TESTDRIVE: Skoda Rapid Spaceback

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Steve Sharpe drives Skoda’s Rapid Spaceback

The launch of Skoda’s Spaceback version of its Rapid model further illustrates that the Czech manufacturer is making serious challenges in the medium family car sector.

It follows the successful launch of the Rapid in 2012, a model which slotted nicely into the growing Skoda European line-up – it was smaller than the Octavia hatch but bigger than the Fabia supermini – and it continues to muddy the waters as far as segments and categories are concerned.

As Skoda’s Octavia hatchback grew in success and indeed proportions, it left a gap in the stable for a smaller hatchback to slot in.

So in came the Rapid, which was ostensibly a hatchback but it looked more like a saloon.

Now we bid a hearty welcome to the Spaceback, which you’d think – given the name, space in the back and all that – was the estate version of the new model.

But it isn’t. Really. Or it sort of is.

In a nutshell it’s a normal Rapid with a bit more room, but as that’s a name unlikely to shift many cars they called it a Spaceback. But it looks more like a hatchback than the original hatchback.

The front half of the Spaceback is pretty much identical to the standard Rapid, but the rear section is noticeably different.

The Spaceback has an extended hatchback-style roofline, a D-pillar and a more upright hatchback boot than the ordinary Rapid.

It’s 180mm shorter than the regular Rapid and, up to the window line, the boot is some 135 litres smaller.

So it isn’t really an estate version at all.

The roofline gives the Spaceback more second-row headroom than a normal Rapid. It all actually gives the Spaceback a sleeker appearance than the original version, which can appear quite ungainly from some angles.

And there are style packs available which you can shell out £1,000 for which can improve things even further, adding extras gloss black detailing, a panoramic glass roof and extended tailgate glass, which brings the rear window down to the top of the number plate recess .

Inside the cabin you’ll discover an exercise in simplicity. Like most of its Skoda siblings, the emphasis is on durability but although the materials are hard to touch things look incredibly well put together and look smart enough.

It’s practical and easy to use, with clearly marked switches and easy-to-read gauges.

It’s also pretty comfortable. The seats are decent and it’s easy to get comfortable thanks to numerous ways to co-ordinate the seat and the steering wheel, for both height and reach.

A good driving position means visibility is really good all around, giving the driver a fine overall sense of what’s going on.

A model with a name like Spaceback is going to have to deliver in terms of room and so the Rapid has plenty of space.

Legroom and headroom in the front is generous while legroom in the back is on a par with far larger family cars, with generous levels of headroom to match it thanks to that flattened roofline..

Although with a smaller boot than the regular Rapid, it’s still a very decent size and has a large, square opening and the rear seats split 60/40, although they don’t fold flat.

The lip is also quite high, meaning cumbersome objects have to be hoisted over it.

The new Spaceback is available with five engine options: three petrol and two diesels, with power outputs ranging from 86PS to 122PS.

I drove the most powerful of the diesel units, the 1.6 105 PS Greentech.

It’s a good combination of power and economy, with official figures of more than 70mph but flexible at all speeds with it.

It has a decent turn of speed even at lower revs, and is punchy and quick to react if you hit the pedal.

The diesel engine can be vocal and there’s some noise coming through the tyres and through the doors, so if you’re at high speeds on the motorway it can be lively inside the cabin.

But the Spaceback is happy to take on longer journeys and will cruise motorways and A-roads comfortably.

Around town the ride can be jittery on less than perfect surfaces but the excellent visibility and decent turning circle make it easy to manoeuvre.

Take the Spaceback out into the country and it will provide good levels of performance.

Handling is tidy, and cornering is easy. The steering is precise and provides reasonable levels of feedback, and body roll has been well controlled unless you really throw it around a bend.

Although Skoda is on a roll at the moment and the Spaceback should continue its assault on the UK market, it’s not clear quite who is going to be considering this version .

It may come down to personal taste as a much as anything.

The Spaceback’s certainly priced well, although it is more expensive than the ordinary model.

The range starts at £14,500 for the entry-level 1.2 petrol, topping off at more than £18,500 for the 1.6 TDi in top trim.

There are four trim levels available – S, SE, Elegance and GreenLine, with good levels of value for money throughout.

All models are fitted with manual air conditioning, curtain airbags, ESC stability control, alarm and remote central locking.

Move up to SE trim and you’ll get 15” alloy wheels, three-spoke multi-function steering wheel with controls for radio and telephone, acoustic rear parking sensors, trip computer, MDI (mobile device interface) and Bluetooth telephone connection.

Range-topping Elegance models add even more premium features, including 16” alloy wheels, climate control air conditioning, cornering front fog lights, cruise control and chrome interior surrounds.

A wide range of options and packs have also been developed for the Spaceback range, with the Style pack includes a fixed panoramic sunroof, extended tailgate glass, black rear spoiler, black door mirrors, black rear lights and black cornering front fog lights.

All Spaceback models feature a 3 year/60,000mile warranty as standard.

Keenly priced, with punchy engines, roomy interiors and good levels of economy and practicality, the Spaceback offers a viable choice for a medium size family car, especially if you’re looking for something a little different.

Skoda’s reliability levels are up there with the best, so there should be years of trouble free motoring, while many models have low emissions levels to further keep road tax levels low.

Fact file

Skoda Rapid Spaceback

Engine: 1.6 litre diesel

Transmission: 5-speed manual

0-62mph: 10.3 seconds

Top speed: 118mph

Fuel economy: 70.6 mpg avg

Price: £18,180 OTR