"The Skoda Rapid shines because of its practicality and incredible value for money."
The Skoda Rapid is a hatchback disguised as a saloon, so it looks a bit different from its real rivals, the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, and comes with a massive boot that makes it very practical for family use. It is a good-value car, which means the interior comfort and quality don’t quite live up to the standards set by its more expensive competition, but it still managed to score the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. For the money, there really isn’t much else in this family car class that feels as well rounded as the Rapid, and Skoda knows its market very well. So, it may not be the most exciting car on the UK market, but it's definitely a really great choice for most families. The Rapid comes in three specifications – entry-level S, mid-range SE and top-of-the-range Elegance – and offers a wide range of petrol engines with a smaller selection of diesel options.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
You won’t have to spend a lot of money to keep the Rapid on the road, with every single engine boasting impressively low running costs for a car in this segment. The 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel is capable of returning fuel economy of 64.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 114g/km, which means you won’t have to pay road tax for the first year. Drivers doing a lot of miles on a regular basis should definitely go for the diesel, but those with a low annual mileage only need to consider the cheaper petrol engines. The 1.2-litre TSI engine is smooth and refined but also manages to return 55.4mpg and emit a reasonable 119g/km of CO2.
Interior & comfort
While the Rapid's supple suspension does manage to absorb most of the bumps and lumps that the UK's ever-deteriorating roads can serve up, the deepest potholes do send a jarring thud through the inside of the car. In this respect, both the Golf and the Focus still feel more grown up, providing a more composed ride. Once you’re travelling on the motorway, however, the Rapid does a pretty good job of keeping wind and road noise at bay, making long-distance slogs feel more relaxing than you might otherwise expect.
Practicality & boot space
The Rapid easily holds its own in this department – and then beats off all the competition. It may sit in the same class as the Golf and the Focus, but the Rapid is by far the most practical model on the market in this sector. With the back seats still in place, the boots offers 550 litres of storage space – just under 200 litres more than the Golf's load area, and beating the Focus’ 363 litres by some margin. It's also surprisingly easy to load for a car of this shape – again, with the hatchback dimensions cunningly hidden by the saloon styling. The boot floor can be flipped, to swap the carpet covering on one side for an easy-clean rubber surface if you plan on carrying anything mucky in the boot. The interior can easily fit five adults with some degree of comfort, but taller adults may well have to squeeze themselves into the back seats. There's a reasonable if basic amount of storage options inside the car, including a cupholder in the centre console and decent-sized doorbins. The driving position is good, with seat adjustable for height and the steering wheel for reach and rake.
Reliability & safety
No one can argue that Skoda customers aren’t happy with their cars, and even though Skoda itself dropped a single spot in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it's still ranked number 2 in the list of manufacturers. Having spent four years topping the poll, nothing has really changed other than Lexus having a particularly good year and just pipping it to the post. The Rapid itself is still too new to feature in the survey, but Skoda's reputation is now so solid that it would be a major shock if it didn’t rank highly in the top 100 cars within a couple of years. All of the Rapid's electrical and mechanical components will have been thoroughly tested by Skoda, and it feels built to last, too, with a solidly constructed interior and reassuring ‘clunk’ when you close the doors. In terms of safety, the Rapid has its full five-star Euro NCAP rating to demonstrate that it brings a lot of peace of mind to the market, and it comes with driver, passenger, head and side airbags, electronic stability control, ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and anti-lock brakes all fitted as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
From the range of engines, we’d recommend the 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI petrol and the 1.6-litre TDI diesel (also 104bhp). There there is a more powerful 1.4-litre TSI petrol, the smaller engines offer just the right amount of performance and economy without ever starting to feel slow – impressive given the Rapid's substantial dimensions. All the controls, from steering to air blowers are all clearly and intuitively laid out, but if you’re a fan of driving, you may find the slightly bland drive to be somewhat disappointing. In the end, the Rapid feels more like a tool designed to get you safely and efficiently from A to B, rather than a car that you’ll get lots of enjoyment from driving. Also, the ride isn’t as good as you’ll get in the Focus or Golf, but that's a small price to pay for the thousands of pounds you’ll save on the price.
Price, value for money & options
If nothing else, the Skoda Rapid is excellent value for money, with the range starting at £12,900 for the base S model, moving up to £17,850 for the top-spec Elegance. For those prices, you get an entry-level car that is stocked with plenty of equipment and accessories, which represents a substantial saving over its rivals on price alone.