What is it?:
Skoda's new Rapid is a curious car. It sits between established marketing categories yet is roomier than the previous Octavia, a car nominally from the category above. It's based on diverse VW Group 'modules', specifically a PQ26 front end (current Polo) and the torsion-beam rear end of the US-market Jetta and lowlier Beetles, chosen for the vast boot it allows. There's something of the original Seat Toledo in its approach, which makes sense as the next Toledo will be Rapid-based.
What's it like?:
We've already driven the petrol-fuelled Rapid TSI 1.2, so now it's the turn of the 1.6-litre turbodiesel version. This comes in 89 or 104bhp guises, with a seven-speed DSG gearbox an alternative to the usual manual five-speeder in the lower-powered version; our test car is the more powerful one, still with a competitive 114g/km CO2 output or 104g/km if you go for the Green Tec model with stop-start.
The engine is predictably gutsy, albeit much less refined than a petrol 1.2 TSI with the same power. It's clear, though, that there is something inconsistent going on with the suspension.
This diesel proved fidgety and unyielding over bumps, as though fitted with a bad aftermarket suspension kit, yet this unintentional 'sportiness' wasn't reflected in the dull, inert handling balance.
The engineers admit there is still suspension work to do, and the 1.2 TSI we sampled had much more of the fluency and absorption expected of a Skoda. We suspect that the small petrol cars have already been more finely tuned by Skoda's boffins.
Should I buy one?:
Styling is partly subjective, but for this writer the Rapid's clean, straight lines and razor-crisp ridges are a welcome change from the contrived sweeps, slashes and bulges of too many new cars. Skoda says the Rapid won't date as quickly. We agree.
Skoda Rapid 1.6 TDI 105 Elegance
Price: £15,500 (est); 0-62mph: 10.6sec; Top speed: 118mph; Economy: 64.2mpg (combined); CO2: 114g/km; Kerb weight: 1179kg; Engine: 4cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power: 104bhp at 4400rpm; Torque: 184lb ft at 1500-2500rpm; Gearbox: 5-speed manual