Skoda Rapid – First Drive
Skoda are pleased as punch with their new model, but they are not expecting her to break records in the first year.
This company sits at the quirky end of mainstream; they live by the tagline – Simply Clever. Using elegant and intelligent solutions to problems you never knew you had. They build the freakishly practical Roomster for example, a car designed by pragmatism.
Their target is to sell 6000 in the first 12 months, compared to vehicles like the Fiesta selling near 100,000 year on year.
A cynic would suspect that this is so when they sell more, they can send out proud releases boasting of beating targets. But that, in my opinion, is not the Skoda way.
Typical Skoda buyers tend to be more free-thinking, and regrettably there are fewer of those in the world than there are Fiesta buyers.
Despite all this the new Rapid is unquestionably their least outrageous offering. For many years they have had a gap in their range, with cars sitting either just below or above the hatch habitat of the Ford Focus and VW Golf.
They had nothing in direct competition until now. The Rapid has crashed the party, but it has slipped in the back door.
Rapid has a few tricks up its sleeves however: The saloon profile belies the generous and practical hatchback design; there is genuine seating for five adults; there is the now famous ice-scraper in the filler flap and a reversible/washable bootliner; but the real crowd-pleaser is the price – starting at £12,900 on the road.
For me, at this price, I would buy the fabulous boot and seating and tolerate a bland car. But in reality the drive is better than it has any right to be.
It is not class leading, it is clearly built within strict financial constraints, but it still feels solid and planted, no excessive body-roll or soft damping.
Whether you change your own gears or let the car do it for you, both gearbox options are very satisfying. I would opt for the auto but it comes at a significant premium and is not available on the 1.2 petrol variants.
If the mood takes you the car can tolerate some foolhardiness, but then just pushes a little wide and suggests if you wanted more, maybe you should have spent more.
The interior too hides its limitations well. The dash plastics and trims are sensible and well put together. The package comes together nicely in an understated way, although I think a little more glam’ would have been achievable.
The seats too are rather more than expected. After six hours driving I still felt ready for six more. Also after six hours I had a growing appreciation and respect for this machine.
It is also a well styled machine. The body is robust but not imposing and the face is friendly, but still grown up. The profile is very reminiscent of the BMW 3-series and there are worse cars to emulate.
The chief designer has the Bugatti Veyron in his CV, and you can see similarities inasmuch as there are wheels in each corner, white lights up front and red to the rear, but he has improved over the Veyron in other aspects – more doors, seats and boot space.
Their target of 6000 units sold would be met solely in sales to taxi firms, but for the one issue I have with the car. The bottom price for the diesel is £17,100 – a few pennies away from the Golf Bluemotion, the Focus Edge Ecoboost or 1.6 TDCI and a good spread of other good Skodas too.
Skoda do say that there will be more versions in the range, so hopefully the Fabia diesel engine will be added to the Rapid soon and fill the void.
That aside, even the basic 1.2 TSI Rapid is still a good green option at 119g/km CO2 and all versions are well below 140g/km
Supermini pricing for a mid size practical hatch is a strong selling point but the Rapid is also unquestionably a car you could happily live with. In this price range the compromise is usually space, but with the Rapid the compromise is harder to define; looked at as a practical family car I’m not sure there is a compromise at all. Other than the premium for the diesel engine it is a traditional Skoda – Simply Clever, irresistibly affordable.
Tech Spec – Rapid 1.6 TDi 105 Hp
0-60mph – 10.6 sec
Economy – 64.2mpg
Top speed – 118 mph
CO2 – 114g/km
Price – £17,100
words and pics – Mark Wolens