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Lots of space for little cash

Prices start from just £14,340. That’s £3090 less than the

cheapest five-door Volkswagen Golf. And despite costing so much less than the Volkswagen,

the Skoda is more than competitive in terms of passenger and luggage space. There’s

plenty of room for adults to be comfortable in the back, and a 415-litre boot

is among the biggest in the small hatchback class.


That said, the Rapid on which the Spaceback is based has

even more room for bags, but then the Spaceback should attract a different kind

of customer. Skoda says the modern but conventional hatchback styling will

appeal more to younger buyers than the three-box profile of the Rapid. Given

that car has all the youth appeal of the Antiques

Roadshow, that won’t be hard.


So, it’s big, it’s cheap and it rests easy on the eye. In

other respects, however, it feels more like a car that’s been built to a price.

The plastics on the dashboard are hard and don’t have the quality finish you’ll

find in other recent Skoda models like the new Octavia. The dashboard is

uncluttered and the controls are logical but it’s rather bland. The Hyundai i30

and Kia Cee’d compete with the Rapid Spaceback on price but offer more stylish



The driving position is mostly sound but the steering wheel

is slightly offset to the left. Otherwise there’s a good range of adjustment

for the seat and wheel and more than enough room for drivers of most shapes and

sizes. That’s even true with the panoramic sunroof fitted (part of the £1100

‘Style’ pack), which steals less headroom for front and rear-seat passengers

than most full-length glass roofs.


Behind the wheel

Out on the road, don’t expect the Rapid Spaceback to match

the ride and handling of an Octavia but at a lower price. The ride is too firm

over sharp bumps but isn’t especially controlled over dips and crests. It’s far

from awful but there’s clear daylight between the Spaceback’s on-road behaviour

and the best small hatchbacks’.


We tried the 1.6 diesel in both 90PS (89bhp) and 105PS

(104bhp) versions. Prices start from £16,140 for the 90PS and £16,790 for the

higher powered engine. Both sound rather clattery and intrusive, although the

105PS in particular performs well from around 1500rpm and should cope with

pulling a lightweight tourer. In official tests both engines return 64.2mpg on

the combined cycle, although we missed that figure by just over 10mpg on our

test drive.


Limited to lightweight tourers

However, with low kerbweights and modest towing limits the

Spaceback is only suitable for towing a small caravan. Even the 1.6 diesels

have a 1200kg legal towing maximum and kerbweights top out at 1280kg (including

75kg for the driver). If you take a belts and braces approach to outfit

matching, that gives an 85% match figure of 1088kg.


We also drove two petrol engines, the 1.2 TSI 105PS and the

1.4 TSI 122PS with a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). Despite its modest size and

power output, the 1.2 doesn’t feel overwhelmed. If you have a large car for

towing your caravan and are looking for an inexpensive second car for

day-to-day driving, it’s good value with prices starting from £16,180. That

buys you a car in mid-spec SE trim as Skoda doesn’t offer this engine in the

more basic S spec.


Go for the 1.4 TSI and the extra power is noticeable, but

it’s not a night-and-day difference. The seven-speed DSG transmission swaps

gears smoothly and quickly, and is well worth considering if you’d prefer to

rest your left leg. However, we’d take either diesel over the petrols for

towing duties.


Whichever engine is chosen, there’s no doubt the larger and

pricier Octavia is a much better car. But if you couldn’t give two hoots for

soft-touch plastics and can forgive a mediocre driving experience for the sake

of space and value for money, the Rapid Spaceback  is worth considering.