Skoda Rapid review
While slightly uninspiring, the Skoda Rapid is an excellent value and supremely practical alternative to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf
Thanks to its clever design, the Skoda Rapid has much more room than a Ford Focus or a Golf for a much lower price - the entry level models start at around £13,000. However, the Rapid is rather docile to drive, and its interior quality and ride comfort aren't entirely up to the standard found in the Golf or Hyundai i30.
Despite these drawbacks, the Rapid has plenty of other qualities such as competitive finance offers and a good range of engines to make it a valid choice for families on a budget.
The Skoda Rapid range is comprised of the entry-level S, mid-range SE and flagship Elegance models. In early 2014, Skoda also launched two limited edition Rapid trim levels - the SE Connect, which features parking sensors and sat-nav, plus the Sport, which is similar to the Fabia Monte Carlo supermini in that it gets sports seats, special 17-inch alloys and black gloss exterior details.
In addition to the five-door hatch, the Skoda Rapid is available with a more traditional hatchback design called the Rapid Spaceback.
Our choice: Rapid 1.2 TSI SE
Engines, performance and drive
The Skoda Rapid is available with a choice of small petrol and diesel engines. The smallest is a 1.2-litre petrol TSI unit with 74bhp and the most powerful is a 1.4-litre petrol. There's also a 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine that's found in plenty of other VW Group cars.
All Skoda Rapid models modern engines but smaller capacity models can feel a little sluggish. The steering is sharp enough, the body control tight and the feedback the chassis gives clearer than the likes of the MG6. It means you can drive the Skoda faster as the car has more composure than the MG, without it feeling stretched.
It still bounces around, though, and the quality of the damping shows it’s been built down to a price. Big bumps do knock the car off line a little and can sometimes send a shockwave through the chassis (Sport models really suffer on 17-inch alloys), but on the whole it’s comfortable. More importantly, with lighter, more consistent controls, the Rapid is easier to live with, particularly around town.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Skoda Rapid is available with a choice of robust petrol and diesel engines, which range from 1.2-litres to 1.6-litres.
The 104bhp 1.6 TDI is capable of 64.2mpg and emits just 114g/km of CO2, while in GreenTech spec it will return 70.6mpg and emit 106g/km CO2.
For low mileage drivers the cheaper petrol engines will make more sense. The 1.2 TSI petrol is smooth and refined and comes with either 85bhp or 104bhp. The lower powered version manages 55.4mpg and 119g/km in standard spec and 65.7mpg and 114g/km CO2 in GreenTech trim.
The list price of petrol Skoda Rapid models is almost £2,500 less than their diesel equivalents, so make sure you cover enough miles annually to make the rattly oil burners worth it before buying.
Interior, design and technology
Styling often takes a back seat in the pursuit of a shape that delivers versatility. That’s the case with the Rapid as Skoda’s designers have focused on maximising room inside the cabin and boot. As a result, the car’s square form has only been gently teased to create a few trademark sharp lines that provide a bit of impact.
Overall, the look is more minimalist than design-led, but Skoda’s trademark grille and raised bonnet section create a wide V shape that gives the car a solid look, along with square headlamps and foglights. There’s a strong shoulder line running back along the doors and into the rear light clusters, which feature a C-shape graphic when lit up.
A chunky C-pillar and some intersecting lines on the boot and rear bumper add more visual appeal, but on the whole the appearance is understated.
Air-conditioning comes as standard on SE models, but it costs £440 to upgrade to climate control. Cruise control is on the kit list, as is Bluetooth, but these are the Rapid’s equipment highlights. Sat-nav costs £575, DAB £100, heated seats a further £250, parking sensors are £380 extra, metallic paint costs £535 and xenon lights another £500, while a reversing camera and leather aren’t even available.
Inside, the Rapid has a cohesive, logical design – even if it’s quite bland. It’s not the last word in luxury, but it mixes quality with a robust feel. Everything is easy to use, with well labelled buttons and clear, legible dials.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
What it may lack a little in quality and driving enjoyment, the Skoda Rapid completely wipes the floor with the Golf and the Focus when it comes to practicality.
With the rear seats in place, the Rapid has 550 litres of space in the boot. This is compared to 363 litres in the Ford and 350 in the Golf. When its rear seats are folded flat, the Rapid's boot space increases to a huge 1,490 litres.
There are also plenty of clever touches, like a boot floor with carpet on one side and rubber on the other, so you can flip it depending on what you’re carrying. The cabin is spacious enough for carrying five adults, but it will be a bit of a squeeze.
The Rapid Spaceback sister car has a more conventional compact hatchback bodystyle, which cuts boot space to 415 litres with the back seats up and 1,380 litres with them folded.
Reliability and Safety
Skoda put in a great performance in the 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, finishing third overall. However, this was a slip from first in 2014, while its dealer network also dropped three places to fourth. Still, it’s a solid performance that should make the ownership experience as easy as possible – and as the Rapid uses tech from elsewhere in the VW Group, it should also be reliable.
When it comes to safety, the car has a strong record. It scored a full five-star Euro NCAP rating when it was tested in 2012 – but the assessment has changed since and is even more stringent. Six airbags come as standard, and for £350 you can add Skoda’s front assist system, which will automatically apply the brakes if it senses you’re likely to hit an object.