Skoda Rapid hatchback

£15,555 - £19,390

A seemingly strange choice of name, the Skoda Rapid actually appeared as a standalone model for the first time in 1935. Then, as now, it was applied to Skoda's mid-range offering.

Though the name suggests speed and thrills are central to the Rapid's appeal, in reality it's a far more down-to-earth proposition than that. Not seeking to be exciting, the Rapid can’t claim to be as fun to drive as a Ford Focus. Nor does it have the style and flair of a Renault Megane or the sporty demeanour of the SEAT Leon.

Instead, the Skoda Rapid trades on being well made and big on practicality (it's boot is usefully larger than that of the Focus). It also offers strong value for money, although it can’t match the warranty you get with the Hyundai i30. It also manages to look fairly classy while not being very expensive to buy or run.

The inside story is written by the same author, combining sound design, good use of space and an aura of durability. There's plenty of lounging space, whether you’re in the front or the back, and your surroundings feel well put together, while the controls are functional and easy to use.

It should be stated that the Rapid won’t be the first port of call for anyone looking for sheer power or extreme driving excitement, but that was never really mentioned in the Rapid's mission statement. Behind the wheel, you can sense that the car had its sensible nature designed in from the beginning, as it never feels playful or especially fun.

You could say the same thing about the styling, which vividly declares the car's no-nonsense nature and leaves you under no illusion that the Skoda Rapid sets out to be seen as anything but a dependable, robust, useful family car with a touch of class. It's undoubtedly a car bought with your head, rather than your heart.

The Rapid is offered with a range of well proven and economical petrol and diesel engines, all of which aim to fulfil the same sensible, economical brief. Every version is well equipped, starting from the entry-level S and topped by the expensive SE L model, with SE and Sport in between.

However, for all the Rapid's worthiness, the larger and even better appointed Skoda Octavia isn’t hugely more expensive, and because of this has proven to be a more popular choice than the Rapid.