Volkswagen did the same earlier this month and Skoda has followed suit. Volkswagen had launched new variants of the Polo and the Vento and lowered the price of the Highline variant. Skoda has now launched new variants of the Rapid sedan - the Active Plus and the Ambition Plus and has added features to the current Active and Ambition models. Though unlike VW, Skoda hasn’t added more features to the top spec variant, but the manufacturer has rather chosen to add variants to the base Active and the middle Ambition models to give customers an option and lure them for the upcoming festival season. It remains to be seen whether Skoda will discontinue the Active and Ambition models and whether the manufacturer will increase prices for the variants launched.

2012 Skoda Rapid Active Plus and Ambition Plus

The Rapid was launched in India last year and response to the sedan has been reasonably good but the manufacturer would have definitely expected more. The Rapid is essentially a Vento and prices start from Rs 6,82,411 to Rs9,08,913 for the petrol and Rs8,03,752 to Rs9,29,137 for the diesel ex-showroom New Delhi.

Design and Interiors

Skoda has made no changes to the styling and the Rapid retains its look. Styling is well-proportioned with a large nose which makes it look distinctive to the Vento. The front fascia has ‘almond shaped headlights’ and the bonnet has creases and ridges. The tail lights are different to the Vento and the build quality is flawless.

Customers now do get more in terms of features and the Active Plus now gets remote locking, foldable key function and electrically adjustable external mirrors. The Ambition Plus variant however gets more and added to the current model are chrome surroundings on air conditioning vents, there is a child-proof rear window locking, a security code for audio player, remote control opening and closing of windows, s SKODA 2-DIN Audio Player, a large format display, an auxiliary audio input for portable media players with SD/MMC data card reader, electrically adjustable external mirrors, one-touch automatic operation for power windows and, ‘bounce-back’ system or anti-pinch power windows.

Engines and performance

2012 Skoda Rapid Active Plus and Ambition Plus
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Skoda hasn’t made any changes in this department for obvious reasons. Prices would have increased which would have put customers off. The Rapid uses the same engines as the Vento and the sedan gets a 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine that develops 105PS@5250rpm and 153Nm@3800rpm. The engine is refined, engine revs reasonably well (not in the league of the Honda City) and reaches 100kmph in around 13seconds with an ARAI claimed fuel efficiency figure of 15.54kmpl.

The diesel engine has a capacity of 1.6-litres and produces 105PS@4400rpm and 250Nm of torque between 1500 to 2500rpm. The torque spread gives it good drivability and you hardly feel the turbo lag. Refinement is good and 100kmph is reached in around 13seconds with an ARAI claimed fuel efficiency of approximately 20kmpl which is less than both the Hyundai Verna Fluid and the Ford Fiesta but almost same as the Vento.

Both the engines are matched to a 5-speed manual gearbox and there is also a 6-speed automatic transmission for the petrol version with triptonic gear changes.

Ride

2012 Skoda Rapid Active Plus and Ambition Plus
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The MacPherson struts with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser at the front with the compound link crank-axle at the rear gives the Rapid good ride quality and passenger comfort. Ride quality is better than theVento and the handling is reasonable and the Rapid feel agile.

Competition

The Hyundai Verna Fluid is the current favourite in this segment and then there is the VW Vento, the Honda City, the Ford Fiesta (only car to have a dual clutch gearbox), the Fiat Linea and the Maruti Suzuki SX4.

Verdict

The Rapid is a very competent sedan and with the added features to the Active Plus and the Ambition Plus variants the customers do get more value from the sedan. Whether Skoda will increase the prices of these variants remains to be seen but with the completion be so cut throat in this segment, we won’t be surprised if prices remain the same. Skoda has a premium image and the rapid will tempt the customer who is looking for refinement and quality. The petrol and diesel engines are both efficient and refinement and performance is adequate as well. The Rapid’s ride ensures passenger comfort and the body control is respectable as well. Demand for cars in the upcoming festive season increases and the Active Plus and Ambition Plus variants have been launched keeping in just that in mind.

Karanbir