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 interior room than class rivals such the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen 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 up to the high standards found in the Golf or Hyundai i30.
Despite these drawbacks, the Rapid has plenty of other great qualities such as competitive finance offers and a good range of engines – all of which add up to make it a valid choice for families on a budget.
Although the name is not that familiar here now, Skoda has a long history of producing Rapid models, starting all the way back in 1935. Prior to its reintroduction on the current model, the last time it was used in the UK was on a sporty coupe version of the rear-engined Skoda 130 – a quirky machine, but one that’s still held in high regard by enthusiasts of the brand.
The modern car is an entirely different kettle of fish, relying on thoroughly mainstream engineering from the VW parts bin. In fact it’s identical underneath to the SEAT Toledo, and both are assembled together at Skoda’s factory in Mladá Boleslav.
Sitting between the Fabia Supermini and Octavia family hatchback, the Rapid fills a gap for Skoda in the compact family hatchback sector – taking on the likes of the Ford Focus and Hyundai i30 as well as the Golf.
But it stands apart from those cars thanks to its styling. The car look like a four-door saloon, but has a wide opening tailgate and a luggage volume that makes most of its rivals look miserly.
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The Skoda Rapid range consists of the entry-level S, mid-range SE and flagship SE L models. In early 2014, Skoda also launched two limited-edition Rapid trim levels - the SE Connect (featuring parking sensors and sat-nav) and the Sport (featuring sports seats, special 17-inch alloys and black gloss exterior details, similar to the Fabia Monte Carlo supermini).
In addition to the five-door hatch, the Skoda Rapid is available with a more traditional hatchback design called the Rapid Spaceback. That version has less luggage space, but has noticeably more room for rear seat passengers.
Engines, performance and drive
All Skoda Rapid models have modern engines, but the smaller capacity versions can feel a little sluggish.
The steering is sharp enough, the body control tight and the feedback you get is 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 send a shockwave through the car (Sport models really suffer on 17-inch alloys), but on the whole it’s comfortable.
More importantly, with lighter, more consistent controls than the MG, the Rapid is easier to live with, particularly around town.
The Skoda Rapid is available with a choice of small petrol and diesel engines. The smallest is a four-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol TSI unit with 89bhp, which takes a sedate 11.3 seconds on the sprint to 62mph but can still manage a 124mph maximum. A 109bhp version of the same engine drops the acceleration time down to 9.8 seconds.
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The only other petrol option is the fastest engine in the Rapid range – it’s the 124bhp 1.4 litre unit that only comes with the DSG twin-clutch automated gearbox as an option in SE trim cars. Even though it’s the most rapid Rapid, it still only manages a 9 second 0-62mph time, though top speed is raised to 129mph.
Moving onto the diesels, the line-up kicks off with a three-cylinder 1.4 litre TDI boasting 89bhp that’s available with manual or the DSG gearbox. The manual gives you 0-62mph in 11.7 seconds, and a top speed of 115mph, while opting for DGS loses a tenth in acceleration.
The fastest diesel is the punchier 114bhp 1.6, which has a 0-62mph time of 10 seconds and a 125mph maximum.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Skoda Rapid is available with a choice of robust petrol and diesel engines, which range from 1.2 to 1.6 litres. Only one of the engine options can slip beneath the 100g/km mark, but none of them will break the bank on VED or company car tax benefit-in-kind calculations.
The diesels are the most efficient engines in terms of mpg and emissions, as you’d expect. The 1.4 TDI is cheapest to run, with a 94g/km CO2 rating and a claimed average fuel economy figure of 78.5mpg. Adding DSG gears takes emissions up to 99g/km, and mpg down to 74.3mpg.
The 114bhp 1.6 TDI is capable of 67.3mpg and emits just 109g/km of CO2, so apart from the higher initial purchase price there’s little financial disincentive to own the bigger diesel if you want better performance.
The 1.2 TSI petrol is smooth and refined, and comes with either 89bhp or 109bhp. The lower-powered version manages 60.1mpg and 107g/km, and the other returns 55.7mpg and 110 g/km.
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As the petrol engines are pretty efficient, and because the list price for petrol Skoda Rapid models is almost £2,500 less than their diesel equivalents, make sure you cover enough miles annually to make the rattly oil burners worth the extra cost up front.
On most counts, the Rapid makes more financial than emotional sense. It might be ultimately uninspiring, but all trim levels are relatively well equipped and good value. Our main problem with parting with cash for the Rapid is the existence of the bigger and better Octavia range, which starts at only £1,800 more than the Rapid.
The Skoda Rapid’s insurance groups run from 10 for the 1.2 TSI petrol up to 19 for the fastest 1.4-litre petrol DSG version – all pretty competitive.
While some Skodas – such as the Yeti 4x4 – hold onto their value well, others like the Rapid still aren’t finding traction in the used market. According to some industry predictions based on a three-year/30,000 mile ownership cycle, you’ll be lucky to hang onto a third of the original purchase price at resale time.
Interior, design and technology
Styling often takes a back seat in the pursuit of versatility and that's definitely the case with the Skoda Rapid.
Skoda’s designers have focused on maximising room inside the Rapid's cabin and boot, resulting in a square shape that's only been gently teased to create a few trademark sharp lines, providing minimal visual impact.
Overall, the look is certainly 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.
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A chunky rear '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.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The entry-level S trim has a pretty basic AM/FM radio with a four speaker installation, and Bluetooth is an optional extra. All other grades have a six-speaker system with Bluetooth as standard, but the digital radio and touchscreen sat-nav system are optional, even on the top of the range SE L.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
While it may lack a little in quality and driving enjoyment, the Skoda Rapid's practicality completely wipes the floor with the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus – primarily because it has such a big boot.
It’s deceptive, as the Rapid hatchback’s saloon-inspired styling doesn’t suggest such a high degree of flexibility.
The Rapid’s driving position is good too, with a full range of adjustments for both seat height and steering wheel, and the simple, uncomplicated dash layout also adds to the straightforward feel.
Comfort and refinement on the move are not class-leading, but the suspension does a decent job of soaking up most of our many tarmac imperfections. Wind and road noise are sufficiently subdued too, so you can put some miles under the wheels without becoming unduly frazzled.
Cabin storage is catered for with large door bins, and the car also has some clever touches such as 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 Skoda Rapid competes in the super-competitive family hatchback class, where its dimensions give it a clear advantage. At 4,483mm it’s longer than the 4,360mm Ford Focus and the 4,255mm Volkswagen Golf.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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The cabin is spacious enough for carrying five adults, but it will be a bit of a squeeze for taller passengers in the back. All trim-levels come with ISOFIX-prepared rear seats so you can fit the child seats.
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 litres in the Golf. When its rear seats are folded flat, the Rapid's boot space increases to a huge 1,490 litres.
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 help to make the ownership experience as easy as possible.
More impressively, the Skoda Rapid itself was ranked 14th out of almost 200 cars in the reliability league, and 78th for build quality. Along with extremely well-rated running costs, where it was ranked 6th, such feedback gave the Rapid a strong 25th place in the overall survey.
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As the Rapid uses technology from elsewhere in the VW Group, we would expect it to be extremely reliable. Driven in the manner that its designers intended – which is conservatively - even the wear and tear items should last well. The cabin feels durable and well put together too, so should give years of service.
When it comes to safety, the car has a strong record. It scored a full five-star EuroNCAP rating when it was tested in 2012 – though the assessment has changed since and is even more stringent. Still, it scored a highly creditable 94 per cent for adult occupant safety, 80 per cent for child occupants and 69 per cent for pedestrian safety.
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.
The Rapid comes with a three-year warranty, but while the first two years include unlimited mileage there’s a cap of 60,000 in year three. However, you can pay extra to extend the warranty for five years/100,000 miles for £460.
For £22 per month, Skoda will sell you a maintenance plan that covers servicing and inspections for three years or 30,000 miles. It includes an oil change at 12 months or 10,000 miles, and an inspection service at 24 and 36 months.