Car tested: 2011 Skoda Rapid
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 7-9 lakhs (est.)
The C-segment sees yet another entry and this time it is Skoda launching its Rapid sedan. The Skoda Rapid has huge responsibilities on its head, because it is going to be priced around what the Octavia was at launch. When Skoda launched the Octavia in India a decade ago, the car became such a huge success, people started relating Skoda to Octavia and vice versa. Now things have changed, drastically. There are so many options that a car really needs to stand out to be a success. Does the Skoda Rapid have what it takes? A drive in Rajasthan helps us find out.
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Exteriors – The first thing you would notice in the Skoda Rapid, is the high resemblance to the Fabia at the front. The headlamps stretch all the way back into the front wings. The grille is similar to what we have been seeing on Skoda’s since ages now, while the horizontal forms make the car look visually lower than it actually is. The hood appears to be much longer than what is found on the Vento, even though both cars have the same length. The squarish fog lamps are similar to the ones found on the Fabia, which makes it very difficult to differentiate the Rapid from its younger sibling, when viewed head on. On the Polo and Vento, the fog lamps are differentially shaped which makes the cars instantly recognizable.
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However don’t be fooled by the high resemblance to the Fabia. The headlamps looks similar but are slightly different and no panel has been shared with the Fabia. Skoda says the look is their family look. The side profile is extremely Vento-ish. There is very little to distinguish the Rapid from the Vento from the side, except the alloy wheels. The Rapid sports 5-spoke alloys, which are typical Skoda in design, whereas the Vento sports 7-spoke alloys. The rear section has been changed, with the Skoda Rapid getting new tail lights and prism type insertions on the tail gate. The tail lamps are again typical Skoda in design with the C-shape but the overall theme of the exterior is quite reminiscent of the Vento. Surprisingly, the Fabia and Rapid don’t share exterior parts and the exterior is in line with Skoda’s family styling.
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Interiors – Step inside and the Volkswagen Vento theme continues. The dashboard, switch gear and pretty much everything else is a straight lift out of the VW. However, some parts are carried over from the Fabia such as the steering wheel, instrument cluster and audio system. The multi-information display contains a host of information and is quite similar to the Vento. The beige theme on the dashboard gives the car an airy feel, while the aircon vents, climate control unit, power windows switches and almost all the parts are a straight lift out of Volkswagen’s parts bin. However, the horn doesn’t sound good at all and is not from Volkswagen, nor is it the typical Skoda tone which the Octavia was so famous for.
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The front seats are comfortable and can be pushed far back. The arm rest is comfortable for shifting gears but if you want to keep both your hands on the steering wheel, you will have to raise the position of the arm rest. Once you do that, the gear knob becomes inconvenient to access. All power windows are one touch up/down and the Skoda Rapid does not feature auto lock nor the facility for the co-passenger locking or unlocking the vehicle from their door (this feature is present in the Vento). The quality of the interior is fantastic and everything feels solidly put together. Music system quality is decent and there is presence of AUX/SD card slot. However there is no steering mounted audio controls or USB functionality even though the Vento has received these features.
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Since both the Vento and the Rapid share the same platform, the rear seat and space is pretty much similar. The rear seat has decent legroom and the rear passenger can extend it by simply adjusting the front seat from the rear seat. The hump in the center prevents a fifth passenger from sitting in comfortably, while the cup holder (below the dual rear AC vents) looks cheap and an after thought. The rear parcel shelf is quite high due to which one can’t turn around to see during reversing. Head room at the rear is just about adequate for tall passenger, whereas the boot space is more than adequate.
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There are three variants on offer – Active, Ambition and Elegance. The main features of these variants are as above. Skoda is offering ABS and driver side airbag on the Ambition variant, which is a very smart move.
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Ride, Handling and Braking – The first stint saw us seated at the rear bench of the petrol automatic variant. Ride was on the stiffer side at low speeds over broken village roads but softened up as we got to speed on the highways. The suspension absorbs most of the undulations on the road with only the major ones creeping inside the cabin. Ground clearance is decent and kept most of the humps at bay with the underbelly only scraping a XXL sized speedbreakers. Skoda cars are known for built quality and handling and the Rapid is a good handler too. In this case, as already mentioned, the Rapid is technically a Vento in Skoda guise as both share the same underpinnings, engine and gearbox.
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Steering is much lighter than it’s elder sibling, the Vento, which makes it more practical for city chores but coming onto the high speed highways, it’s does not give the same feedback we are used to in the Vento however the Rapid still manages to take high speed corners with reassuring confidence and did fairly well on the twisties too. The 185 section Apollo Accelere tyres do a fair job and provide reasonable grip. The Rapid stops well within the range and we were impressed with the braking performance of this machine. Our 404 km drive was hard on braking and not once were we disappointed. At the end, the brake dust on the alloys just personified the hard work the brakes were put through.
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Performance – We drove the petrol automatic and the manual diesel variant. Currently there is no automatic available with the diesel but it said to be in the pipeline for the future. Powered by a 1.6 litre 4 cylinder engine, the petrol variant churns out 105 bhp at 6000 RPM. It’s the same unit which powers the Fabia 1.6 and the Polo 1.6. The automatic gearbox too is the same one which drives the Vento Automatic, even the gear ratios are the same. Most of the power lies in the middle and more so in the high end of the rev meter. There is an evident lag between shifts in the D mode but there is always the option of manual shifting using the tip tronic and that’s what we used most on the drive. Power is adequate and with 3 passengers on board, overtaking was not a major issue but frequent downshifts were needed. We got a mileage of 10 kmpl as per the trip computer, but that was mostly with on the limit driving on the highways. One can expect 12-14 kmpl from this engine. 0 – 100 timing is a claimed 12.4 seconds.
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The diesel engine is the engine of choice and quite rightly so. It’s such a gem that it completely overshadows its petrol counterpart. This 1.6 liter diesel churns the same 105 bhp at 4400 rpm and a stunning 250 Nm of torque between 1500-2500 RPM. Power delivery is more or less linear with the engine redlining all the way past 5000 rpm. The torque is phenomenal and acceleration is effortless, the right combination to get the adrenaline pumping. The engine gets vocal at higher revs but by that time you are already having so much fun, you will hardly notice it. We hit triple digit speeds easily and got 13.4 kmpl under extreme driving conditions, expect around 16 kmpl in routine running. Gearbox is slick and effortless to operate.
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Conclusion – The Rapid may be the Vento in Skoda attire but is more appealing to the eye and looks bigger than it too. There is no difference in the dimensions of the two cars but the exterior designing makes it appear longer. The interiors are similar too but but the Rapid offers automatic option (petrol) and abs in the mid variant, which is where it scores . Skoda sees Honda and Hyundai as their main competitors in the segment with the Vento being family and quite literally so. We expect the Rapid to be priced marginally cheaper than the Vento and bring in more volume for the Skoda brand.
Quick Comparison With The Competition
1) Honda City – The Skoda Rapid petrol will closely compete with the City because both offer such fantastic value to the buyer. Engine per engine, the Honda VTEC is slightly superior but the Rapid’s motor is quite frugal too. The City boasts of cheaper maintenance and better engine performance but the Rapid compensates with the fantastic ride and handling it offers.
2) Maruti Suzuki SX4 – Comparing the SX4 to the Rapid is slightly unfair. Most people buy SX4 because of the Maruti Suzuki badge and dealer network and per se, Skoda is no where even close. However the Rapid offers far superior quality and much better dynamics making it the clear choice if after sales service is not your primary criteria while purchasing a car.
3) Volkswagen Vento – The sibling of the Rapid won’t see any trouble because both cars are positioned differently. However even if they affect each other’s sales, the profits remain in the same group. The Vento is an excellent car but the Rapid is a slightly better looking yet cheaper Vento, which performs and drives as well as the Vento itself. Thus choosing between both these cars boils down to which brand you prefer as they are quite similar.
4) Fiat Linea – Even though Fiat has given up on the Linea, the car has the ability to fight the Rapid. The Rapid diesel is a better choice than the Linea but if you consider petrol engines, the Linea T-Jet blows away the Rapid royally. The Linea still looks the better machine but quality of Skoda is far better than what Fiat India has to offer us.
5) Ford Fiesta – The high pricing of the all new Fiesta takes away the awesome looks, sharp handling and gizmo tech interiors away from it. Performance wise, both the diesel and petrol Rapid are better. But if you consider the ride and handling of the new Fiesta, it is slightly superior. Ford service is cheaper too and the Fiesta has lots of equipment, even on the base variant.
6) Nissan Sunny – Engine wise, the Rapid is the clear choice. But if rear seat legroom is your primary concern, the Sunny is the obvious choice. The Sunny’s pricing swings a lot in favour of it but till the time a diesel model does not come along, people who prefer to drive will pick up the Rapid over the Nissan.
7) Hyundai Verna – Another big competitor for the Rapid, the Verna’s stunning looks, features and various models are its selling points. The Rapid has a better automatic transmission (petrol) along with excellent ride and handling. However due to the pricing of the various variants of the Verna, there is a Verna for everyone. Factor in the excellent service network of Hyundai and immediately the Rapid has a tough competitor to beat.
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* Built quality
* Punchy performance (diesel)
* Driving Dynamics
* Light steering comfortable for city driving
Whats Not So Cool
* Service costs unknown
* Features could be more for a car of this segment
* No diesel automatic
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Skoda Rapid Specifications : –
* Engine: 1598 cc, MPI 16V DOHC (petrol), 1598 cc, turbocharged, high pressure direct injection system, 16V DOHC (diesel)
* Power: 105 Bhp @ 5250 RPM (petrol), 105 BHP @ 4400 RPM (diesel)
* Torque: 153 Nm @ 3800 RPM (petrol), 250 Nm @ 1500 – 2500 RPM (diesel)
* 0 – 100 kmph – 10.7 seconds (petrol), 10.8 seconds (diesel), 12.4 seconds (petrol automatic)
* Top speed – 188 kmph (petrol), 186 kmph (diesel), 183 kmph (petrol automatic)
* Transmission: 5 Speed Manual, 6-Speed Auto (option in petrol Ambition and Elegance)
* Suspension: Mcpherson suspension with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser (Front), compound link crank axle (Rear)
* Tires: 185/60/15 Tubeless Radials
* Brakes: Dual rate brake assist, ABS
* Safety: ABS, Dual SRS Airbags, Engine immobilizer
Skoda Rapid Dimensions : –
* Overall length x width x height: 4386 mm X 1699 mm X 1466 mm
* Wheelbase: 2552 mm
* Ground Clearance: 168 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 liters
* Turning radius – 5.3 meters
* Gross Weight: 1145 kgs (petrol), 1205 (diesel)
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