Skoda Rapid hatchback (2012-2019)
"It's one you'll buy with your head rather than your heart, but the Skoda Rapid is a very practical, affordable and dependable family car"
- Impressively low running costs
- Exceptional value for money
- Very practical
- Uninspired design
- Rivals are more fun to drive
- Competitors are more comfortable
After it called one car the Skoda Superb, you might be forgiven for thinking the Czech brand is taking things too far with the Rapid, but actually the name dates all the way back to 1935.
While the original Rapid was also a mid-range car, we can’t help but feel it sounds a bit optimistic for the latest incarnation, which comes with a 1.4-litre petrol engine in its most powerful guise. It's also not as much fun behind the wheel as the SEAT Leon, Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra; a better name might have been the 'Skoda Useful' or 'Skoda Sensible'.
That's because the Rapid's biggest strength is its impressive practicality, with a big boot and four large doors to allow occupants to get in and out very easily. It looks reasonably upmarket, too; rather like an Octavia that's been shrunk in the wash. A facelift in 2017 added LED daytime running lights and redesigned bumpers to freshen things up.
The Rapid's interior is as you'd expect, too, featuring sturdy materials and clear controls, with little money apparently having been spent on flashy design elements. Rear legroom is strong for the class, but the car is quite narrow, so it’s a tight squeeze with three passengers in the back.
With a design brief clearly targeting functionality, the Rapid won’t appeal to the same customers as a SEAT Leon or Volkswagen Golf, and from behind the wheel it feels like it wants to get from A to B with the minimum of fuss.
This is reflected in its styling, with simple, strong lines, but very few curves or haunches to raise the pulse of a driving enthusiast, while the range of small turbocharged petrol and diesel engines has been tuned for economy and reliability rather than speed.
Trim levels start with S and work their way up through SE, Sport and SE L. The entry-level version is quite basic, but the SE is far better, with air-conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control and Bluetooth included. Sport improves the exterior styling and adds more supportive seats. The top SE L version benefits from climate control, rear parking sensors, chrome interior trim and controls on the steering wheel.
In our 2016 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, the Skoda Rapid came 88th overall, with a 69th-place finish for reliability. This isn’t a bad result and Skoda's third place out of 32 manufacturers is reassuring.
We can’t help but think, however, that for only slightly more money, the Skoda Octavia is better equipped and better to drive than the Rapid. Not only that, but it came an impressive seventh in our 2016 Driver Power poll.