Spaceback is here. It’s a neat, fuss-free version of the Skoda Rapid, one of the most under-rated cars on the road.

To some it’s an estate. To others it’s a hatchback. To Skoda? Well, it’s a Spaceback, which I guess best underlines its qualities.

Space is the premium feature here, not style or fashion or performance. Spaceback is a load-lugger for those who need a spacious, reliable motor.

Tested here is one of the better-equipped SE versions but the Rapid Spaceback starts at £14,340 and it comes with a 415-litre boot.

Not only is it big, but it’s deep, wide and with a huge opening, making loading it a cinch.

More than that, the car offers what it claims is best-in-class legroom and headroom and a range of five fuel-efficient engines.

And personalisation – the in-thing among manufacturers these days – is featured heavily with owners able to order panoramic glass sunroofs and elongated tailgate glass.

Skoda call it a striking looking car; that may be going a tad too far. Rather, Rapid Spaceback makes a virtue out of simplicity with neatness and freedom from fussiness the key. Something I guess Skoda fans will appreciate.

One strange feature struck me, though – the lack of a Spaceback badge. This car proclaims itself to be a Skoda Rapid but the uninitiated would never know it was a Spaceback.

As with most Skodas, it’s a functional vehicle. The engines are among its most outstanding features.

They comprise three petrol and two diesel units. Power outputs range from 86PS to 122PS, with customers able to choose between manual and advanced DSG automatic transmissions. The line-up also includes a GreenLine version with emissions of 99g/km. Specification levels across the range are generous, with all three Spaceback models fitted with additional equipment over the Rapid. Air-conditioning is standard across the line-up, along with curtain airbags, front electric windows and a height and reach adjustable steering column.

SE models feature alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control and a Bluetooth telephone connection, while Elegance models add, among other items, climate control, height-adjustable passenger seat and cornering front fog lights.

For all that Spaceback appears to be a tried and tested formula, it actually represents something completely new for Skoda. It is the company’s first compact family hatchback in its history.

Inside, it sets new standards in the sector. Rear passengers enjoy the highest levels of knee- and headroom in the class, while the 415 litre boot (extendable to 1,380 litres) offers exceptional practicality. The cabin builds on the strengths of the standard Rapid and adds new steering wheels, fresh upholstery fabrics and new trim. The Rapid Spaceback is also packed with ‘Simply Clever’ features, including a dual-level boot floor, ice-scraper inside the fuel cap, and a host of holders, nets and hooks around the interior.

Rapid is proving a success for Skoda. It is second only to Octavia is terms of sales and is slightly ahead of Fabia.

In the UK, Skoda sold 2,341 cars in February compared to 1,757 in 2013.

Meanwhile, Skoda models have been voted best in class in two categories in the first ever UK Car of the Year Awards. Skoda was one of only two brands to secure more than one honour.

The new Octavia came top in the ‘Best Family Car’ class, while the Octavia Estate triumphed as ‘Best Estate Car’.

The new awards are judged by a panel of more than 25 British-based motoring journalists. Praising the Octavia, the judges said while the new third-generation car felt more upmarket, it hadn’t lost sight of its core appeal. They believed it was still practical, still affordable to own and still a comfortable car to be in. One commented: “This car demonstrates excellent driving dynamics and sharp looks as well as interior quality, comfort and space, beating its top competitors for luggage load.”

Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.4 SE PRICE: £17,980. Range starts at £14,340 ENGINE: A 1.4 litre engine generating 122ps via seven-speed automatic gearbox PERFORMANCE: Top speed 126mph, 0 to 60mph in 9.4 seconds COSTS: combined 48.7mpg EMISSIONS: 134g/km WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles