Skoda. A brand name usually associated with the versatile Superb and the legendary Octavia. It’s no surprise that the Czech manufacturer has managed to create a space for itself in the 15+ lakh bracket, even outdoing its own elder cousin VW most if not all the times. In that sense, the Rapid has been more of a step child to Skoda. Shoehorned into the popular C-segment shortly before its famed hatchback sibling was axed, the Rapid was and till date remains the only sub 15-lakh offering in the manufacturer’s portfolio.
Even on the engine front, the Rapid only saw the ubiquitous 1.6 and 1.5 TDIs and a 1.6 MPI. While the diesel did come mated to a 7-speed DSG in the latter part of its life, the 1.6 MPI paired to either a manual or a 6-speed torque converter stayed as a constant all throughout. In comparison, the Vento came with the option of a cutting-edge turbo petrol paired to a 7 speed DSG too and also received a few features
Cut to 2020, and the BS6 emission norms have brought about a twist in the tale. Gone is the famed 1.5 TDI engine and even the DSG gearbox. Both the Vento and Rapid now get an all new 3-pot 1.0 TSI powering them. The engine has garnered praise for its performance and fuel efficiency internationally, but is it enough to help the cause of a 10 year old C-segment sedan, especially considering that most immediate rivals have changed generations once or even twice?
Design Language- Exteriors
Unsurprisingly enough, nothing much has changed on the exterior front. The Rapid continues to carry the same design it received as a part of the facelift in 2016. The test car we sampled was the Monte Carlo variant which comes in a dual tone colour scheme. The eye catching red coupled with the contrasting black sunroof do add some much needed flair to what is an otherwise simple and understated design. The Monte Carlo also gets a few other external changes including but not limited to a rear spoiler, different alloy wheels (as compared to the top end Style variant) and Monte Carlo badging on the fenders.
The front end is undeniably Skoda with the chiseled look carried over from the Octavia. The smoked projector headlamps coupled with LED DRLs on the Monte Carlo and the Style variants further make it look closer to its more expensive sibling. The grille on the Monte Carlo is also blacked out with a glossy black surround coupled with matte black inserts. All in all, the front end is still a looker after all these years, and this especially holds true for the Monte Carlo variant.
The side profile carries the traditional three box sedan design and that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering most competitors have gone for a sloping coupe like roofline which can eat into valuable headroom at the rear. What once again stands out on the Monte Carlo variant are the blacked out 16 inch alloys complemented by the blacked out door mirror caps. What might not look the part is the handbrake cable which tends to jut out far too much underneath the car such that it’s easily visible. This problem is further amplified by the 170mm GC figure.
The rear end bears the most semblance to the Octavia. The C shaped tail lamps might look inoffensive to start off with, but there’s no denying they are one of the many aspects of the car which might be a giveaway to its age. What once again helps the cause of the Monte Carlo is the blacked out rear spoiler which does add a touch of sportiness without overdoing things.
To sum things up, the Rapid’s design has surely aged gracefully atleast on the exterior front. It might not have the sloping roofline and a myriad of cuts and creases like most of its competitors do, but that’s what sets it apart from the rest. The overall styling is a please all and offend none proposition.
Overall build quality is something that remains the best in segment. The weight of the doors and thickness of sheet metal does enough to inspire confidence and so does the fact that the car the Rapid is fundamentally based on (The Volkswagen Polo) scored 4 stars in Global NCAP crash tests.
Design Language- Interiors
The interiors on the Rapid remain unchanged for the most part. They surely show their age. There are no soft plastics inside the cabin but the overall plastic quality is pretty good. Despite the presence of the hard plastics, they don’t look cheap. The quality of switchgear inside the car is good for the most part save for the knob which is used to fold and unfold the outside rear view mirrors. The glovebox houses a chiller and is illuminated as well.
All the four doors come equipped with auto up and down for the windows (a nifty feature which a lot of cars still don’t offer) and yes, all the four windows can be winded and unwinded using the key (helps on a hot day). What sticks out in an otherwise a neat looking interior would be the new Infotainment system available on the higher trims. The Style and Monte Carlo variants make do with an Android system for the headunit. The touch responses are strictly average and it isn’t user friendly either. For those who prefer a cleaner user interface, this headunit will disappoint them. The lower Rider Plus, Ambition and Onyx variants get a much better RCD340G headunit which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Having used this headunit in the other Volkswagen Group cars, this headunit is easily the better of the two.
The Monte Carlo gets a few embellishments on the inside to differentiate it from the usual Rapid. Contrast red stitching is used generously inside the cabin and it does look good. The front seats in the Rapid are supportive for the most part, save for the lumbar support. Absence of the same can be felt at times on long drives. The rear seat in the Rapid is a good place to be in with more than adequate space for the passengers. The seat is supportive and the under thigh support is good for someone who’s fairly tall at 5-feet and 11-inches. With the front seat set to my height, I had more than enough room to stretch out a bit. The fifth occupant isn’t welcome in the Rapid. The intrusion in the footwell for the middle occupant can be a bit of a problem for the fifth occupant.
Sadly, the supposedly expensive Monte Carlo variant doesn’t come equipped with side airbags for the front passengers but Dual airbags and ABS with EBD are standard across the range.
Performance- Engine and Gearbox
As said earlier, all the older engine options are no more available in light of BS6 norms. There’s only one engine and transmission option for now; that is the famed 1.0 TSI engine which is also found under the hood of the Volkswagen Polo and Vento. This is a 3-cylinder turbocharged Petrol engine which puts out a healthy 110-ps and 175-nm of torque. This engine is currently paired to a 6-speed manual transmission while a 6-speed Torque Converter will be available with the same engine in the near future.
The 1.0 TSI in a nutshell is easily one of the best turbo-petrol mills available under the 10-lac rupee mark. For someone who loves driving their cars fast will fall in love with this powertrain. This paired to a 6-speed manual is a hoot to drive. The 6-speed manual gearbox is slick and its fun using the gearbox while on the move. The clutch is fairly light but the travel is a bit longer that what I usually prefer.
At idle, the refinement levels are acceptable but one can make a clear note of the vibrations inside the cabin. Nothing alarming and users will be used to these in no time. A small price to pay to enjoy what’s under the hood but Skoda could’ve done a better job on this front.
Low-end drivability isn’t the best with the 1.0 TSI. While in most of the cases, the car will pull from a lower speed in a higher gear, the progress is a lot slower till the 2,000-rpm mark. The story however goes for a flip when it breaches the 2,000-rpm mark. If you want to make a quick move, downshift and get moving. Post 2,000-rpm, the car’s a hoot to drive. It pulls nice and clean till the 6,500-rpm redline. Midrange is explosive and you’ll find yourself in the 3,000-rpm to 5,500-rpm rev range for most of the times if you’re a spirited driver. The TSI is also an efficient cruiser if you choose to go easy on yourself and the car. 100-kmph in 6th gear at ~ 2,100-rpm with the cruise control engaged should be a smooth sail.
Performance- Ride and Handling
This is that one area where the Rapid remains unchanged to date (in a good way). Like earlier, the Rapid comes with an independent McPherson strut front suspension and a compound link crank axle at the rear. This is easily the benchmark for this segment. The car manages to ride well in the city and on the highway. Bumps are nicely ironed out, although larger potholes come in strong. High speed stability isn’t compromised and car feels stable at cruising speeds and sudden lane changes don’t affect the car much. A spirited drives through a set of twisties won’t disappoint you either. The Rapid (and its sibling) maintain the balance of straight-line stability and overall ride and handling.
There’s no denying the fact that the Skoda Rapid still makes for a good VFM proposition and this especially holds true for the lower spec Rider plus variant which has almost all basics including a touchscreen music system, automatic climate control, dual airbags and ABS+EBD covered at less than 9 lakhs on the road. It makes a whole lot more sense for an enthusiast looking for a VFM fun to drive sedan to go for the Rider plus variant rather than splurging on the top end Style or even the mid ambition variants.
And this is precisely where there’s a twist in the tale. The Skoda Rapid might be the most fun to drive in its segment and the 1.0 TSI might be one of the best small capacity turbo petrols we have driven, but it isn’t enough to help the cause of a 10 year old C-segment sedan, especially in a market where people aspire a lot more than a capable drivetrain and good build quality. The Rapid also faces competition from premium SUVs and crossovers such as the Kia Seltos which offer a lot more equipment for the same money.
To conclude things, the Rapid is a proper VFM proposition for someone who aspires to own a proper sedan which has a capable drivetrain and promises good build quality and safety. Having said that, if features, a radical design and a hassle free ownership experience are your primary requirements while buying a car, there are better options.