Road Test - Skoda Rapid Greenline 1.6 TDI CR 90PS
Skoda has used a simple formula for building its market share in the Private Hire sector. Maximise the bang-to-buck ratio.
Over the past decade and a half, Skoda has produced keenly-priced cars that offer a winning combination of roomy interiors and capacious boot space, mated to highly economical and reliable VW Group powertrains.
And while the Superb, Skoda’s biggest saloon, has taken the plaudits, more significant sales to the minicab market have been recorded by the compact Octavia.
But when the Octavia range was fully refreshed last year, it grew in size significantly – almost moving into Toyota Avensis or Ford Mondeo territory. It moved up in price terms too – no longer was the Octavia seen as a cheaper alternative.
Skoda is clever enough these days to realise that a hard-won market share should not be surrendered easily. So, into the space in the market where the old Octavia lived came a new model, the Rapid.
Smaller than Octavia, but similar in style, the Rapid is a great entry-level car for a private hire or taxi operator. It offers the same roomy, robust passenger cabin as the old Octavia, plus a whopping 550-litre boot space that puts to shame many much larger and more expensive cars.
And like the Octavia, the Rapid looks like a three-box saloon, but is in fact a versatile hatchback. And a surprisingly excellent package it is too, with deceptive amounts of interior and luggage space, all built into a car that’s effectively based on the platform of the Volkswagen Polo and is just 4.48 metres long.
Specification and trim
We’ve previously driven the 105PS version of the 1.6 turbodiesel engine, but this time we’re in the less powerful 90PS version, in ultra-economical Greenline trim. This takes fuel economy up to 74.3mpg combined, and brings CO2 emissions down from 114g/km on the 105PS car we tested to 99g/km. That’s Toyota Prius-matching performance, but Rapid Greenline’s £17,815 price tag is more than £4,000 lower than the cheapest Prius.
Greenline models are tuned for maximum efficiency. The 15in alloy wheels are fitted with low rolling resistance tyres, to squeeze a few extra mpg out of the car, for example. What they don’t have is a surfeit of creature comforts. There’s no sat-nav, or DAB radio. Seats are manual, and fabric-covered. Transmission is 5-speed manual. It’s all a bit basic and minimal. At least our car had air conditioning. The only fitted option is a leather-trimmed steering wheel at a cost of £150.
The seats are comfortable, though, and the Rapid’s cockpit is a comfortable and well assembled place for a day’s work. The dashboard may be minimal, but it’s very well assembled, with no rattles or squeaks. Rapid feels solid, above all.
On the road
The engine is hardly sparking with just 90PS. But there’s plenty of low-end pulling power and the revs rarely creep up to 2,000. Only on the motorway do you notice the lack of a long-legged sixth speed.
The ride is a little harsh, but the Rapid has been engineered to cope with less-than-perfect road surfaces, with plenty of suspension travel. There’s very little body roll, and the precise steering makes the Rapid a great car to get through traffic.
Operating economics look good too. Inevitably, we didn’t reach the 74.3mpg official combined figure, but 58.9mpg was a mighty impressive return over our test. On a motorway run, we were well into the 60s.
What’s the downside? Well, Greenline doesn’t really offer enough of a saving to justify having to live with such a poverty-spec car. You can have the same powertrain in SE trim, for example, which only adds 5g/km to the CO2 emissions figure – 104g/km plays 99g/km.
And fuel economy is broadly the same across all the 1.6-litre TDI options – in fact we recorded a slightly higher figure of 60.2mpg overall with the 105PS Rapid Hatchback Elegance we tested last year.
And the 90PS Rapid Elegance costs only £150 more than the Greenline at £17,965, for which you get a lot more features: detailed trim, such as chrome and aluminium inserts, parking sensors, cruise control, iPod connectivity, climate control and some useful pockets on the front seat backs, among other improvements.
Automatic transmission is also an option at this trim level, though this does rather mess with the CO2 figure, taking it up to 118g/km. Sat-nav is still a £550 option across the range, however.
If you’ve been running old-shape Octavias, Rapid will fit your bill admirably. We doubt your customers would feel they were in a smaller car. Luggage space is especially impressive – the deep and surprisingly long boot can take our standard test cases with room for more on top. You could easily carry four large suitcases and still have room for coats and small bags.
Greenline trim is a bit basic, but it’s robust and looks hard-wearing. And for an operator that wants to use a proprietary app-based nav system, the lack of a factory-fit sat-nav is less of a problem.
Fuel economy is impressive, but there’s perhaps less of a step between Greenline and other models in the Rapid range. If you really have to get below 99g/km for local licensing reasons, Greenline is the only way in the Rapid range that this can be achieved. If you can live with Band B VED instead of Band A, manual Rapids with SE or Elegance trim have the same 90PS engine and emit just 104g/km. And they offer a lot more in terms of spec.
And for the ultimate in eco-Skoda saloons, perhaps you should also consider the Octavia Greenline too. This is Professional Driver’s Private Hire Car of the year for 2014, and as its eco-tech is a generation newer than the Rapid’s, it offers genuinely clean performance – just 85g/km of CO2 and a claimed 88.3mpg on the combined cycle, figures that better many hybrids.
Remember too that Rapid is a product of VW Group badge-engineering. Skoda also builds near-identical versions of the car for sister company Seat as the Toledo. There’s no direct Greenline equivalent, but the 105PS Ecomotive version has similar mpg (70.6 combined) and CO2 (106g/km) for a very similar price. Worth shopping around, and playing the dealers off each other!
Skoda Rapid Greenline 1.6 TDI CR 90PS DPF
|3 spoke leather steering wheel||£150|
|Price as tested||£17,965|
|Engine||1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel|
|Transmission||5-speed manual, front-wheel drive|
|Power||90PS at 4,200rpm|
|Torque||230Nm at 1,500rpm|
|Combined fuel economy||74.3mpg|
|Luggage volume||550 litres|
|Warranty||3 years/60,000 miles|
|Service intervals||20,000 miles/24 months|