Skoda is poised to launch an all-new Rapid in 2019 and it’ll play a more prominent role in the Czech company’s line-up than ever before.
Our images show how the next-generation Rapid could look when it arrives in showrooms next year. It’s set to take on the mantle of ‘Skoda’s Volkswagen Golf’ in a restructured range, which will see the Rapid Spaceback going head-to-head with the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra as a direct alternative to the Skoda Octavia.
Today’s Skoda Rapid is a stronger seller in its native Czechia than anywhere else in Europe, where it has had a hard time finding its niche. Although the Skoda Fabia’s compact dimensions make it an obvious rival for the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, the Rapid’s extra length means many potential buyers ignore the Rapid in favour of the Octavia.
Now, Skoda has reacted by embracing the Rapid’s sibling rivalry, and plans to turn it into an direct alternative to to the Octavia, rather than a baby brother. This means stepping away from the Rapid’s value-oriented nature, inexpensive materials and conservative design to dramatically increase showroom appeal.
The move comes despite the trend for buyers to abandon family cars in favour of more fashionable alternatives.
Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show, Alain Favey, Skoda’s global sales and marketing boss, said: “Despite what is happening with SUVs, family hatchbacks are a sector that’s very important; still the heartland of the European market, I would say… Right now, our position in this market is extremely weak, it has to be said, because of the current Rapid Spaceback. So you will see next year that we will launch a new Rapid into this segment.”
As part of this reinvention, the ‘fastback’ model will be discontinued, leaving the Spaceback – previewed in these images – as the sole Rapid offering. It’s possible that the Spaceback name will be dropped, too.
Skoda family-car buyers will then have a choice of the Octavia hatchback, Octavia Estate or Rapid, the latter having a less formal appearance than its more practical stablemates.
Favey said: “The Octavia has a saloon profile, at least, and it should remain that way, but that leaves space for an obvious family hatchback, above the Fabia but below the Octavia. That’s what we’re working on.”
The next-generation Rapid will adopt a unique, longer version of the VW Group’s versatile MQB platform. In its standard length, this platform underpins the latest SEAT Ibiza and VW T-Roc, as well as the next generation of Skoda Fabia. As well as the Rapid, Skoda’s version of the platform will also underpin a new crossover SUV, previewed by the Vision X concept displayed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show and rumoured to be named Amiq or Anuq.
The show car revealed more than just the likelihood of a third Skoda SUV – its wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) is some 25mm longer than that of the current Volkswagen Golf.
If the next Skoda Rapid shares these dimensions, it could mean big improvements in interior space compared to today’s car, transforming it into a real family-car contender. If interior quality is appropriately improved, the Rapid will then sit comfortably in the Octavia family.
Favey is enthusiastic about the Rapid’s relationship with the new SUV. He said: “It’ll sit alongside the crossover previewed by Vision X, but we’re really working hard on ensuring it appeals to a different type of customer. We think we should be able to get some more traction into this ‘Golf’ segment.”
The VW Group’s latest petrol engines are likely to appear under the Rapid’s bonnet – the 1.0-litre three cylinder engine will range from 84 to 109bhp, while the 1.5-litre four cylinder will boast up to 148bhp.
A 1.6-litre diesel is likely, and there’s a possibility that the group’s 48v electrified technology could make an appearance, reducing CO2 emissions through the use of a starter-generator.
The new Skoda Rapid is expected to go on sale late in 2019, with more detailed information expected after its official launch.