Skoda’s regular Rapid offers huge space for an attractive price. Unfortunately, it doesn’t ride well enough and the cabin feels cheap.
So, while the new Rapid Spaceback is slightly smaller and more expensive, it still has the potential to be the better option. Not only has Skoda revised the suspension in an effort to improve comfort, but you’re getting a more stylish car with a classier cabin and a longer list of standard kit.
It’s not like the Spaceback is an expensive choice. Even with the price hike over the regular Rapid, the model we’re testing costs nearly £500 less than our other contender, the entry-level Hyundai i30. The Hyundai is one of our favourite family hatchbacks, particularly in this 1.4 Classic five-door form.
What are they like to drive?
The Spaceback has a smaller engine than the i30 but, thanks to a turbocharger, it pulls more eagerly from low revs and requires fewer gearchanges.
In fact, the i30 feels distinctly flat when you pull away from rest, and its gearshift and pedals are less precise, so it’s the more difficult car to drive smoothly in stop-start traffic.
The Spaceback’s appeal is boosted by steering that’s light and easy at manoeuvring speeds, and consistent in its responses on faster roads. The Hyundai’s steering, by contrast, is decidedly vague, although both cars grip well in corners and it’s the i30 that’s better at resisting body roll.
Drive over some poorly surfaced roads, and the Hyundai completely turns the tables. It has a settled ride at all times and is brilliant at soaking up bumps, whereas the Spaceback shimmies over patched-up surfaces and really thumps over potholes.
The i30 also has a smoother and quieter engine than the Spaceback. It generates more road noise, though, so the Skoda is quieter at higher speeds.
What are they like inside?
Each car gives the driver a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment. However, the Spaceback’s seat bases are too short and flat, and many people will feel that its backrests don’t offer enough lower back support on long journeys.
The Spaceback does give those in the back more head- and legroom than the i30, but both cars can carry four adults in relative comfort.
When it comes to loading luggage, the Spaceback wins the boot space race, but the i30 still has enough room for a couple of suitcases or a folded pushchair. It’s also easier to load the i30’s boot because it has the wider opening.
The i30 also has the classier-looking dashboard, which is built from soft rather than hard plastics, so it’s more pleasant to interact with.
These two are entry-level models, so you won’t find any touch-screen infotainment systems to get your head around in either car. Instead, they feature simple stereos. There aren’t too many buttons to confuse on either, but the i30’s are positioned higher up than the Spaceback’s, so you don’t have to look away from the road for as long to use them.
Both cars come with six airbags, an alarm, remote central locking, air-conditioning and electric front windows. However, only the i30 also gets Bluetooth, a USB socket, LED daytime running lights, a multi-function steering wheel and electrically adjustable, heated door mirrors.
What will they cost you?
The Spaceback is almost £600 cheaper than the i30, and our Target Price mystery shoppers were able to get around £1400 off it at dealers, compared with £1200 off the i30. The savings are even bigger at online brokers; there’s currently more than £2800 to be saved on the i30 and similar savings are to be expected on the Spaceback.
Both cars are predicted to retain around 40% of their value over three years, and the i30 sits in insurance group seven, whereas the Spaceback is in group 10. However, you’ll face lower road tax and fuel bills with the Skoda, so it should still cost around £1300 less overall over three years.
Company car drivers are unlikely to go for the engines tested here, but if they do they’ll be better off with the Skoda. Its lower CO2 emissions put it in the 16% tax bracket, as opposed to 20% for the i30. That will cost a 20% tax payer around £400 less in company car tax over three years.
The Rapid Spaceback makes less sense the pricier it becomes, so this entry-level model is the pick of the range, offering a healthy dose of practicality while remaining affordable to own.
However, the i30 is hardly small or expensive, and it’s a better all-rounder, with a classier cabin and a more comfortable ride. It also comes very well equipped, considering it’s the cheapest model in the range, so it’s the winner here.
Hyundai i30 1.4 100 Classic 5dr
For Comfortable ride; classy dash; long kit list
Against Vague steering; flat from rest; road noise
Verdict Better to drive and to live with
Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.2 TSI 86 S
For Large boot; good rear legroom; accurate steering
Against Firm ride; hard plastics; flat seats
Verdict Well priced, but too many flaws