Under the skin, Skoda’s new mid-size saloon is merely a Vento. So what differentiates the two?
Volkswagen and Skoda share platforms and engines, but their cars differ considerably. At first, the Rapid may look like a Vento with a Fabia nose stuck
on it, and in a way it is; but the Skoda looks much more attractive in the flesh. The new larger fenders and mildly altered chin complete what must have been a difficult styling exercise. Skoda has altered its boot-lid, taillights and rear bumper.
The cabin, like the exterior, is derived from the Vento with plenty of Skoda overtones. The front seats have good bolstering, making them comfortable on long drives, the steering can be adjusted for height and reach, and the driver’s seat can also be raised and lowered. The Rapid however comes with slightly coarser seat fabric and some missing chrome highlights, such as the ones found around the VW’s vents.
Power to the Rapid’s front wheels comes from a pair of 105 bhp, 1,600 cc motors, shared with the Vento. While both the petrol and diesel make the same amount of power, it’s the common-rail diesel’s extra 10 kgm of torque that makes it the more effortless of the two. It’s also tuned slightly differently from the VW, and initial progression is smoother and more immediate. The Rapid, however, lacks that big spike in power you get on the diesel Vento, and this makes it even nicer in traffic.
Skoda has made the petrol version better to drive as well. The 1.6 MPFi engine isn’t the most modern motor around and doesn’t feel as light and responsive as some of the Japanese units available. It’s faster to respond to a tap on the throttle, it pulls slightly harder throughout the rev range and pedaling this car quickly is actually enjoyable. The Rapid is considerably quicker than the Vento in a straight line — 100 kph is reached approximately a second quicker. VW has always made some of the nicest manual gearboxes, and this one is no different. It is light to use, the throw is short and this makes it one of the slickest boxes around. The brakes function well too and pedal feel is reasonably good. But with the rear of the car loaded with passengers and luggage, you sometimes wish you had more stopping power.
Fuel economy is not class-leading but it is more than acceptable. The diesel gave us 13.5 kpl in the city and 17.6 kpl on the highway. The petrol gave us 9.4 kpl and 15.1 kpl respectively.
Price: Rs.6.7—8.2 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Width: 1,699 mm
Front track: 1,460 mm
Rear track: 1,498 mm
Trunk: 460 litres
Installation: Front, transverse
Engine: Petrol — 4-cyls, in-line, 1,598cc, petrol.
Diesel — 4-cyls, in-line, 1,598cc, common-rail turbo-diesel
Power: 105bhp at 5,250rpm 105bhp at 4,400rpm
Torque: 15.6kgm at 3,800rpm
Transmission: Front-wheel drive
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Construction: Monocoque, four-door saloon
Brakes (f/r): Ventilated discs/drums
Tank size: 55 litres
The overall ride quality is better than the Vento’s. It may not be as soft or as compliant at low speeds, or as silent, but then it isn’t uncomfortable either. While the ride is quite flat, there is some pitching over large bumps. But the slightly stiffer suspension setup allows the driver to be more relaxed on the highway. The extra stability, slightly more reassuring steering and greater poise also allow you to enter corners much quicker. And this car actually is fun to drive.