A Spaceback Odyssey

Road test: Škoda Rapid Spaceback SE 1.6 TDI

There is a whole industry built on the naming of models formerly known as estate cars. So we have sport backs, station wagons, shooting breaks and sports tourers.  And now Škoda has added the Spaceback to its Rapid range; in old money: a Rapid estate.

The adverts for the Spaceback on the billboards look great – the bright red car with dramatic panoramic roof sits at a jaunty angle and the smart, slender alloy wheels set it off beautifully. Our test car, while neat and shiny in bright metallic blue looks a little more ordinary. On 15” wheels, the 60% tyre profile looks deep and there is no funky, dark roof (a £700 option).


As the week’s plans lay, it was clear we’d be racking-up quite a few miles in this Rapid Spaceback: much local driving followed by a weekend down in Bristol. Expectations were certainly high with the sensible Volkswagen running gear and the practical shape for all the clobber. The seven-speed DSG ‘box with 1.6 diesel seemed to be the best choice to pass the miles easily and economically.

Trim-wise, this SE model has just a few options added (sat nav, DAB radio), although lacked auto lights (which is the norm on most cars above base specification), auto wipers and just a single 12 volt socket which was monopolised by my son’s DVD player. Frustrating was the fact it wouldn’t provide full connectivity with any Apple device using a standard lead to the car’s USB socket. Given the prevalence of iPhones, this is a serious lacking. Otherwise, the VW-group controls are neat and efficient.

The boot on the standard Rapid is sensibly sized and the Spaceback – really a generous hatchback rather than full estate – comfortably accommodates the gear for a full weekend with capacity to spare. There is a modest sill but nothing too obstructive. Beneath the boot floor sits a full-sized spare wheel (a modest £75 option but re-assuring in times of silly tyre foam and compressors) yet the sensible design allows a low floor to maximise capacity.


On  the local runs, the Rapid Spaceback did everything one might expect and exceeded all expectations around fuel economy; despite poor traffic conditions it supped at a rate of low-to-mid 50s mpg. What it did struggle with was the very slow crawl. There was always a constant battle between the drive and the brake, making it very difficult to maintain a steady slow speed of just a couple of miles per hour in traffic. Likewise when pulling-up to a junction, under steady, gentle braking, the transmission tended to tug forward just before drawing to a halt. This wasn’t a one-off, either: it did it almost every time.


On the longer runs, with clear (although hideously wet) motorways, the modest-sized diesel did well balancing performance and economy although being the 90PS (rather than the 105PS version) I was conscious of having to depress the accelerator a little harder on some gentle inclines. In terms of ride quality, it doesn’t feel quite as planted as (say) a Golf; there is a slight jitteriness I would have expected with very low profile tyres but which surprised me with the deep tyres fitted on this car. It was extremely well-behaved through the bends – not exciting, exactly, but certainly very sure-footed.

In summary, then, a very practical car with excellent fuel economy: all very sensible. The manual gearbox we tested previously seems better suited and although build is very good, it seems a little steep on price.

Škoda Rapid Spaceback SE 1.6 TDI 90PS, £18,440 (£19,935 as tested). Range starts at £14,340 for S 1.2 TSI.

Power: 90 PS (@ 4,200 rpm), torque: 230 Nm (@ 1,500-2,500 rpm), emissions: 118 g/km CO2 (band C), 0-60 mph: 12.1 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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