Skoda's latest car has, paradoxically, been around for quite awhile. What's more, you or someone you know probably owns one already. Before you think I've lost my mind, its the Volkswagen Vento that I've been mumbling about. And the new Skoda, called the Rapid, is just that - a Vento in Skoda's finery.
But before you dismiss off this car, I'd recommend that you try this Skoda up for size. And why I say this is that the Skoda will be priced a tad lower than the VW and the idea of getting a brand new Vento for cheaper is a great deal indeed. Whats more, the Skoda badge isn't really downmarket - just go ask those who have had theirs nicked.
The Rapid will be available with two engine options - a 1.6 petrol and a diesel with the same displacement. In addition to the engine options, you also can choose between a manual or an automatic transmission. The usual trim levels exist too, and the choice is as usual, dependent on how deep your pockets are. Whew! Who says that Indians don't have too many choices when it comes to their cars.
The Rapid is an aesthetically sound car. By that, I mean that it is good looking, yes; but gorgeous, certainly not. What it is, however, is a car with looks that will appeal to the majority - in short, a very conventional looking automobile.
The interiors are common to both Rapids - the petrol and diesel (with exception to the figures on the tachometer) - and how opulent they are solely depends on the expanse of your bank balance. Just like that of the Vento, the Rapid dash has a lot of colour. By 'a lot', I mean grey, tan and a smidgen of chrome. Seats are comfortable and there are lots of handy little compartments in the Skoda to store away everything from water bottles to loose change.
The 1.6 petrol sounds good when you're whipping it hard. Unlike the Japanese engines, this one takes its time to build revs but you really don't need to spin it at warp speed because the torque is spread out well till about 3500 rpm. This engine is in its comfort zone at a trot of about 80 - 110 kph. Highway cruising is stress free but you might need a downshift or two before building up enough steam in order to carry out an overtaking maneuver.
Although sharing nearly the same displacement as the petrol engine, the diesel motor is predictably nothing like it. The diesel throws torque your way at anything above idle rpm and that goes on strongly till about mid range. The diesel is also the noisier of the two, with the din making it into the cabin at highway speeds. Being a diesel, the clutch is harder to work on and the gearshift seemed a tad notchier than that of the petrol. Torque makes up for the resistance to rev freely in the case of this engine and there's immense fun to be had. Engine wise, I'm a bigger fan of the diesel and the fact that this one is the more frugal of the two really helps make my decision easier.
When it comes to ride quality, the petrol seems more settled than the diesel. Bumps unfaze the petrol less than the diesel. Around corners, you'll be a little more confident behind the wheel of a petrol Rapid than the diesel, simply because of the stiffer suspension.
In all, the Skoda Rapid is a good quality car which in all likelihood, will be relatively reasonably priced. Although the company hasn't divulged the pricing yet, it's safe to expect the Skoda to cost about 5 percent cheaper than the corresponding Vento variant. So what you get for your money is a competent, decent performing car with good brand recognition.