The Rapid makeover
European Motor Distributors (EMD) has built a modern parts warehouse in close vicinity to Auckland’s airport for its brands; Skoda, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche. The move from the previous 1,300sqm room to a large 6,000sqm warehouse was made to reduce the reaction time taken to dispatch parts to its dealer network and shipping containers full of car parts arriving from the port are processed a lot quicker. Drivers can now be assured that EMD is doing everything possible to improve mobility and make the experience of owning its brands of vehicles that much better.
The Czech car manufacturer, Skoda arrived in New Zealand in 2003 and managed 129 sales which grew year-on-year and shot up to an encouraging 581 units in 2012 and the 407 new vehicle registrations year-to-date is encouraging.
The last time Skoda launched a new product to New Zealand was back in 2010 and in the next couple of months six new models will arrive.
A nameplate from days gone by
The Rapid is the first of the new models to reach New Zealand shores. It is an unfamiliar nameplate although it debuted in 1936 for a period, before fading away for a few decades, then re-appearing in 1987. Now it’s in its third generation, it slots in between the Fabia and Octavia.
Rapid is built on the Roomster platform and it’s the first Skoda to showcase the Czech company’s revised badge and fresh design language that Skoda define with the five elements; clear, precise, fresh, timeless and elegant. The familiar Skoda front grille gains an extra two slats and is wrapped in chrome while the badge is shifted from its old location in the grille to the bonnet.
The exterior has all the characteristics of a sedan but it is in fact a liftback which is revealed when the boot lid is opened. The roof hinged tailgate opens to a respectable 530 litres of luggage room that expands to 1470 litres with the rear 60:40 split seats folded down. The interior is functional and pleasantly similar to Volkswagen models with an uncluttered design and the cabin space is impressively large for its class.
The model choice for Kiwi buyers is currently limited to a turbocharged 1.4L petrol motor, as it's the only engine presently available with a DSG auto, and delivers a peppy 90kW of power and 200Nm of torque. The feisty Euro-five compliant engine is coupled to a seven-speed DSG auto that provides quick gear changes and standstill to motorway speed limit is reached in 9.5 seconds with fuel economy rated at 5.8L/100km in a combined cycle. A 1.6L diesel engine delivering 77kW will arrive later with production starting in November this year.
The McPherson strut front and rear torsion beam suspension setup provides nimble handling in the turns and ride comfort is at a desirable level too.
Active safety is in the form of Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) and passive safety features include six airbags and the Rapid is awarded with a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.
The standard Ambition model is packaged with 16-inch alloy wheel rims, LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps and for added comfort an armrest is located between the height adjustable front seats. Two additional option packs are available, starting with an enhancement pack that upgrades the alloy wheels to 17-inch, adds climate-control airconditioning and rear proximity sensors as well as an upgraded radio system. The sports pack adds decals, sportier seats and alloy wheels as well as blackened side-view mirror covers and boot spoiler.
Skoda New Zealand claim to be the first automotive brand to launch a service application for smartphones. The app has three main categories; they are ‘my dealer’, ‘assistance’ and ‘my car’. My dealer allows drivers to locate the closest service centre and displays the dealerships information and the services it provides. If you encounter a problem with your vehicle and a warning light is displayed on the instrument panel then all you have to do is look under the owner’s manual section for the description of the fault warning light and if necessary select assistance to request help from Skoda.
The base price of only $29,900 positions the Rapid competitively among its Japanese and Korean rivals. It is a good choice for private buyers and fleet purchasers in search of the desirable European build quality in the sub $30,000 price range although by selecting one or two of the upgrade packages at $2,000 a shot, it quickly pushes up the price. However the individual items in the upgrade packs can be crossed off separately to save a few bucks and go with only the options you want.