Rapid Spaceback range costs from £13,750 to £18,910

Rapid Spaceback range costs from £13,750 to £18,910

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One of the things which sets Škoda apart and contributes greatly to its success is finding size sweetspots in the market. That not only applies to the Fabia, Octavia and Superb but to the Rapid Spaceback, a hatchback which is longer than a Golf yet much narrower than even a Fabia or Polo.

While so many other brands had major setbacks last month, it was a record March and a joint-record first quarter for Škoda in the UK. The Octavia (5,394) remains the best seller, just ahead of the Fabia (5,361). Then came the Superb, Karoq and Kodiaq with registrations of 2,825, 2,746, 2,677 units respectively. These were followed by the Citigo (1,652) and Rapid/Spaceback (901).

Even though the Rapid and its Spaceback shooting brake derivative are clearly not the brand's most popular models, each is a useful contributor to the overall sales result. The newer Fabia and the arrival of the Karoq SUV have taken a toll on Rapid/Spaceback registrations, which is to be expected. Still, for a range which dates to 2012, the Rapid line-up is doing well to stay as competitive as it is. Worldwide, deliveries in Q1 only dipped a little to 49,000 cars from 51,800 in the year-prior period. That meant it remains the brand's number three globally behind the Octavia (105,700 in Q1) and Fabia (54,600) and ahead of the Kodiaq (38,100) and Superb (37,500).

The arrival of a facelifted model and the installation of the Volkswagen Group's superb 1.0-litre petrol turbo engine were good reasons to become familiar with this segment-busting car. In Britain, the engine line-up starts with a 95PS 1.0-litre TSI and this is joined by a 110PS version of the same 999cc three-cylinder petrol unit. Those who prefer diesel also have two choices: 90PS 1.4 or a 115PS 1.6.

Due to kerb weight of only 1,070kg, performance and economy are very good. Zero to 62mph takes 8.8 seconds, top speed is 122mph and CO2 is 110g/km; these numbers being for the 110PS petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox. The engine never sounds anything but eager and oh so smooth but the gearchange and an overly high sixth ratio could do with tweaking. Economy is a strongpoint through, with 49mpg the average I saw (the official Combined is an optimistic 61.4mpg).

Things to be singled out for praise include a boot that is not only on the big side but has a full size spare tyre in a well below its floor. The glass roof which comes with the top SE Sport model grade is also worth having, and it comes with two sunblinds, each of which is manually operated. One especially handy feature is a telescopic umbrella which hides below the passenger seat. 

A few minor grumbles would include mirrors which don't fold electrically, no fore or aft cameras (only beeps and a graphic to watch) and a too-small single cupholder which is awkwardly positioned ahead of the gear lever: it means there is nowhere in the car where you can stash a re-useble cup. You can, though, squeeze a 1.5l bottle into either of the front doors. There isn't a lot in the way of soft plastics but somehow that's not an issue and in keeping with what feels like a totally dependable, no-fuss small family car.

One of the things which makes the Rapid Spaceback unique is its dimensions. It's 4,304mm long and only 1,706mm wide. The equivalent numbers for a Golf are 4,258 and 1,758; 4,053 and 1,751 for a Polo; while a Fabia is 3,992mm long and 1,732mm wide. This makes the Spaceback a handily narrow car but also a four-seater in reality.

What the future holds for this model is presently uncertain. Even though it sells well globally, much of the volume is in China. A four-door car also exists but that one is built only in India.

European production takes place at Mladá Boleslav with the SEAT Toledo being manufactured on the same line. That's because they share a platform - A05, also known as PQ25 - and most of their mechanicals as well as many other components. With the Spanish brand moving heavily into SUVs, it has been claimed that the Toledo might not have a successor.

By 2020 we should know what Škoda's intentions are for replacing the current Rapid and Spaceback. It might even be the case that it stays in production for another couple of years, or, it could be succeeded by a crossover of roughly the same size, positioned just below the Karoq and above a B-SUV which is due to for release in 2020.

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