Does the pricing of new cars always take you a little by surprise?
It does with us. While Ford and Vauxhall sell Focus
with token sub-15k price tags, you have to spend several grand extra for an engine and specification youd actually want to buy.
Into the fray comes Skoda. Its new Rapid sits betwixt Fabia
in the range, erring towards the latter in size as the next Octavia is expected to grow even larger. The Rapid offers space, a huge boot and a value price tag – but whats it actually like?
Skoda says the Rapid is the first car to display its new design language. While some details have been seen on the Skoda Citigo
– such as the new badge and grille – the rest is crisp and modern, and makes the larger Octavia look a bit bland and rotund.
Several details stand out. A distinct shoulder line runs the length of the car, which plays on convex and concave surfaces above and below. The front lights are understated, flanking a sophisticated grille, and the rear lamps feature Skodas signature C-shape.
The side profile has more than a hint of truncated Audi A4
, which is no bad thing for a car at this market level. The Rapid may soon fade into the background, but in a class of frequently over-designed cars its simplicity is quite refreshing.
Oh, and the faint-hearted will be pleased to learn that the striking yellow shade in our pictures isnt the only colour option available
Theres little over-designed on the interior either. In fact, it could be described as a little under-designed, but youll try very hard indeed to fault its clarity.
The dashboard design and layout is utterly conventional but feels a step up in quality from other budget Skoda models like theFabia
. The horizontal layout also feels more modern than the vertical centre stack in the Octavia. Everything you touch feels chunky and solid, and the cabin is well-built.
Importantly, given the Rapids intended family and small business roles, cabin space is excellent. Taller passengers should have little trouble sitting behind a tall driver, and 550 litres of luggage space is better than any other car in the class.
The seats themselves are comfortable, with a good range of adjustment in both front seats and the steering wheel. If youre so inclined, sports front seats are a 300 option.
Throw in Skodas ever-useful features like luggage hooks in the boot and a parking ticket holder to the side of the windscreen, and you have an interior well-equipped to cope with the average drivers needs.
Simple and inoffensive are the two best adjectives for the Rapids road manners. Like many other products from the Volkswagen group, all the controls are well-judged and easy to use, making the Rapid a doddle to drive from the moment you get going.
On the flip side, the Rapid isnt one of the more entertaining family cars youll find. The slick controls encourage a more relaxed driving style, but dont offer much in the way of feedback. Levels of grip are adequate, and of the petrol and diesel models we drove, the diesel felt a little heavier and more planted.
Both cars rode respectably, generally isolating most bumps and coping well with undulating roads.
Cabin refinement is par for the class, with only a small rustle of wind noise and rumble from the tyres at higher speeds.
We tested two units in the Rapid. The first was the 1.2 TSI, a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 85 horsepower. Lengthy gearing helps it achieve combined economy of 55.4 mpg, which is enough to make you think twice about the more expensive diesels.
Acceleration feels more than adequate, though that gearing hampers progress at higher speeds. If you regularly do longer journeys you might be better served by the 104 horsepower 1.2, or even the 120 bhp 1.4 TSI. The 1.2 does feel smooth and refined though. It settles down to a quiet hum at constant speeds and even offers a hint of a sporty exhaust note under hard acceleration.
Alternatively, the diesel may be worthy of your attention. The 1.6-litre unit is no longer the last word in refinement next to some more modern diesel units – a slight grumble from the engine bay is ever-present – but it performs well enough (0-62 mph in 10.6 seconds) and delivers official combined economy of 64.2 mpg.
Value for money
Value is still considered Skodas raison d’tre, even if the cars themselves have moved subtly upmarket over the last decade or so. And with a base price from 12,900 on the road, the 74-horsepower, three-cylinder 1.2 which kicks off the range still looks good value considering the space on offer.
Our only real reservation is that as you start moving up the range, the gap to vehicles less value-led actually looks fairly small.
A 1.2 TSI in base S trim starts at 13,700, and add another 950 for higher-specified SE trim. A 104 bhp TSI comes in at 15,350 in SE trim, and the cheapest diesel is 17,100, again in SE spec.
S trim offers a host of three-letter safety acronyms, 15 steel wheels, electric front windows and a MP3-compatible CD player. SE adds more body-colour trim, 15 alloys, tinted glass, more speakers, Bluetooth and a trip computer, as well as leather trim for the wheel and handbrake lever. Elegance throws in 16 alloys, fog lights, cruise control and a dab of chrome on the interior. A host of options is also available.
Road tax ranges from band C on the TDI and 85 bhp TSI units, to band E for the 1.4 TSI and the three-cylinder 1.2. All Rapids get a 3-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
If you need a family car and youre not bothered about excitement – and lets face it, most people arent – then the Rapid may be right up your street. Its very practical, well-built, generally affordable and will even look good sitting on your drive. Can we recommend one, those things considered? Absolutely.
We reckon the 1.2 TSI models will suit most people, with low road tax, impressive official economy numbers and good refinement. Those working their Rapid a little harder may be better served by the 1.6 TDI.
What the press think
Reviews are a little thin on the ground at the moment given the cars newness, but the few youll find generally share our sentiments. The 1.2 TSI engines are praised, and several are impressed by the spacious interior. Some criticise the styling as being a little bland both inside and out, and others are underwhelmed by the cars driving dynamics.
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