While the Skoda Rapid does not need much of an introduction, what is still important to mention here is that this upper-C segment contender, which was first launched in India in late 2011, has been highly successful in bringing volumes to the Indian subsidiary of the popular Czech automaker. The Rapid, which features a front-end design that almost seems to mimic the one on the Fabia hatchback, is a close relative of the Volkswagen Vento and shares in plenty with the Polo-based sedan. No surprise, then, that much like the Polo and the Vento, the Rapid too recently got an engine upgrade in the form of the new EA189 1.5 TDI CR unit that is not just as potent as the 1.6-litre unit it replaces, but is also a wee bit more fuel efficient. However, more important than the introduction of the new engine is the advent of the DQ200 7-Speed DSG gearbox. Thanks to this transmission, the Skoda Rapid becomes the second diesel-powered upper-C segment sedan, after the Hyundai Verna, to boast of an automatic gearbox. Now, Volkswagen’s TDI motors and DSGs, when said in the same breath, can together give an inferiority complex to the most successful of the marriages, and here too, the two bestow the Rapid with enough gusto to outperform most of its rivals, and then some. Recently, we, at Car Blog India, spent some time with the Skoda Rapid 1.5 TDI DSG, all in a bid to figure out if this 3-year old car, which has just went through an important technical upgrade, makes for a worthy buy. Read our Skoda Rapid 1.5 TDI DSG review below for full details.
In essence, the Rapid is much like a Vento that pilfered the Fabia’s nose. However, the arrangement between Skoda and Vento involves more than what meets the eye! For starters, while the grille and the headlamps have been sourced from the Fabia, the bonnet is actually all-new and is much longer. Also new are the front fenders and the bumper, which houses Fabia-like foglamps. In side profile though, the Fabia is exactly the same as the Vento and one would be hard pressed to tell between the two models. The rear-end, again, while being similar to the Vento’s posterior, is far from being the same. The Rapid gets a new boot-lid, which gets an interesting surface treatment around the registration plate housing. A new bumper and updated tail-lamps that feature the typical Skoda C-motif sum up the changes here. In its latest iteration, the Rapid is available with a BLACK kit (for an additional INR 13,000), which brings along a black paint scheme for the roof, wheels and ORVMs. The car also benefits from projector headlamps. On the inside, the Rapid remains almost unchanged and continues to exude the premium-ness one expects from a car coming from Skoda Auto. In its latest avatar though, the Rapid does get a new design steering wheel that comes from the much pricier Yeti.
[box type=”note” ]Between the Vento and the Rapid, we find the latter to be a tad more handsome.[/box]
Engine and Gearbox
As must be apparent to you by now, the new gearbox is the biggest highlight of the refreshed Rapid. However, before we get to describing the new transmission, allow us to tell you about another important part of the new package- the new EA189 1.5-litre turbocharged common rail diesel engine. The new motor is basically a scaled-down version of the 1.6-litre engine it replaces. While the new engine is slightly smaller, it has an identical power-torque output of 104 bhp-250 Nm. It maybe noted here that this is the same 1.5-litre engine that now powers the Polo and the Vento, and bestows the former with a sizable cut in excise duty. Talking about the driving experience, the new motor offers a punchy performance and makes the Rapid among the more energetic diesel-sipping models in its segment. There’s a slight lag below 1750 rpm, but with the turbo spooled up, the motor is quick to come out of its slumber and the Rapid charges forward with enough gusto to put to shame some of the cars from half a segment above! The engine is sufficiently refined and revs quite freely for a turbocharged diesel unit. The only slight chink in the armour is the rather high NVH levels, with the engine being fairly audible even with the windows rolled-up and the aircon running.
While the new motor goes a long way in conferring this Czech sedan with almost stellar performance numbers, what’s of more interest to us is the 2014 Rapid’s DQ200 7-speed automatic DSG. Driving enthusiasts would appreciate the way this dual-clutch ‘box up-shifts at lighting fast speeds and rewards the driver with an almost scintillating performance (for an upper-C segment family sedan). Choose the S mode and things get even sweeter! Not just the throttle response gets sharper, the motor too revs happily to the redline! Perfect recipe, I reckon, to satisfy the ‘right foot itch’. Also, the slight lag while down-shifting in the D mode is simply conspicuous by its absence here.
[box type=”warning” ]Word of caution – This 7-speed unit is designed to handle upto 250 Nm of torque, which is exactly what the Rapid 1.5 TDI already has on offer. All this means that one will need to put performance mods on hold, lest the gearbox sustains some serious damage[/box]
Ride, Handling and Braking
The Skoda Rapid, like most cars from the VW group, offers a good balance between a comfortable ride and sporty handling characteristics. The Rapid’s suspension soaks in most of the small undulations with quite an aplomb. However, the slightly bigger craters threaten to unsettle the car’s composure, as the car almost crashes over bad patches of tarmac. In terms of handling, the Rapid scores pretty well and manages to impress the driver with its corner carving prowess. The steering, unlike most EPS units in this segment, is not really lifeless and weighs up pretty well as the speeds rise. However, worth a mention here is that the Rapid’s steering, while among the better ones in this category of cars, is still not as communicative as the Fiesta’s EPS. Rounding off the decent package are the brakes, which offer fantastic bite and are sufficiently potent to haul down the Rapid from triple-digit speeds.
[box type=”success” ]The brakes offer fantastic bite and are sufficiently potent to haul down the Rapid from triple-digit speeds.[/box]
The Rapid is among the oldest cars in its segment, and is far from being flawless. However, for roughly INR 12 lakhs, you get a well designed car that boasts of a punchy motor, a gem of an automatic transmission, decent handling characteristics and a fantastic braking performance. True, we would have liked the ride to be a tad better and the features list too could have been a bit longer, but we are almost nitpicking here. The Skoda Rapid 1.5 TDI DSG looks, feels and drives like any modern-day German mid-size sedan should, and these are reasons enough for us to put our money on it. ‘Nuff said!
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