Skoda Rapid: car review
A practical and roomy small hatch for a fair price.
What is it?
The Skoda Rapid is a new family hatchback to fill the space in the showroom floor between the Fabia supermini and the Octavia. It competes against value-for-money hatches such as the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cee’d.
How safe is it?
There’s nothing ground-breaking about the Rapid’s roster of safety kit, but every car comes with driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags, along with stability control.
Who should buy one?
Anyone who knows the value of the pound in their pocket and who’s looking for space and practicality rather than entertaining handling and performance.
Our review: Good Motoring, Spring 2013
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
The Skoda Rapid drives well enough, although it falls well short of the new small-hatchback benchmark set by the Volkswagen Golf Mk7. That’s not surprising when you consider that the Rapid borrows suspension and chassis parts from older models, so anyone expecting a cut-price Golf will be disappointed.
The firm ride means rough roads make their presence felt, while light and lifeless steering curtails any fun on country roads. However, since it takes so little effort to turn the wheel parking is a doddle.
On the motorway the relatively stiff suspension comes into its own, with good stability and a secure feel. However, once speeds creep up towards 70mph wind noise is intrusive. Not only is the Golf much quieter, but the same can be said of rivals from Hyundai and Kia, too.
We’ve driven two of the five engines available. The 1.2 TSI 86PS (equivalent to 85bhp) revs smoothly but needs to be worked hard to get the Skoda moving – Rapid by name but not by nature.
The 1.6-litre diesel has much more mid-range muscle, although it sounds a little gruff and is much more expensive to buy.
There’s also a 1.2 MPI 75PS, a 1.2 TSI 105PS and a 1.4 TSI 122PS. On paper one of the two more powerful petrols should prove the pick of the range, performing well without pushing the price tag too high.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
This is where the Rapid really scores over its rivals. For a small hatchback there are acres of space inside. Even six-footers should be comfortable in the back, although the sloping roofline does steal a little headroom. In the front there’s a wide range of adjustment for the driving position, although the steering wheel is slightly offset to the left.
Luggage space is excellent. There’s 550 litres with the rear seats upright. That’s 170 litres more than in a Kia Cee’d or Volkswagen Golf. Quite a few estate cars struggle to find room for as much clobber.
Every version has 60/40 split rear seats, and with both sides folded there’s 1490 litres to cram full.
The cabin feels solidly put together, but the finish is rather workmanlike. Given the Rapid’s competitive price, that’s something we could live with, especially as there are some clever practical touches. The ice-scraper inside the fuel-filler cap is a neat idea, and the optional reversible boot floor (part of the £150 Protection Pack) has carpet on one side and a wipe-clean surface on the other.
There’s nothing surprising or innovative about the safety technology fitted to the entry-level Rapid, but there are no obvious gaps, either. All cars come with driver, passenger, front and curtain airbags. Traction and stability control also feature on every model.
Top-spec Elegance cars get front fog lamps which adjust the direction of the beam depending on the steering wheel angle. Pay extra for the Safety Pack and the car comes with a third rear head restraint, a tyre pressure monitoring system which warns the driver if any of the tyres are deflating, and Hill-Hold Control (HHC), which stops the car rolling backwards on a slope even if the handbrake hasn’t been applied.
All-round visibility is good, although the rear pillars are quite thick and obscure your view slightly when reversing. Mind you, the same can be said of most new cars and the Rapid’s pillars are less intrusive than most.
The Rapid has yet to be tested by safety experts Euro NCAP although the signs are that the Rapid would perform strongly. What’s more, Skoda says the car meets all EU Phase 2 pedestrian protection requirements.
To achieve a headline grabbing entry-level price, the entry-level S model is short on equipment. The wheels are steel, there’s no air conditioning, and rear-seat passengers will need to wind their windows up and down manually.
The SE has a much longer list of kit, including alloy wheels, air conditioning, a trip computer, a leather steering wheel, and a Bluetooth telephone connection. Step up to Elegance for larger alloys wheels, cornering front fog lights, cruise control, rear electric windows and steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and telephone.
At first glance the cheapest Rapid looks great value, and there’s no doubt you’re getting a lot of car for £12,900. However, the meagre list of kit shows why the S trim is so cheap, and it’s only available with the two least powerful engines.
We’d rather spend the extra on the SE, which starts from £14,650. That’s still very competitive with the likes of Hyundai and Kia, and much cheaper than the new Volkswagen Golf Mk7. The high-spec Elegance is also keenly priced, starting from £16,100.
Running costs should be modest. Even the thirstiest engine, the 1.2 MPI 75PS, achieves 47.9mpg on the combined cycle, and emits just 137g/km of carbon dioxide. The diesel returns 64.2mpg and emits 114g/km.
Insurance groups range from 7 to 16.
A practical and roomy small hatch for a fair price.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 11.8 seconds
Insurance: 10 (1-50)
(Figures for 1.2 TSI 86PS SE)