Road Test: Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.4 TSI DSG SE
Sector: Lower medium Price: £17,895 Fuel: 48.7mpg CO2: 134g/km
You’d be forgiven for thinking, at first glance, that the Rapid Spaceback adds a handsome small estate car to Skoda’s model range. But, despite the name and the styling, this has a different role to play.
Instead, the Spaceback is 179mm shorter than the hatchback-which-looks-like-a-saloon Rapid hatch. There’s also less luggage space, 415 litres instead of 550 litres, and even the shorter Fabia Estate has a larger load capacity than the Rapid Spaceback.
Perhaps it’s better to think of the Rapid Spaceback as the Audi A3 Sportback to the Rapid’s A3 Saloon. A little cheaper, a little more in tune with European styling tastes, and the bigger-selling car in the UK – Skoda expects the Spaceback to account for 60% of the annual 7,500 Rapid sales.
But this still fits firmly between the B and C segments, based on an extended version of the platform found under Volkswagen’s superminis. The extra length compared to the Fabia Estate is mostly found between the front and rear axles. The Spaceback gains a little more headroom, but rear legroom is unchanged compared to the Rapid hatchback, and there’s enough space for two adults to stretch out on the back.
Three adults will fit, but it’s where you start to notice that shoulder space is closer to a B-segment model than a C-segment hatchback.
Load volume, at a respectable 415 litres with the rear bench upright or 1,380 with it folded, is actually larger than most C-segment hatchbacks and access is excellent thanks to a wide, square tailgate. However, as in the Rapid, the bench backrest doesn’t fold flush with the boot floor. It makes the £150 removable shelf a worthwhile option, creating a stowage compartment underneath.
It’s a smart if conservatively-styled car, too, with a hint of early-2000s Audi in its chiselled bodylines, and the options list adds some attractive design features for those who want to enhance it. Tick the Style Pack box, and Skoda will add a full-length fixed glass sunroof which extends over the rear spoiler into the rear screen and finishes at the top of the number plate tub. It costs £1,100 but stops the Spaceback looking a little dated.
Overall, though, you can’t quite shake the car’s underpinnings. The 122bhp, 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine is a sparky performer, even with DSG occasionally pausing before it pulls away, but the Rapid’s harsh ride hasn’t been softened here. It’s not uncomfortable, but it tackles rough surfaces like a small car, and lacks the chassis finesse of a true C-segment model – and in this trim level the Rapid Spaceback is firmly into C-segment pricing.
This may not be the estate version that the name and styling suggested, but it’s the Rapid that UK customers are more likely to opt into. Good looks and good value make this a sensible downsizing option for those who don’t want to compromise passenger or load space.
The Spaceback may not bring further extensions in load-carrying ability to the Rapid range, but with a more conventional hatchback shape it’s not hard to see its place. It’s only ride quality and rear shoulder space which give away that this isn’t based on a larger car.