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New ‘Spaceback’ delays Skoda Rapid launch

Spaceback to the future: Skoda has pushed back the Australian release date for the Rapid and, when it does arrive, it will be in wagon form only.

First Skoda small-car contender to come in five-door ‘Spaceback' form only from 2014

16 Jul 2013

SKODA Australia has confirmed it has delayed the introduction of its crucial new volume-selling Rapid small-car range until the first half of next year to launch with only the five-door ‘Spaceback’ version unveiled this week.

Originally meant to be on sale by now as Skoda’s first combatant against the likes of the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3, the more sedan-like ‘Liftback’ model has now been put on hold indefinitely, despite making an appearance at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney last October.

“We wanted to wait for the Spaceback before launching the Rapid range, which means we want to focus on the best-seller,” said Skoda Australia PR manager Kurt McGuiness.

“And we don’t have any plans for the Liftback at this stage.”

To make its world premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September – a year after the Liftback first appeared at the Paris show – the ironically named Spaceback is actually 180mm shorter than the Liftback, with correspondingly less room in the boot area.

But while the truncated backside sees cargo volume plummet by 135 litres to a maximum 415 litres – or 1380 litres with the rear seatback folded, down 110L compared to the Liftback – there is equivalent passenger compartment space, with the same 2602mm wheelbase employed for both variants.

Indeed, the only new sheetmetal is aft of the Spaceback’s B-pillar, in line with the two-box wagon-like silhouette.

Stylistically the Spaceback pays lip service to the latest Octavia wagon that debuted at the Geneva motor show in March, though the angular proportions also lend an air of Audi A3 about it as well.

That is no bad thing, since Volkswagen’s Czech brand is keen to lure young and aspirational customers to the fold.

To that end, a range of Mini-style personalisation items will be offered, including a full-length panoramic glass roof, unique alloy wheels and a range of audio upgrades.

It is likely that the turbo-petrol engine range announced last year for the Liftback – 77kW/175Nm 1.2-litre TSI and 90kW/200Nm 1.4-litre TSI – will apply here, while a 77kW 1.6-litre TDI diesel is also a strong contender.

Drive is via manual gearboxes in five- or six-speed configurations, or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Derived from a stretched version of the existing Volkswagen Polo platform known internally as the A05+, the Rapid is twinned with the Seat Toledo built alongside it at the Mlada Boleslav factory in the Czech Republic, as well as the Chinese-market-only Jetta Night sedan.

Convention reigns supreme underneath, with a MacPherson strut front end, torsion beam rear suspension, and electric rack and pinion steering system.

On the other hand, many of these drivetrain components are shared with other Volkswagen Group models such as the Audi A1.

Despite the Spaceback’s light-car derived underpinnings, overall length is not far short of the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 hatches that Skoda hopes to steal sales from in the small-car class.

Pricing details have yet to be announced, though it is likely that the base 77TSI will open at just under $20,000.

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