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2017 Skoda Rapid First Drive Review

What is it?

It’s been nearly five years since Skoda’s most popular sedan, the Rapid got an update and now the Czech manufacturer has finally decided to give the car its most comprehensive update in a bid to increase the numbers.

The car now gets the new family face that brings it in line with the other sedans namely, the Octavia and the Superb. You get the multi-slatted grille with a chrome border that makes the car look not only better but also more mature.

Adding some sharpness are the new quartz-cut projector headlights. Adding some more drama is the chrome eyelash blending in with the jewel-shadow LED daytime running lights. It might sound complex but it does look good. The bumper has been revised as well with redesigned fog lights and now incorporating a lip spoiler s well.

The side profile remains the same barring the inclusion of the new 15-inch ‘Matone’ alloy wheels and chrome moulding on the deck lid and door handles.   At the rear you now get C-shaped smoked tail lights and an integrated spoiler.

Overall the Rapid looks much sharper and definitely in line to take on the fresh competition.

How is it on the inside?

Well for starters, it looks pretty much the same. And that’s because the dashboard layout remains the same. But once you get into the driving seat, the new details start to stand out. I like the ebony-sand dual tone combo on the dash and the fact that everything feels so well built together.

The most important addition on the inside though is the 6.5 inch colour touch screen infotainment system. You get the usual USB, AUX and Bluetooth with the addition of MirrorLink connectivity. There’s more too. You get rain sensing wipers, the steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach, the glovebox is cooled, climate control along with rear aircon vents and cruise control.

A nice utility touch is the addition of a cardholder clip to keep the toll receipts or change. It’s only when you try to fire up the engine that you suddenly realise the absence of a start/stop button and a rear view camera when you want to back up. 

Other than that the front seats are pretty comfortable. We drove it for over three hours at a stretch and found enough support in the right places to be comfortable.

There is enough legroom at the rear too, maybe not as much as the Honda City or the Ciaz, but nothing to complain about. The boot has more than adequate space at 460 litres and will swallow plenty of luggage for those weekend trips.

The only grouse that each one of us had with the boot was that there is no boot opening button on the boot and one has to pull on a little button near the driver’s door or use the key-fob. 

The Rapid’s interior are a much better place to be in now however it will take more than just the addition of a touch screen infotainment system and additional features to get up to speed with the more modern and not to mention swanky competition.

How does it drive?

Along with the facelift, the Rapid also gets the updated 1.5 litre TDI engine which debuted with the VW Ameo. The engine which gets a larger turbo and is locally sourced makes 110BHP as compared to the 105BHP the earlier engine made. At 250 Nm the torque however remains the same. This unit comes linked to either a 5-speed manual transmission or the 7-speed DSG.

We managed to drive the manual variant. The engine like before is on the louder side and one can hear the clatter especially when the engine is cold. Performance though remains a highlight. Going up the ghats in Mussorie, we managed to climb most of it in third gear despite the route being a twisty one with numerous hairpin bends and traffic. The performance is dull under 2000 rpm post which the turbo spools up and you get a fat wave of torque, pushing you ahead. Drivability is the highpoint of this engine and you barely need to shift gears, which is a good thing considering the clutch is on the heavier side. The gear shift too are slightly on the heavier side but slots in nicely.

The Rapid also gets a petrol option in the form of the 1.6 MPI unit which again comes with a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. The engine and the specs remain exactly the same as before. The automatic we drove is ‘not’ a DSG in the petrol but a regular torque converter. The engine makes a healthy 105BHP and 153 Nm of torque.

The conventional gearbox is on the slower side especially when you shift it into D trying to conquer uphill climbs but around town the gearbox does its job well. Using it in Tiptronic mode does allow you to use the engine torque spread better though.

The suspension set-up remains the same, but then we have always appreciated the Rapid’s ride and handling. The suspension soaks up bumps and bad sections very well and it’s only the sharp edged ones that filter in.

The handling is pretty good too and throwing the Rapid around corners can be plenty of fun. There is good grip available and the steering offers decent levels of feedback too.

Why should I buy one?

The update has certainly made the Rapid a lot more competitive. For starters it looks a lot sharper than before, gets more features along with ABS and Airbags being standard across all variants. Skoda has also looked into the warranty aspect and is now the only manufacturer offering a standard four year warranty along with four years of Skoda Roadside Assistance and Skoda maintenance Package. With prices for the base petrol manual starting at 8.19 lakh and going up to Rs. 12.55 lakh for the top end Style DSG (ex-Mumbai), prices are on par with the competition. The Rapid makes a strong case for itself for those who like to drive and appreciate a well-built product.

Where does it fit in?

The Rapid is up against some serious competition. You have the best sellers in the form of the Honda City and the Maruti Ciaz, the feature loaded Hyundai Verna 4S and of course it’s very own sibling the VW Vento. While we don’t think this update will take the Rapid to the top of the heap (we’ll have to wait for the all-new car for that), it will definitely add a few more years and not to mention some much needed numbers to the Rapid’s sales. 

Photos: Kapil Angane

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Skoda Rapid Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 8.37 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 8.69 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 8.06 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 8.44 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 8.3 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 7.95 Lakhs onwards
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