Skoda may fall under the umbrella of the mighty Volkswagen Group but in recent years it has proved it has its own identity by building a solid reputation for developing reliable, economical, stylish and reasonably price cars.
Last year the Czech company launched the all-new Rapid, a family-sized car that sat neatly between the Fabia and Octavia models in the Skoda line-up. It looked like a saloon, but in reality was a hatchback. Now we have the true hatchback model - the Rapid Spaceback.
It's 180mm shorter than the Rapid and features smooth, flowing lines to help accentuate a sporty, athletic stance. And despite being shorter, the leg room for back seat passengers is still class-leading. It's in the storage department where the Spaceback has lost out and now only caters for 415 litres of luggage which is 135 litres less than the Rapid. It certainly makes you question just why the car carries the title Spaceback.
When it goes on sale in January 2014, the Rapid Spaceback will be available with a choice of three petrol engines - 1.2 TSI 86PS, 1.2 TSI 105PS, 1.4 TSI 122PS - and two diesel engines - 1.6 TDI 90PS and 1.6 TDI 105PS. There are three trims to choose from and there is also a very economical GreenLine model fitted with the 1.6 90PS diesel engine that can deliver combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg with carbon emissions of 99g/km.
Prices range from £14,340 for the 1.2 TSI 86PS in entry-level S trim to £18,900 for the 1.6 TDI 90PS with DSG transmission in range-topping Elegance trim. There are also a number of optional packs that can be added to personalise models. A Style pack, for example, includes a fixed panoramic sunroof, extended tailgate glass, black rear lights and a black rear spoiler.
The car also features many of Skoda's Simply Clever ideas such as an ice scraper in the fuel filler cap, a safety vest holder under the driver's seat, a removable waste bin in the door trim and a double-sided boot floor which can be useful when transporting wet or mucky items.
Skoda believes the bulk of sales will come from the 1.6 TDI 90PS in mid-range SE trim, so that's what we tested out on a varied road route incorporating busy town centres, winding country lanes and fast moving motorways.Performance
The test car featured the diesel 1.6-litre engine delivering 90Ps and 230Nm of torque. With Skoda claiming the car can deliver a creditable combined fuel efficiency of 64.2mpg and carbon emissions of just 114g/km, it's clear to see why they believe fleet drivers will be taking note of this particular model.
Although, it's not the fastest out of the starting blocks and takes 11.9 seconds to reach 62mph from a standing start, acceleration through the five-speed transmission proved nice and smooth and it coped fine with any steep inclines.
Road-holding was good and it gives you the confidence to attack tight bends at pace. The Spaceback also easily kept pace with fast-moving motorway traffic and there was plenty of power on tap when needed.
On the downside, there is a fair amount of noise from the diesel engine when pushed hard and we fell well short of the projected fuel economy figure by only achieving 49.9mpg.
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