Published on Dec 05, 2011 05:50:00 PM
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The VW Group is serious about deploying its diverse portfolio of brands in India. Keen to leverage economies of scale that come with such a strategy, the question VW and Skoda must have asked themselves is why make two specially engineered compact saloons when you can make do with one? Why indeed? And so what was born was the Vento, basically a stretched version of VW Polo, with a boot tagged onto the rear. Ideal for emerging markets like India, Russia, Brazil and future markets like China and Malaysia, this relatively compact saloon delivers mid-sized luxury for small-car money; in short, exactly what Indian customers want. What we have here isn’t the Vento however, but its near-Siamese twin, the Skoda Rapid, possibly the most Volkswagen-like Skoda ever. Sure, VW and Skoda share platforms and engines, but their cars differ considerably too. The Fabia is a completely different car from the Polo; the Jetta has very little in common with the Laura and the same holds true for the Superb and Passat as well. In comparison, you could justifiably call the new Rapid a ‘badge-engineered’ Vento, and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
So, under the skin the Rapid is a VW Vento. Which, of course, means it has the same long 2552mm wheelbase, the same 1699mm width and the same widened front and rear track. The Rapid, however, is marginally longer than the Vento, but that’s just down to the larger nose of the Skoda. Also identical is the suspension the Skoda uses; MacPherson struts up front and non-independent coil springs in the rear. And the brakes and steering system are identical too. Skoda however has tuned each of these components a bit differently which, as we will see later, makes this car drive quite differently from the Vento.
The Rapid may look at first like a Vento with a Fabia nose stuck on it, and in a way it is, but the Skoda looks much more attractive in the flesh. The large nose balances the elongated body nicely; Skoda designers have done a fabulous job of seamlessly merging some of the disparaging lines. The new larger fenders and mildly altered chin complete what must have been a difficult styling exercise. While the flanks of the car remain the same, down to the use of an identical mirror, Skoda has altered the boot-lid, taillights and rear bumper too. But the changes are so subtle; you’ll only spot them if you look hard.
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