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
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
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.