A quick introduction
The Rapid has always been the most selling model in the Indian fleet of Skoda, and that is no fluke. Buyers could bank on its sturdy build quality and its fun to drive demeanour but, it was time for an update and that is what Skoda India has done with the latest iteration of the Rapid with prices starting from INR 8.34 lakhs (ex-showroom). I took it out for a jaunt on the spectacular mountain roads from Dehradun to Mussoorie to find out what has changed.
How does it look?
This is where the Rapid has been changed the most. The front of the car is totally different from that of the previous generation model with its newly designed projector headlights that come integrated with what Skoda refers to as jewel-shadow LED daytime running lamps, large rectangular fog lights and the new signature Skoda butterfly front grille. The grille especially lends the new Rapid a baby Octavia appearance and makes it unmistakable as a Skoda vehicle. There are two new paint colour options as well: Silk Blue and Carbon Steel.
The side profile of the car is virtually unchanged and it continues to come shod with 15 inch alloy wheels. Walk round to the rear of the car and, at first glance, it can appear as though no changes have been made. But, on closer inspection, you see that the tail lamp shells have been given a refractive element and that there is a chrome strip running along the entire bottom width of the boot lid that gives the car a planted look. Overall, the car still maintains its understated and dignified appearance but, it also has been upgraded just enough to keep its appeal fresh.
How is it to drive?
The driveability of the Skoda Rapid was always considered to be one of its strong points and this new one is no different. As a buyer, you will get to choose from both petrol and diesel options. The petrol engine is a 1.6 litre, 4 cylinder unit that puts out 103 bhp while the diesel engine is the new 1.5 litre, 4 cylinder, turbocharged unit that develops 109 bhp and 250 Nm of torque. While both versions have the option of a 5 speed manual, the petrol version can be ordered with a 6 speed automatic and the diesel version comes with a 7 speed, twin clutch DSG automatic transmission.
After driving both petrol and diesel versions, there was no doubt that the Rapid still remains one of two the absolute best driving cars of this segment (the other being the VW Vento, admittedly the same car!). On the twisty roads full of hairpins and switchbacks, the Rapid doled out driving fun in spades. Skoda uses galvanized steel and loads of heavy duty welding in the construction of the body-shell. The result is an extremely rigid and stiff body and the suspension is tuned so well that there is barely any roll in the corners, even when taken fast. The petrol engine is definitely suited more to city commutes; we wish that Skoda had given it more than just 103 bhp. However, the diesel on the other hand is a hoot to drive. The turbo lag is minimal and the DSG gearbox is a gem in the way it shifts up or down through the gears so rapidly (pun intended!).
Is it well equipped?
The interiors of the new Rapid have barely changed from that of its predecessor. It is an example of form following function and everything is exactly where you expect it to be. The passenger cabin is livened up thanks to use of a dual tone interior colour scheme (black and beige) and subtle chrome accents. The seats are reasonably supportive, even more so, on the sides which prevent you from sliding around when going quickly around corners. Both front and rear seat occupants get dedicated AC vents and dedicated armrests as well. The glove box can be cooled and the footwells are illuminated.
Other features in the car include a new 6.5 inch touchscreen infotainment system that is easy to use, MirrorLink that enables you to use your cellphone directly from the car touchscreen, an automatic climate control system, steering mounted control buttons, an MID, an audio system that supports aux-in, USB and Bluetooth inputs, a nifty little card holder, a leather-wrapped grippy steering wheel that can be adjusted for height and reach, electrically adjustable and retractable rear view mirrors with integrated turn indicators, all 4 power windows with auto up/down feature, cruise control and much more.
On the safety front, this new Rapid gets airbags for both front passengers, ABS with EBD, an automatically dimming interior mirror, rain sensing wipers, hill hold assist and electronic stability control.
Skoda has clearly not gone berserk when it came to revamping the Rapid. Additions and modifications have been made only where necessary. The company has left the strengths of the car untouched while made changes where it was very much required (specifically in case of the features list, which is now on par with that of its rivals). Skoda has also made a massive financial investment to work towards completely overhauling and upgrading their sales and service network.
One of the major complaints of Skoda owners was regarding their service experience found in need of a good shake-up and the company has now earnestly begun work on that front as well by bringing out a smartphone app called mySkoda and introducing better warranty plans as well. With these changes in place and the Rapid having received its share of upgrades, we feel that it should sell even better in the Indian market. I should point out that the diesel version is one of the best cars you can buy in this price bracket. The new Skoda Rapid definitely gets our seal of approval.
Photography: Pranav Divakar