Why I would buy it?
- Ageless design, solid build quality
- Ease of seamless automatic gearbox
- Performance of the new TSI motor
Why I would avoid it?
- Dated cabin misses out on many key features
- Purists would miss the DSG proficiency
- Competition makes a more viable buy
Skoda Rapid continues to soldier in India, but now with the new 1.0-litre TSI motor. This comes as a pretty bold move since it’s a pretty dated sedan in an SUV-favoured market. But what the Rapid has on offer that’s pretty much unmatched by any other car is its solid build quality packed in an ageless design and it is backed by strong brand aspirational value. And now it gets a torque-converter automatic for the first time, instead of a dual-clutch DSG. But this shift won’t be mindful for any new Skoda owner, except maybe for the purists.
Engine and Performance
Trading the 1.5-litre diesel and the 1.6-litre petrol in the updated Rapid is a single petrol engine option. The engine in question is the new trump card from the Volkswagen Group (SAVWIPL) in India – the 1.0-litre TSI direct-injection turbo-petrol unit. It makes 109bhp at 5,000rpm and an impressive 175Nm of torque accessible from 1,750rpm. Apart from the six-speed manual, the Rapid now also comes with a six-speed torque converter which we are driving here.
Crank up the engine by twisting the key (no push-button start here) and the motor settles into a silent idle. There’re a few vibrations felt on idling but nothing as serious as you’d usually associate with a three-cylinder motor, which is commendable.
Slot the lever into D and let go of the brake pedal, and the Rapid gets off the line with seamless progress. Although, sometimes it might catch you unaware by lurching forward if the brake pedal is released all of a sudden. Once on the move, the motor builds up speed seamlessly and there’s a good amount of mid and low-end grunt to keep up with the city traffic. We noticed that the motor wants to hover around the 2,000rpm and so the automatic gearbox upshifts quickly to keep the needle around that mark. So, while driving it at city speeds, there’s no noticeable lag.
But this is a high-revving motor. So, if you burry your right foot, the gearbox will hold on to the gear until the 6,000rpm redline. And the gain in speed is quick and exciting. Triple-digit speeds arrive rapidly, no puns intended. But you aren’t heaved back into the seat and you’d notice no jerks from the automatic gearbox as it works its way up the cogs. On the other hand, to maintain highway speeds, the motor will leisurely tick over between 1,500-2,500rpm, with enough power in reserve to overtake slow-moving vehicles. And even in kickdown, the gearbox responds to the driver’s inputs almost immediately, without much lag. Extend the gear shifter into the S mode and you’d notice that the gearbox now holds gear a bit higher than usual. This results in a slightly sharper throttle response.
However, for the purists who swear by the older dual-clutch DSG automatic might find this torque converter slightly slow in comparison. But for someone driving this automatic for the first time, there won’t be any complaints whatsoever. Sure, the DCT would have complemented this 1.0-litre turbo-petrol motor even more, but the torque converter does the job equally well with its seamless nature, quick response, sans any jerk or delay. What’s more, it is also significantly more affordable than the DSG, making the Rapid more accessible to new car buyers and to buyers upgrading to a sedan from a smaller hatchback segment.
Ride and Handling
With the update, the hardware remains unchanged, which is fine since we have come to appreciate the Rapid’s ride and handling combination. Although it seems on a firm side, the suspension manages to soak up all the bumps and irregularities quite well. It remains absorbent over bad surfaces at lower speeds and only very sharp ones filter inside the cabin. And the ride quality improves furthermore as the speed increases, flattening out undulations with commendable poise. Moreover, even after being a low-slung sedan, the Rapid never once scraped over those massive speed breakers.
As for the handling, the heavy steering might not be likeable for newer drivers, especially in the city. But the steering response is quick and direct helping the Rapid change direction with confidence. In fact, the steering feel is very engaging making this Skoda feel like a fun-to-drive car. This is further accentuated by control levels of body roll when shown some corners. What’s more, even after being an automatic, the brakes offer good initial bite that helps in swelling one’s confidence when going faster.
Interior Space and Quality
Changes on the inside have remained insignificant over the last update. We surely like the build quality of the Rapid but everything else has started to show its age. However, there’s no denying the fact that the tidy layout of the cabin is functional and free of any gimmick. Its ergonomically sound and everything is well positioned with a tactile feel to it. Use of light coloured material also gives it a more premium appeal. However, the use of soft-touch material would have further elevated the feel of the cabin, which here uses resilient but solidly built plastic.
The seats offer ample support in all the right areas and there’s sufficient headroom in the front row as well. Even the shoulder room is aplenty and there’s just the right amount of under-thigh support too. Meanwhile, the rear bench also offers good levels of comfort, thanks to sufficient room for head and more than ample leg space.
Even the backrest angle is just about perfect and the under-thigh support didn’t give us a reason to complain. Sadly, there aren’t many amenities at the back except for a single cup-holder, air vents, and a 12V power supply. On the flip side, sitting three abreast here would be a tight affair, and the taller passengers might find the space confined and under-thigh support lacking. As for the boot, this C-segment sedan has always scored high in terms of boot space on offer. You can throw in large suitcases with enough room to spare for a few duffle bags in its 460 litres of boot space.
Features and Equipment
This isn’t the Monte Carlo or the Onyx edition of the Rapid, so it doesn’t get those extra bells and whistles. But what it does come equipped with includes LED day-time-running-lights with projectors, auto headlamps, auto-dimming and anti-glare mirrors, remote central locking, automatic climate control, leatherette upholstery, cooled glovebox, and cruise control. In terms of safety, you get dual front airbags and side airbags, ABS with ESC and hill hold assist, a rearview camera with parking sensors, and child door locks.
Skoda also provides a new eight-inch ‘Skoda Android’ Infotainment system which looks more aftermarket than a company fitment. Its colourful display is a welcome addition but the touch response and fluidity feel like that of early android smartphones. This is not surprising since it is still based on Android 7.1.1 version. Even the sound from the four-speaker system is acceptable and connectivity option is limited.
Being a decade-old car, the Rapid still misses out on many new-age features which are offered elsewhere in the segment. Some of those features include a push-button start, sunroof, wireless charging, telematics, digital instrument cluster, navigation, and a better sound system.
With prices ranging between Rs 9.49 to 13.49 lakh (ex-showroom), the Skoda Rapid is one of the most affordable petrol-automatic sedans you can currently buy. It is also one of the most fun-to-drive, back-to-basic sedan as compared to the modern C-segment offering. Making the Rapid an alluring buy even after 10 years of existence is its solid build quality, no-nonsense and practical interior, usable space all around, and now the convenience of the two-pedal setup which is still fun-to-drive.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi