Skoda has built itself a reputation for producing cars that are practical, affordable and dependable; and if you want the perfect example, look no further than the firm’s latest model, the Skoda Rapid.
It’s based on a stretched Volkswagen Polo platform, and Skoda sees it as one of the models most important for achieving its goal of selling 1.5 million cars worldwide by 2018.
This is because Skoda believes the Rapid is all the car anyone will ever need – especially families. The Rapid has a 550-litre boot – which opens like a hatchback, making for incredibly easy access – and a spacious and durable cabin that can seat five adults.
There are plenty of family friendly touches too, including a boot floor that has carpet on one side and rubber on the other, so you can flip it depending on what you’re carrying. Then there’s the ice scraper that’s fitted to the inside of the fuel filler cap so you always have one handy.
In the hunt to please the whole family, Skoda has been a little restrained with the design, though. It’s certainly a more modern Skoda than we’ve seen before, with attractive creases and carefully detailed features, but you could quite easily travel down a busy high street without turning a single head.
But this car isn’t about turning heads, it’s about practical motoring and that includes the way it drives. The Rapid is available with a range of engines, but the 1.2-litre TSI with 85bhp or 104bhp and the 1.6 TDI with 104bhp will be the big sellers.
We tried the latter, and while it never provided thrilling performance, it also never felt underpowered. Skoda couldn’t give us a 0-62mph time, but it should be in the region of 10 seconds. It’s a refined and smooth engine, too, but that’s spoilt a little at high speeds thanks to a fair amount of wind noise.
On the plus side, the suspension has been set up in such a way that it can smooth out most of what everyday roads will throw up, but really rutted roads did send the occasional thud into the cabin.
When it comes to handling, the Rapid has clearly been set up to be predictable and easy to drive; as such it’s not the most thrilling car in the corners. The steering is responsive and nicely weighted, the gearbox is accurate and light, there’s plenty of grip and a reasonable sense of agility, too. What there isn’t, though, is real driving appeal.
Is that a box that families will want to tick? Not necessarily, and there are plenty of other boxes that the Rapid does tick. Our diesel model is capable of 64.4mpg and emits just 114g/km, so it’ll be very cheap to run. Consider how much space you get and it’s great value, too.
The Rapid has 50 litres more boot space than a Volkswagen Jetta, but with an expected starting price of £13,000 – it's £4,000 less than the VW. Specifications haven’t been finalized yet but as it’s a Skoda, you can expect air-conditioning and electric front windows as standard.
Add it all up and it’s clear that Skoda has put some real thought into the Rapid. From a family perspective there’s very little to complain about. It’s not the most exciting car on the road to drive, or even to look at, but on a list of priorities for most family buyers, you’d expect to find those two things near the bottom.