It was in 2011 that Skoda introduced a Fabia hatchback based sedan - the Skoda Rapid and after 5 years and contributing to over 70% of Skoda's sales in India it still wasn't the most popular car in its segment. Skoda has finally given the car a much needed and major facelift and hopes to increase its market share in the segment, which is dominated by the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, the Honda City and a car with which it shares its platform and engines - the Volkswagen Vento.
Like the Octavia, the Skoda Rapid has also been an underrated car and we strongly believe that the Czech based car manufacturer should have introduced this facelift at least a year ago, but well, better late than never. The updated Rapid now gets a new front look which is more in line with Skoda's family design that we have seen on the Octavia, Superb and the recently unveiled Kodiak. The face gets a new grille, which is surrounded by a chrome accent piece and angular headlamps ensuring the aggressive look that designers at Skoda intended.
The new sharper bumper that gets a large honeycomb air intake compliments it and fog lamps on either side. The rear of the car also gets some minor changes. These include a revised bumper and addition of chrome strip on the boot lid, which feels just a bit overdone and reminds one of the Vento. It also gets redesigned alloy wheels, a boot-lip spoiler and re-profiled tail-lamps. The top-end variant of the car also gets LED daytime running lights as a part of the dual barrel headlamp. Although the side profile has remained almost unchanged, the overall design does make the car look younger and fresher.
We first got our hands on the tried and tested 1.6-litre petrol engine with the automatic gearbox. The engine performs well on the highway giving you enough power as and when needed with smooth gearshifts. The 1.6-litre petrol engine makes 103bhp of peak power and 153Nm of peak torque. As we started our climb up the lower foothills of the Himalayas, the 6-speed automatic gearbox did feel a little slow making the car feel a little underpowered on steeper inclines.
The highlight however has to be the new 1.5L diesel engine introduced on the Rapid. We have seen the same engine on the Volkswagen Ameo and Skoda has managed to get it on the Rapid pretty soon. The engine is powerful and better tuned to the 7-Speed DSG gearbox. However, it still remains noisy. On the diesel variant, Skoda claims a mileage of 21.13kmpl on the manual variant and 21.72kmpl on the automatic variant. In terms of overall handling characteristics, the Rapid still feels stiffer than most other cars it goes up against and there is a negligible amount of understeer. The use of galvanized steel on the body has helped Skoda to reduce the weight of the car which helps both performance and handling.
Inside the cabin is where the car will remind you of the Volkswagen Vento but with its own set of upgrades and tweaks. On the tech side the updated Rapid now gets cruise control, automatic headlamps and rain sensing wipers. You also get the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system on the top of the line variant, which is equipped with a MirrorLink feature, which allows you to transform your smartphone on to the screen. Apart from that you also get the standard AUX, USB and Bluetooth connectivity options. The Rapid also gets ABS and dual front airbags as a standard safety feature on all variants. The rear seat of the car offers good space and enough leg-room for a comfortable journey even on curvy roads and long distance journeys however we felt the suspension of the car to be a bit on the hard size and not the best in the segment.
Skoda Rapid petrol is priced at ₹ 8.27-11.36 lakh and the diesel variants ranges between ₹ 9.48-12.67 lakh. Strangely, Skoda hasn't really tried to be aggressive with its pricing by undercutting it's rivals. Skoda is also offering 4 years warranty on all its products including road side assistance and Skoda's maintenance package. This is an important updated product for Skoda and with this update Skoda hopes to sell about 20,000 units of the Rapid every year. Remember, the company will also be launching the Rapid Monte Carlo edition in in India next year.