Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Skoda Sights on a Rapid Expansion

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Skoda Sights on a Rapid Expansion

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Torpey

SKODA is hoping history will repeat itself as the company's new Rapid family hatchback hits the streets.

Back in the 1930s the Czech brand enjoyed a boom period with bulging order books and ambitious pre-war expansion plans.

Launched in saloon, coupe and cabrio form, the original Rapid was an instant hit with buyers and motorsport lovers - despite its 1.2-litre engine producing only 25 horsepower.

However the 21st century reincarnation of a model that went into enforced hibernation when German forces turned the Skoda factory over to military use is about to face a challenge of its own.

The battalions of the automotive scene's heavy artillery, Ford and Vauxhall, emerging Korean giants Hyundai and Kia plus the French resistance of Renault and Peugeot all pose a threat to Skoda's UK sales target for the Rapid of 6,000 cars a year.

But the big guns at the Volkswagenowned manufacturer are right to feel confident, believing the new Rapid's arrival will mark an exciting chapter in the marque's history.

The intention is to launch a fresh or revised model every six months as part of a strategy to sell more than 1.5 million cars worldwide by 2018. And the plan is bang on track, with both sales and revenues up to a record level for the first nine months of this year.

Rapid is the latest cog in the big wheel, expanding the current Skoda line-up to seven models and in terms of size sits between the Fabia supermini and Octavia large family car.

Not that the newcomer isn't a substantial offering in its own right, boasting class-leading interior space and a well-like boot which combined provide 1,490 litres of luggage area, and that's estate territory.

In fact such is the boot's practicality that you can actually shoehorn no less than seven travel bags - one of them full size - and a net bag of eight footballs in there.

Skoda's buzzword of Simply Clever also comes into play thanks to standard, and in some cases optional, handy touches like a car park ticket holder, shopping bag hook and an ice scraper slotted inside the fuel filler cap. …

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