After ruling the roost in the various luxury segments, Skoda has finally unleashed its contender in the midsize sedan segment. With badge engineering used to the hilt, the Rapid then as Skoda calls it, is pretty much a Czech Vento. But will it manage to make its own identity in this fiercely competitive market? Let's find out
The other day, I was in the long term Vento with a friend. We were waiting at the signal when a Skoda Rapid pulled up right along side us. Now even though my friend isn’t into cars, the first question he asked after spotting the Rapid was “Why does that Skoda look so much like the Vento?” While that was just the beginning of a very long discussion between us, let me introduce you to the very sharing world of “Badge Engineering”. While it’s no secret that more than platforms are shared between Skoda and VW, the Rapid takes sharing to an all new level. But will this badge engineered Skoda carve out a niche for itself amongst its well established rivals and especially from its closest competition which is none other than the more than similar Vento? Here’s the answer!
Similar but yet so different!
This is where the “more than just platform sharing” bit comes into play. Looked at in profile, its hard to differentiate it from the Vento thanks to the exact same A, B and C pillars, but from there on things start to change. The front end treatment is similar to the Fabia just like the Vento/Polo. The moustache grille actually looks good and along with the large nose, the Rapid actually looks much more mature than the Vento. All throughout the lines are smooth and integrated smoothly with the elongated body.
Adding to the visuals are the brilliant 5 spoke alloys which again look a lot more chunkier than the ones on the Vento. The boot which is again a straight lift from the Vento looks well integrated too. Tail lights receive the Skoda touch and then there is the crystal cut which gives the boot its distinct identity. Overall the Rapid comes across as a handsome sedan which is more than a rebadged Vento or just a Fabia with a boot.
Skoda have always had a common theme on the insides for all its cars and the Rapid is no different. While the basic dashboard layout is the same, it now gets doused in loads of Skoda overtones. A combination of beige and brown makes the already spacious interiors even more roomy. The front seats are extremely comfortable and offer good support all round. Adjustable for height and reach, finding a good driving position is very easy.
However it’s hard to ignore the carried over parts like the headlight switch, climate control and the aircon vents which could have received a different treatment. Another major miss are the steering mounted controls which Skoda for some reason seems to avoid.
With the again similar wheelbase of 2552 mm, the Rapid has a lot of legroom to play with. If considered as a chauffer driven car, the Rapid will find a lot of buyers. Even with three passengers sitting abreast, the rear of the Rapid is a good place to be in. The only hindrance is the slightly tall transmission tunnel which makes getting in and out a little difficult.
Powering the front wheels is a 1598cc oil burning lump which features like double over head cams and a high pressure direct injection system. While you don’t have to guess where this engine comes from, what you will keep wondering is how different this engine feels in the Rapid. Pushing out a 105 PS @ 4400 rpm and a meaty 250 Nm of torque between 1500-2500 rpm, the Rapid is tuned in a slightly different way compared to the Vento. While it’s slightly more audible, performance throughout the rev range is extremely linear with a crisp throttle response. In fact driven around town, the Rapid actually feels quicker than its German sibling. However numbers tell a different tale.
Flat out the 100 comes up in 12.03 (11.16 seconds for the Vento) seconds which is a tad slower than the Vento. Roll-on figures reveal a similar story. The 40-120 in fourth gear takes 17.12 (16.29 seconds for the Vento) seconds which are some very good figures. Keeping the throttle pedal buried we maxed the Rapid out at 182 km/h. There is absolutely nothing to choose between the Czech and the German when it comes to performance. Braking is also a sure footed affair with the Rapid featuring dual rate brake assist along with ABS which helps in shedding speed rapidly.
Well suspended too!
Skoda has definitely figured out the best balance when it comes to setting up the suspension for Indian conditions. Barring the Laura vRS, all Skoda models possess a fine balance between ride and handling and the Rapid is no different. Ride quality is a bit on the firm side but never gets intrusive unless you are traveling over real crater like potholes. The sorted damping means handling is taken care of as well and high speed endeavors are a piece of cake. The steering is well weighted and gives reasonable amount of feel even at high speeds and it’s a real joy throwing it around the corners.
Its just plain impressive how modern diesels these days not only churn out petrol bashing performance but are also leagues ahead in terms of efficiency. The Rapid is no different. Trundling around town, the Rapid batted out an excellent 12 kmpl. On the highway, the figure rose to and even better 18.5 kmpl, give the car and overall figure of 13.6 kmpl. With a 55 litre fuel tank he Rapid will take you all of 748 km before you have to tank up again. Efficiency at its best!
The final say…
The entry level sedan is already packed with some very serious and accomplished contenders and the Rapid definitely has its work cut out. But it also has a lot to offer. It looks good, is big on space, has very good performance with handling to match and to top it all is very fuel efficient as well. With the base Active diesel starting at 7.95 lakh and the top Elegance variant coming in at 9.19 lakh, the Rapid undercuts its rivals by a fair margin. Its closest rival in terms of all the mentioned parameters is the VW Vento and whichever of the two you buy you can’t go wrong with either. The Rapid however is better priced and better equipped too. A win-win situation for the German giant then.