Skoda has introduced its seventh model within its passenger vehicle line-up, with the all-new Rapid. The Rapid name was around a long time ago, when it was first produced in 1934. This mid-size saloon (albeit with a rear hatch) sits neatly between the Skoda Fabia and Octavia. It will go head to head with the current Korean big sellers including the Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30. It will also see competition from within its own Volkswagen stable, coming from the very familiar and recently launched new Seat Toledo.
The Rapid has some subtle styling differences over its close cousin, the Toledo. Its badge has been re-positioned from the grille to the bonnet, the grille itself is sharp with a slim chrome surround, conforming to Skoda’s new design language. At the rear there’s a distinct triangular indent leading from each of the rear tail lights inwards to the registration plate. Peter Olah, Skoda’s design co-ordinator says the design on the new Rapid conforms to Skoda’s design language of being ‘simply clever’. The car does have some intelligent features that will make motoring life more pleasurable. They’ve neatly placed a handy ice scrapper inside the fuel filler cap and the optional double-faced floor mat offers a carpet surface on one side and a rubber surface on the reverse, useful for loading wet or dirty items, or the family pet.
The cabin features a bit too much black plastic for our liking, Peter says the standard black dash top is the only colour available which is to stop glare from sunshine. We’ve no problem with a black dash but on the mid-range Ambition model we drove the black plastic extends to cover the door cards, a bit of colour of fabric here would greatly lift the interior. The switch gear is all neatly laid out and of high quality. The Rapid is available across three trim grades, Active, Ambition and Elegance. We test drove the mid-range Ambition specification, this comes well equipped with items such as a multifunction steering wheel, front centre armrest, front, side and curtain airbags, air conditioning, ESP, Bluetooth connectivity and electrically adjustable and heated mirrors all included.
The engine line-up consists of four petrol variants and one diesel powered model. The entry-level model is a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine which produces 75hp, prices for this model commence from €15,995. There’s also a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine available with two power outputs, 86hp and 105hp, and a 1.4-litre TSI with 122hp. The diesel model is a 1.6-litre TDI with 105hp, there will also be a 90hp diesel variant introduced to the Rapid range during 2013.
We drove both the 1.2-litre 86hp petrol model and the 1.6-litre 105hp diesel Rapid at launch. Skoda are putting a sales push on the petrol variants for the Rapid, and it makes sense with this model. If you purchase this petrol model in Ambition trim, it will cost you €18,945 against €22,395 for the 1.6-litre diesel variant. Based on today’s fuel prices it would take 14 years to recoup the savings on the diesel model on fuel, both models are also seated in tax band A. The case therefore for purchasing and running a small petrol model makes sense.
On the road the 1.2-litre petrol unit is quiet and swift with eager acceleration available throughout the rev range. The five-speed manual transmission is light to touch and effortless to use. It provides a comfortable drive for all occupants with a generous amount of space on offer, in addition the cavernous boot has 550 litres of luggage space available, which extends to 1,048 litres with the rear seats folded. Skoda claims this engine will deliver a combined consumption of 5.1l/100km (55.4mpg), and although we didn’t quite achieve this figure on our test route, we did return a very respectable 46mpg.
The 1.6-litre TDI diesel model has more power available, emitting 105hp and 250Nm of torque. It’s also equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. In comparison to the petrol variant the diesel unit can be somewhat noisy on acceleration. The ride isn’t as composed as the petrol model, this can be somewhat contributed to the larger wheels and tyres, 16” in comparison to the 15” wheels on the petrol model. Unless you’re going to be covering very high mileage annually, the 1.2-litre petrol variant would be our choice pick of the range.
The Skoda Rapid offers sensible value-for-money motoring, combing space and comfort with a healthy dose of practicality thrown in.