyday pace with plenty in reserve. There’s even an optional DSG semi-auto gearbox for the ultimate ease of use.

Ride and handling

The original Rapid saloon-hatch always felt a bit jittery over the bumps, so it is pleasing to discover Skoda has rectified this with altered suspension settings for the Rapid Spaceback. It’s now a bit smoother and more supple, soaking up inner-city scars more serenely.

The car also seems more settled over undulating roads, and certainly feels more comfortable when driven quickly on twisting roads. The better body control here is appreciated by driver and passengers alike.

Handling is also improved by a new electric steering system. This is sharp and crisp, particularly just off centre, and gives the Rapid Spaceback the sophisticated, accurate feel of a larger and more premium model.

Inside story

Skoda builds the Rapid Spaceback to a competitive price and this is seen in the interior. It’s all extremely well designed, with perfect layout and a comfortable driving position for all shapes and sizes… but the trims themselves are that bit harder and scratchier than you’d find in, say, a Volkswagen.

It has, however, been improved over the original Rapid, with better looking trim materials and really high-end aluminium-look trims for the Elegance. Air con is now standard on all, too.

Unusually, although it looks like it would be more practical than the Rapid saloon-hatch, the Rapid Spaceback is actually 180mm shorter. This means the boot is, surprisingly, shorter – although 415 litres is still competitive against the Volkswagen Golf. The taller opening is also more practical.

As for the roof, there’s never been a Skoda offering such a large glass opening, and it really is an impressive sight. Smartly, the firm’s enhanced it with a glass tailgate, giving a distinctive and modern look beyond its price tag.

Marketplace

Prices for the Skoda Rapid Spaceback are the real draw. They start at £14,430, and most models sit in the £15,000-£16,000 range. That’s usefully below alternatives such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf – and you get a little bit more kit or your money with the Skoda.

Fuel economy is fine on all models. The most powerful returns 48.7mpg; everything else averages well over that, with the very greenest 1.6 TDI GreenTech averaging 70.6mpg (with CO2 emissions of 106g/km). That’s not all for the green versions either – Skoda says there’ll be a sub-100g/km CO2 Greenline version in due course.

Verdict

We like the Skoda Rapid Spaceback a lot. The regular Rapid is a strong car but it’s just a little bit too understated for some to see its true strengths. By adding more style (and improving some of the existing car’s weaker points), Skoda has created a really strong choice for families who are on a budget but are still seeking something that makes them feel good.

Five rivals

Dacia Duster – Crossover SUV style and a decent drive for a price you won’t quite believe
SEAT Leon – Like the idea of a cut-prize Golf? Try its stylish Spanish sibling
Kia cee’d – Very competitive family hatch designed by the man that put modern Audi styling on the map
Hyundai i30 – Related to the Kia cee’d but, while it drives as well, it lacks its good looks
Skoda Rapid – Save a little on the Spaceback by choosing the regular Rapid. You still get a hatchback…

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