Isn’t it nice to see how some automobile companies are getting technologies from high-end car models and planting these into sub-R10 lakh models? Last year we saw a few such cars and, of these, two were from Volkswagen—Polo GT TSI and Vento TSI. Both these models were powered by Volkswagen’s TSI engines—which are compact, powerful and use less fuel when compared to bigger, normally-aspirated engines—and both these models were equipped with the company’s direct-shift gearbox, called the DSG.
But then if Volkswagen gives its cars such technologies, can Skoda be far behind? After all, both are siblings. Last month Skoda launched its new Rapid, powered by the new 1.5 TDI engine and, of course, the DSG gearbox.
First, what is a DSG gearbox? It is a direct-shift gearbox which houses two clutches with two drive shafts. Clutch 1 engages 1st, 3rd, 5th and reverse gears, while clutch 2 engages 2nd, 4th and 6th gears. When a gear change is made, the next gear is already pre-selected but not yet engaged. It takes just three to four hundredths of a second for one clutch to engage while the other is released. The gear change is not noticeable to the driver and is achieved without any interruption in the power flow.
Oh how much we wanted that the Rapid gets the new Skoda design language that we saw on the Octavia, the Superb and recently the Yeti—the new design of the Rapid is already available in Europe—but I think we will have to wait for this. For now, Skoda hasn’t tinkered with the exterior design. The only changes are to the headlights and the grille. For the ones who are looking for exclusivity, there is a new Black package that makes the Rapid stand out to an extent. At the showroom, you can demand for a black roof too, but that won’t be factory-fitted.
Skoda interiors have always been of good quality. All seats are comfortable and get good bolstering support. There is ample space all around and long journeys won’t tire you. There are enough cubbyholes and you even get rear AC vents with a cup-holder. The rear space is adequate but not the best in class—the new player in the segment, Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, gets the crown for the most spacious rear seating. The boot space is a decent 460 litres. One nice touch is that the dashboard gets a card-holder, which allows you to keep all your cards in one place.
While the Rapid also gets the 1.6-litre MPI petrol engine, we drove the new 1.5-litre TDI diesel equipped with the DSG. (Both engines produce a maximum power of about 105 bhp.) First, the NVH levels are so good that once you shut the doors of the car, the diesel engine clatter almost disappears. The best thing about the new engine is its turbocharger—as soon as the engine reaches 1800-2000rpm, the turbocharger kicks in and provides a massive boost to the car. In fact, the effect is such that you feel everything around you is being fast-forwarded. The DSG, expectedly, shifts gears at the speed of thought. While driving the Rapid within city limits is quite convenient—it’s got a tight turning radius and ample ground clearance—it is on the highway that the car shows what it is capable of. Find a smooth road, shift into the Sport mode, floor the accelerator, and the Rapid will leave many other mid-size sedans behind. It’s not that this performance comes at the cost of fuel-efficiency. The claimed mileage of the Rapid diesel is 21.14 kmpl for the manual and 21.66 kmpl for the DSG. On the Delhi-Chandigarh highway, we put the Rapid on cruise control (set at 90 kmph) for about a 100 km and we got a mileage of 20.5 kmpl. (The claimed mileage of the Rapid petrol is 15 kmpl.) However, the DSG Rapid doesn’t get paddle shifts, which could have appealed to the enthusiasts.
From Rs 7.22 lakh for the petrol and Rs 8.38 lakh for the diesel (the DSG diesel is for Rs 10.49 lakh), the new Rapid retains its cost-competitiveness. Its main challenger, in fact, is its sibling Vento, which has also been refurbished. While we love the smooth 7-Speed DSG gearbox, the peppy 1.5-litre TDI diesel engine, good driveability and solid build quality, we wish Skoda could have given the Rapid the all-new design language.
We drove the 1.5-litre TDI diesel DSG variant for this review. Prices are ex-showroom, Delhi
What is DSG?
DSG is a direct-shift gearbox. It houses two clutches with two drive shafts. Clutch 1 engages 1st, 3rd, 5th and reverse gears, while clutch 2 engages 2nd, 4th and 6th gears. When a gear change is made, the next gear is already pre-selected but not yet engaged. It takes just three to four hundredths of a second for one clutch to engage while the other is released. The gear change is not noticeable to the driver and is achieved without any interruption in power flow. The new 7-speed DSG that the Rapid is powered with represents the next level in dual-clutch technology.