Skoda is very much a brand that knows how to shift perceptions and so, with the new Rapid, the Czech manufacturer will be tasked with tempting UK buyers with a model shape which has never been very popular here.
The Rapid will actually perform a very important job for the brand as it looks to push the Octavia upmarket.
It is there for Octavia customers that are not ready to move upmarket in a similar way to how Kia’s Rio is attracting old Cee’d customers.
The UK will actually be the third largest market for Rapid, sitting behind the Czech Republic and Germany, with Skoda targeting 6,000 units this year. Retail will account for 60% of sales and the dealer network will be expected to help double Rapid sales to 12,000 in 2014, making it the brand’s second biggest seller, behind Octavia.
The Rapid will go up against the Cee’d and Hyundai i30, as well as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
Customers can choose from three trim levels: S, SE and Elegance. There is also a choice of five engines while more efficient GreenTech engines will be available later this year.
The new model takes its styling cues from the VisionD and MissionL concept cars, but design is still not Skoda’s forte.
Rival brands are pushing design much further with sleeker lines and the Rapid is left looking bland by comparison. What the Rapid lacks in looks, it thankfully makes up for in practicality and a solid line-up of VW engines.
There are 550 litres of luggage space and the load area can also be extended to 1,490 litres – a figure that rivals many estate cars. There’s ample room in the back for passengers and the cabin is spacious, if not a bit dark with the selection of black plastics. Skoda has included the parking ticket holder which has been a staple on other models in its range and an ice scraper that fits into the fuel cap is a neat, but still basic, touch.
Every model features remote central locking, curtain airbags, daytime running lights, rake/reach adjustable steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat and electric front windows. SE trim adds 15-inch alloy wheels, body coloured door mirrors and handles, air-conditioning, Maxi-dot trip computer, MDI (Mobile Device Interface), a leather steering wheel and Bluetooth connectivity.
The range-topping Elegance models get 16-inch alloys, cornering front fog lamps, cruise control, height-adjustable passenger seat, rear electric windows, chrome interior detailing and a four spoke multi-functional steering wheel.
The Rapid is available with five engine options: four petrol and one diesel. Power outputs range from 73bhp for the 1.2 petrol model to 120bhp for the turbocharged 1.4 TSI unit. The 1.6 TDI 103bhp is likely to be the biggest seller, with low emissions of 114g/km and it’s capable of returning 65.2mpg. From past experience with the 1.6-litre TDI in AM’s long term Yeti, those efficiency figures are easily achievable.
Transmission options consist of five and six-speed manual gearboxes, along with VW’s seven-speed automatic DSG (1.4 TSI 120bhp only).
The Rapid is capable on the road but it’s rather uninvolving. This is a car that will get you from A to B with minimum fuss or fanfare and the 1.6-litre TDI offers plenty of pull and mid-range power when overtaking. The Rapid’s handling capabilities are acceptable, but not class leading, and the cabin does become a bit noisy when buffeted by wind at high speeds.
The Rapid is a basic and well-engineered model, well placed to take advantage of customers that are still tightening their belts.
CAP has already tipped the Rapid to compete strongly not only with the rest of the C segment small family car bracket, but also steal sales of more premium vehicles in the late plate (nearly new) used car market.
What’s been said about the Rapid
The Rapid is not an exciting car by any stretch of the imagination, but when all’s said and done it comes down to the numbers. In lower-spec guises, it’s usefully cheaper than competitors such as the Kia Cee’d and Hyundai i30, and that should be exactly what that sector of the market wants, ocular ice scraper or not.
If space and value are key priorities, the Rapid deserves serious consideration. However, only the cheaper versions make any real sense; the range-topping models are too pricey.
The Rapid is slightly odd, because it’s hard to compare it against other models. If you need a set of wheels which will be affordable, and give
you the space of a much bigger car, it has no real rivals. And it’s exactly this which makes it another clever model from Skoda.
Engine 1.2-litre (73/84/103bhp), 1.4-litre 120bhp petrol; 1.6-litre TDI 103bhp diesel
Performance 0-62mph 9.5-13.9 secs; top speed 109-128mph
Transmission 5-sp, 6-sp, 7-sp DSG auto
RV 3yr/30k 32% (based on Skoda Rapid 1.2 SE 103bhp)
Rivals Kia Cee’d, Ford Focus, Renault Megane, Vauxhall Astra