Skoda has released the first official pictures of the Rapid, a new model that slots into its range between the Fabia and the Octavia.
The Rapid follows the general approach of the Octavia and Superb in combining a long-tailed booted appearance with an opening full-hatch tailgate, and will be seen in the metal for the first time at the Paris Motor Show this autumn. Like most other modern Skodas, the Rapid borrows its name from a past model, in this case the coupé version of the old rear-engined Estelle.
Skoda says that the Rapid also marks the start of a new design direction for the company, and it certainly represents a break with recently introduced models such as the current Superb, Fabia and Yeti, which have a chunkier, slightly Saab-like look. On the other hand, with its very simple clean lines, the Rapid also bears a certain resemblance to the pre-facelift version of the current Octavia, so it's unlikely to be mistaken for models from other manufacturers.
So far there's little news about the Rapid's technical make-up. Although there are some broad similarities in size and shape between the Rapid and other Volkswagen group cars such as the forthcoming Seat Toledo and the Indian market Skoda Rapid and Volkswagen Vento, Skoda says the new model has been designed and developed separately at its Technical Development Department in Mlada Boleslav. It uses a different platform to the car of the same name sold in India, which also has a separate boot rather than a hatch.
Skodas continue to sell well, with almost 14,000 registered in the UK during the first quarter of this year, after a full-year total of 45,000 in 2011. The arrival of the handsome Rapid will help the company fend off the challenge from budget rivals Kia and Hyundai, who are now fielding a broader model range than Skoda.