Skoda Rapid driven: 5 positives, negatives and alternatives
5 things you should buy the Rapid for:
- Ride quality (MPI):
Yes, believe it or not, the USP of the Rapid is its ride quality, especially in the MPI variant. The suspension is extremely comfortable, on any given surface. We even took it for mild off-roading as you can see in the pictures, and even though the suspension is tuned for good ride quality, it didn’t bottom down at any given instance. Even at high speeds, the ride stays flat. Although, the handling gets affected (more on that later), if you are going to be chauffeur driven, the Rapid MPI is the car to go for. Even the diesel (although somewhat on the stiffer side) is a comfortable mile muncher.
The 7-speed DSG gearbox is lightning quick and as a well known fact, is one of the best units to have come to our shores. The downshifts are anticipated well in advance and power delivered throughout the rev band. In fact, the manual mode is fun to use around corners, giving you quick and precise shifts when you want them. It could do with paddle shifters though.
Totally opposite to the MPI in nature, the diesel engine has loads of torque available, starting from as low as 1700rpm. Recently launched in the Ameo in this uprated state, the TDI unit has been reworked by the Indian team of engineers and makes additional 5 horses over the older one at a much accessible 4000rpm (down from 4400). In fact, if you turn the traction control off, you will experience mild torque steer and a bit of wheel spin in the lower gears. And despite being fun, it’s frugal too. On our drive from Dehradun to Mussoorie, which comprises of some twisties, a highway run and some city roads, the diesel managed to return 15kmpl.
The Rapid is one of the top handling sedans in this segment. The sorted ride and well-engineered chassis ensure you can push the sedan much harder around corners and while the electric steering doesn’t offer much feedback, it’s accurate and well weighed. It’s not a corner carving machine, but it is respectable and is definitely better than its Japanese and Korean counterparts.
The Rapid now resembles the European spec model, which is actually based on the Fabia (the Indian car is based on the Polo). The front end especially, gets the traditional Skoda butterfly grille along with Fabia-ish DRLs (they’re extremely bright, even during the day). Even the bulge on the bonnet is inspired by the older generation Superb. And we are not complaining. The Rapid is a looker, especially in the Blue and Red shades. We managed to grab a few eyeballs during our drive. However, from the rear, there’s not much to differentiate from the older car, barring the tiny spoiler and a chrome strip. Only complaint has to be the skinny 185-section wheels. This obviously is done to achieve higher efficiency buy one size up on these would have been ideal. The interior is equipped with materials that feel built to last. Even the doors close with a loud thud that the first generation Octavia was known for.
5 things the Rapid falls short on:
- MPI engine:
The 1.6-litre petrol unit is a bit of a letdown. And sadly, it’s the only petrol engine the Rapid is offered with (the Vento gets a 1.2 TSI). It makes 103.5bhp at 5200rpm but the engine isn’t remotely as free-revving as a Honda City. It feels strained over 3000rpm when it makes more noise than power so it is better to drive it in a relaxed manner keeping the revs firmly in the low and mid range. And it isn’t very efficient too – somewhere in the range of 8-10kmpl.
- Handling (MPI):
While the Rapid is a much better handler than a Verna or a City, the petrol Rapid feels softer than the diesel and the steering is a slight bit lighter too making the TDI more fun to drive than the MPI. Once on the pace, you can still hustle the Rapid a fair bit.
- Missing features:
No rear camera! In a car of this class having no rear camera is a bad miss. And although the touchscreen based infotainment system is extremely responsive, it does not get a navigation system. If you need it, wait for the Monte Carlo edition maybe. Even the space is at a premium, as compared to the City or Ciaz. The boot space is the lowest in its class at just 460-litres.
- No VFM:
Sadly, the top-end version (diesel TDI DSG) of the Vento, is cheaper by over Rs 60,000. And basically, you are paying for the same car, in and out. And to Vento’s advantage, the VW as a brand is perceived to be better than Skoda when it comes to after sales service.
- Questionable After Sales Service:
Chink in the armour for Skoda. Although the Czech brand is trying to revamp its service model by offering 4-years warranty along with road side assistance for free, it’s the dealerships that are known for all the issues. There are some new mobile apps as well for the consumers to connect better with the dealerships, but spare part prices and their availability is a challenging factor for the manufacturer to sell its well made cars.
5 alternatives to the Rapid
- Honda City
The best combination of practicality, performance and efficiency, the City has been the champion in this segment for ages. With it’s free-revving petrol unit and a frugal diesel mill, combined with acres of interior space, the City is a tough competitor to beat.
With loads of space and Maruti’s reliable after sales along with an efficient diesel hybrid, the Ciaz is the most practical car in the C-segment. Looking for an affordable yet stylish car, then look no further.
- Hyundai Verna
The Verna is due for a model change, but this good-looking sedan has been bringing in the numbers for Hyundai for quite some time. The engines are one of the most powerful in this segment, mated to silky smooth gearboxes. It falls short when it comes to driving dynamics, but the Verna is a decent alternative if you want good looks and loads of features.
A timeless design combined with the terrific TSI engine and the DSG makes this a great alternative to the Rapid. As mentioned earlier, the Vento TDI DSG is also cheaper than the Rapid and you basically get the same car, underneath. Find reasons to spend the extra 60k then.
Not the diesel, but the T-Jet 125S is the best driver’s car in this segment and should be your ideal choice if you’re looking to have most fun behind the wheel. The ride and handling setup can put cars from a higher segment to shame and the hydraulic steering is a gem! Not the most practical option though, as it lacks space and is extremely heavy on your wallet, with low fuel efficiency.