Skoda gives its Rapid the once-over, we sample the petrol automatic model in the scenic environs of Uttarakhand.
Old wine in a new bottle – that’s what most facelifts are about these days. And, on the face of it, the new Skoda Rapid looks no different. Aside from an uprated diesel engine, a redesigned front fascia and some other titbits added here and there, the new model is virtually unchanged from the outgoing car. But, even then, there’s a lot to talk about with the refreshed Rapid.
So, the most obvious question is how different does the face-lifted Rapid feel? In terms of design, Skoda has revamped the front-end design pretty comprehensively – meaning that it now gets new projector headlamps with DRLs, a new ‘butterfly’ design grille and a re-sculpted bumper with large fog-lamps and a new honeycomb grille. Around the side and back, not much has changed – it just gets redesigned alloy wheels, a boot-lip spoiler, re-profiled tail-lamps, new rear bumper and a chrome strip on the boot-lid. Overall, the Rapid looks jazzed up – but it still retains its elegance. Personally, I like it since the new Rapid looks more like a mini-Octavia – which makes it a wee bit more aspirational.
Step inside and you’ll notice that not much has changed. The only new bit here is the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with MirrorLink technology. Other features, like cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, tilt-and-telescopic steering, and auto-climate control continue to be offered.
As you’d expect in a Skoda, the fit-and-finish is top notch. Ergonomically, all the controls fall to hand easily – and you immediately feel right at home in the driver’s seat. The seat itself is quite supportive. And it’s much the same story at the back. The wide seat squab and ample legroom allow you to sit comfortably over long journeys. While three people can sit abreast on the rear bench, the protruding central tunnel will be quite uncomfortable for the middle seat passenger.
All the drivetrain options from the previous model are carried forward in the new Rapid, which means there’s a 1.5-litre TDI (diesel) – that’s been retuned – and a 1.6-litre MPI (petrol) on offer. Both the powertrains come standard with a 5-speed manual gearbox. But if you’re after an automatic tranny, the diesel is offered with a 7-speed DSG while the petrol gets a conventional 6-speed automatic. And Skoda claims to have made all of the aforementioned powertrain options a little more efficient.
On this occasion, we sampled the petrol automatic version. On paper, the 1.6-litre petrol unit looks impressive since it develops 103bhp at 5,200rpm and 153Nm of torque at 3,750rpm. Under normal driving, like when you’re stuck in traffic, it does the job effortlessly. But if you ask for instantaneous performance, like when you want to overtake a slow vehicle, the gearbox takes its sweet time to respond. Even during kick-down, it doesn’t offer the kind of urgency that you expect from the drivetrain. The motor just wheezes loudly, but not much happens in terms of progress on the road. This was quite evident when we were driving uphill. To be honest, the petrol automatic doesn’t make any lasting impression. We hope that Skoda soon gets access to the stonking 1.2 TSI petrol and DSG from the VW Vento for the Rapid.
Where the new Rapid doesn’t disappoint at all is in the ride-and-handling department. It still has the same heft and sure-footed road manners as before. The feedback from the steering is crisp, while the suspension setup makes it a thoroughly enjoyable car to throw around twisty roads. The ride quality is impressive too, but going over big potholes can result in the dampers running out of travel.
All told, the new design and additional features make the Rapid a more potent car than before. But, then, the product itself was never the problem. It was Skoda’s post-sales trauma that haunted prospective customers.
But, to avail those fears, Skoda is doing everything it can. The Rapid comes with a 4-year warranty and roadside assistance as standard. The company has also undertaken some serious measures to ensure transparency between customers and dealerships. There are a number of service packages on offer, and a service cost calculator on Skoda’s India website.
So, it seems, if there ever was a good time to buy a Skoda – it’s now!
- 2016 Skoda Rapid MPI AT
Engine: 1,598cc / 4-Cylinders / 16-Valves
Power: 103bhp @ 5,200rpm
Torque: 153Nm @ 3,750rpm
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic / Front-Wheel Drive
Price: Rs 11.46 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)