Skoda Rapid hatchback
Price £14,400 - £19,165
- Very practical
- Exceptional value for money
- Impressively low running costs
- Competitors are more comfortable
- Rivals are more fun to drive
- Uninspired design
At a glance
“If you require value for money and practicality above all else, then the Skoda Rapid makes a fine hatchback.”
If all you want from a vehicle is space, value for money and practicality and you absolutely must have a brand-new car, then the Skoda Rapid makes a great deal of sense. It counts models like the Ford Focus and Hyundai i30 amongst its rivals and beats both when it comes to boot space.
There's plenty of room in the cabin, too, with comfortable seating for four (or five at a stretch), while the Rapid's low price compared to rivals’ makes it very tempting indeed. However, it's not a particularly interesting or exciting car to look at, drive or sit in – it's very much something you’d choose with your head rather than your heart.
There's a fantastic range of economical, cheap-to-run petrol and diesel engines, while the four trim levels – S, SE, Sport and SE L – are all well equipped, so the Rapid is a great choice for families. However, with the even better equipped and more spacious Octavia sitting just above it in Skoda's range, sales have been disappointing.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Cheap to buy and cheap to run, the Rapid won't break the bank
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.
Engines, drive & performance
Very easy to drive but lacking in excitement
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 money you’ll save on the price.
Interior & comfort
Comfortable on the motorway but some rivals are better on rutted roads
While the Skoda 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. That’s especially true of the Rapid Sport, which suffers for its larger 17-inch alloy wheels, despite having the same suspension settings as a regular Rapid.
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
Practicality is the Rapid’s trump card, with a truly huge boot
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
Five-star safety score and very reliable to boot
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.
Price, value for money & options
Cheap compared to its rivals and generously equipped
If nothing else, the Skoda Rapid is excellent value for money, with the range starting at £14,400 for the base S model, moving up to the top-spec SE-L if you want all the gadgets and toys. The entry-level S car is fairly basic but if you only want something to get you from A to B you might be happy to pay less and do without some luxuries.
It's worth looking at the Skoda Rapid Sport, which is under £1,000 more than the mid-range SE yet adds 17-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, red-stitched sports seats and a leather steering wheel so that the car doesn't look quite so bland.