It’s not the first time that such a thing has happened. Platform sharing is very common in the automobile world and even the Rolls-Royce Ghost shares about 20percent of its components with the BMW 7-Series. From amongst cars that you and I can hope to buy, the soon to be launched Renault Pulse is basically the Nissan Micra, the Koleos and X-Trail share more than just their monocoque, so do the Skoda Fabia and the Volkswagen Polo and the same for the Superb and Passat. Most automotive companies that own multiple brands under their umbrella end up sharing platforms to keep costs in check and no one does it better than Volkswagen. The VW Group is massive and includes brands like VW itself, Skoda, Audi, SEAT, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti etc. So when VW launched the Vento last year, it was only a matter of time before Skoda launched its Vento based sedan. The Skoda Rapid is essentially the Vento with a few design changes to the exteriors and interiors. With prices starting from Rs6,82,411 to Rs9,08,913 for the petrol and Rs8,03,752 to Rs9,29,137 for the diesel ex-showroom New Delhi, will this Skoda be able to make rapid strides into the segment?

UPDATE 16/10/2013Skoda has updated the Rapid lineup. From now, they’ll only offer two new variants, called the Ambience Plus and the range-topping Elegance, for the Rapid that adds more creature comforts and features to the Vento-based sedan.

2011 - 2014 Skoda Rapid

Skoda’s latest car has, ironically, been around for quite a while but it still is an all-new car. Initially the word got around that the Rapid will be called the Lauretta or even theFabia sedan since the Skoda hatch and the Rapid share the same platform. Skoda however is not pitching the Rapid as a Fabia with a boot nor as a Vento with a redesigned front. For them this is an all new car but the thin line of difference between shared platform cars does thin even further with the Rapid.

Design

2011 - 2014 Skoda Rapid
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The Rapid is a well-proportioned and an aesthetically sound car which looks better in metal than in pictures. It is a good looking automobile with a large nose which gives it balance and it is at the front that the Rapid is its most distinctive which separates it from the Vento. The almond shaped headlights, vertically slanted grille and fog lamps are similar to the Skoda Fabia and Skoda has added a fresh bonnet which has traditional Skoda creases and ridges. The fenders are new and there is a mildly altered chin and this gives the Rapid a more bolder and grown up look than the Vento. Seen head-on there is a lot of similarity between the Rapid and the Fabia. From the side it is very hard to differentiate the two cars and at the rear there is even more similarity with the Vento as the rear three fourth looks a straight lift from the VW sedan except for the redesigned tail lamps which are distinctively Skoda. The build quality as we have now come to expect from Skoda is premium and Skoda has done well to merge design details into the Rapid’s body flawlessly to give the sedan its own identity.

Interiors

2011 - 2014 Skoda Rapid
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The cabin is almost identical to the Vento and there is so much of the Vento inside that you have to search for the Rapid. There are a few differences however like the steering wheel which is distinctly Skoda, dials, music system and the controls. The dash is grey and beige and the central console is black. The quality of plastic is good and a lot of the switch gear, doorknobs and some of the buttons come from the Vento. On the Rapid you get rear air con vents and a front passenger seat that can be adjusted from the rear bench. We would have preferred if Skoda had tried to give the interiors a distinct look but overall the Rapid’s interiors are simple, airy and functional.

The seats are very comfortable and the driver seat is adjustable for height. Driving position is good and ergonomically it’s hard to find fault with the Rapid. The Rapid is a comfortable car to be in and there is adequate legroom for the rear seat passengers. Three passengers can fit into the rear bench but the middle passenger will find the centre console’s setting intrusive. There are lots of handy compartments to store away everything from water bottles to loose change.

Standard equipment includes manually adjustable headlamps, rear defogger, central locking, arm rest for front seats, aftermarket 1-DIN audio system, air-conditioning and front and rear power windows. On the top of the line you get alloy wheels, chrome inserts on the interiors, front and rear fog lamps, ABS with EBD, dual front airbags, 2-DIN music system with AUX input and SD card reader, climate control, electrically adjustable outside rear view mirrors and a multifunctional display.

UPDATE 17/10/2013: Skoda is now offering only two variants for the Rapid. First off is the Ambition Plus variant that now comes with dual front airbags and ABS, an audio system with USB, aux, MP3, Bluetooth connectivity and SD card compatibility, steering-mounted audio controls and 14-inch steel wheels. Customers can also opt for the "Leather package" that comes with full leather upholstery, leather wrapped gear knob and steering wheel and on-board "computer".

The other variant is the range-topping Elegance trim that comes with all the features above and also include halogen projector headlamps (not available in the Vento) and automatic climate control.

Engine and performance

The engines on the Rapid and the Vento are the same. The 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine develops 105PS@5250rpm and 153Nm@3800rpm. The DOHC motor is refined and has smooth power delivery. The engine revs well but it doesn’t have the punchy feel like on a Honda City. Refinement also isn’t as good as a Honda or even a Suzuki and it gets audible when revved hard. 100kmph is reached in around 13seconds which makes it slower to the City but similar to the Ford Fiesta. Highway cruising is stress free and in urban conditions too the engine works well. The ARAI claimed fuel efficiency figure of 15.54kmpl is marginally more than the Vento but is less than the Honda City.

The 1.6-litre diesel engine produces 105PS@4400rpm and 250Nm of torque between 1500 to 2500rpm. The diesel engine is easy to drive and you can amble around in city traffic easily without needing to shift gears. Torque spread is good with ratios especially for the first three gears spread in such a manner that the Rapid can pull cleanly from 1000rpm. On the highway as well you have enough power to overtake without needing to shift gears and the engine is comfortable both in traffic and while cruising. Refinement is good and only when you rev her hard do you hear the engine inside the cabin. Performance is strong for a diesel engine and it’s more fun to drive than the petrol. 100kmph is reached in around 13seconds and the engine has strong bottom and mid-range acceleration. The ARAI claimed fuel efficiency of approximately 20kmpl is less than the Hyundai Verna Fluid and the Ford Fiesta.

Both the Rapid’s come with 5-speed manual gearbox which has positive and short shifts. The manual gearbox matches better to the diesel engine and there is also a 6-speed automatic transmission for the petrol version with triptonic gear changes.

Ride

2011 - 2014 Skoda Rapid
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The Rapid uses MacPherson struts with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser at the front. At the rear is a compound link crank-axle. The suspension setup on the Rapid is on the softer side compared to the Vento and the sedan rides well over bumps and broken roads. The ride quality overall is better than the Vento and it doesn’t pitch like the VW. Sharper ridges however do catch the Rapid out. The Rapid feels rock solid at speed and the steering is light but gives you a reasonable amount of feel. Around corners the Skoda is pretty agile.

Price

The 2014 Skoda Rapid now starts at Rs 8.24 Lakh for the petrol-powered 1.6 MPI Ambition Plus. Here goes the list:

1.6 MPI MT Ambition Plus: Rs 8,24,590
1.6 MPI MT Elegance: Rs 8,85,493
1.6 MPI AT Elegance: Rs 9,88,048
1.6 TDI MT Elegance: Rs 10,02,461

(All prices are Ex-Showroom Mumbai)

Competition

The Honda City has the most refined engine in the segment. It is rev happy like all Honda units, efficiency is good and the gearbox is slick. Ride quality isn’t as good as a VW or a Skoda and neither is the build quality. The Volkswagen Vento offers great build quality, engines are refined and performance is adequate. Ride is good and so is the handling but there is no sense of driving pleasure with the Vento. The Fiat Linea looks great despite being in the market longer than most. Interior space and ride quality is good, so is the handling but build quality isn’t the best in the segment. The engines are refined and the performance from the turbo petrol is excellent. The Maruti Suzuki SX4 offers low cost of ownership, engines are efficient with adequate performance. Build quality is an issue, so is the interior styling and ride quality. The Hyundai Verna Fluid is selling like hot cakes. You get wide engine options which are refined and depending on the spec you choose, performance is good. Styling sets it apart and it is loaded with features. The Chevrolet Magnum is an old sedan but ride, interior space and torque from the diesel engine is good. The Ford Fiesta is the best handling sedan in this segment. Ride quality is good but it is cramped from the inside and we don’t like how it looks from the rear.

Verdict

The Rapid may be a cheaper Vento in disguise but that’s reason enough to buy it since the Vento is a dam good sedan in the first case. We prefer the styling on the Rapid and Skoda has given it its own identity with that. The interiors however are way too similar for our liking. The diesel engine is better to drive than the petrol and is fuel efficient as well. The ride quality is nicely sorted and better than the Vento and the handling is agile as well. While the Fabia has only had reasonable success and has not been the segment bestseller, the Rapid we predict will do much better than the hatch. It is not an involving car to drive but delivers on all other aspects you expect from a sedan in its price bracket.

Quotes from other reviews
Zigwheels: ‘For the first time it is Skoda that has let VW take the lead with their entry-level sedan but in the process the Czech haven’t lost out at all. They have a car that looks better, sports a fast name and should interest quite a few.’

Karanbir
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