Skoda Rapid 1.2 TSI SE

The five-door Skoda Rapid scores with its great value

The practical and affordable Rapid manages to go one better than its first test outing by taking victory. Although the on-test economy and performance figures were almost exactly the same as those of its rival here, the Skoda was more comfortable, while simple luxuries like a leather steering wheel and cruise control make it easier to live with every day. Yet the margin of victory is tiny.

While the Skoda Rapid shares its bodyshell with the SEAT Toledo, and the overall shape is the same, plenty of effort has gone into the detailing to separate the two.

For instance, the Skoda’s square lights join up with the company’s trademark wide, vertical-slatted grille. It looks similar to the new Octavia, with a distinctive bonnet ‘beak’ and a bulge running back to the windscreen. There’s a wide grille in the lower bumper, too, helping the Rapid look more planted, but overall it’s more upright than the SEAT.

There are bigger differences at the rear, where the Rapid’s number plate is recessed into the tailgate. The look of our test model was also improved no end by its distinctive Rallye Green metallic paint, which is a £495 option. The SEAT still looks smarter, though – it even resembles the Leon and Ibiza from some angles – while the optional 16-inch Design alloys give it further impact over the Skoda.

Inside, there’s virtually nothing to separate the two cars. The dashboard layout is the same, aside from the different colours used on the centre console, and the same hard plastics feature throughout. The Skoda has darker seat fabric, which makes for a rather sombre atmosphere overall, but the driving position is excellent and the seats supportive.

On the road, the Rapid was slightly more comfortable than the Toledo on account of its smaller wheels. One niggle with both cars is the rear wash/wipe. It uses the same set-up as the Skoda Fabia, so the washer jet squirts from the base of the wiper, but it only works properly at a standstill, because the airflow over the steeply raked tailgate stops the spray halfway up the window when you’re on the move.

As these cars are so similar, this test will ultimately be decided on value for money. You can buy an extremely basic Toledo E for £12,495, while the Rapid range starts from £12,900 for an S model. The 84bhp Rapid 1.2 TSI SE tested here costs £14,650, which is £530 more than the Toledo S with the same engine.

However, the Skoda gets 15-inch alloy wheels, front foglights, cruise control, all-round electric windows and a leather steering wheel as standard. You’d have to spend £500 to add alloys and foglights to the Toledo, while cruise control is only offered on top-spec SE trim, prices for which start from £16,350 for the 104bhp 1.2 TSI. Go for the top-spec Rapid Elegance with the same engine, and it costs £16,100.

As you’d expect, economy and emissions figures are closely matched, and the only other area where either model gains an advantage is depreciation – the Skoda will retain more of its value over three years. Will this be decisive?

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