Before its unveiling in production form, the Rapid’s design was previewed at motor shows by Skoda’s Mission L concept, a rather sleek, chunky-looking hatch that didn’t seem particularly outlandish. Pity, then, that to our eyes the Rapid, once shorn of the concept’s striking white paint and huge alloy wheels, doesn’t quite retain all of that charm. It arrives instead looking rather more staid and without the elegance of an Octavia or the cheekiness of a Yeti. It’s undramatic and inoffensive, mind you, and perhaps that’s the idea. A car that eases itself into people’s consciousness without them even knowing it.
Beneath its skin, things remain just as conventional. At 4.48m long, the Rapid would seem a likely candidate for the Volkswagen Group’s new MQB platform that already underpins the Golf, Audi A3 and Seat Leon. Instead, the Skoda sits on a development of the same underpinnings as the Fabia hatchback. There’s nothing wrong with that, but one wonders whether its torsion beam rear end will rob it of the sophisticated feel of the better cars in this class, including, let’s not forget, other budget-conscious models such as the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cee’d.
One advantage, mind you, is the weight of the Rapid, which comes in at just 1150kg. That’s lighter than the 1175kg claimed kerb weight and considerably lighter than most rivals. As light, in fact, as plenty of current superminis, and this, as we’ll see, has an advantage when it comes to fuel consumption.
At the front, the Rapid is suspended by MacPherson struts, and it has a range of engines offered straight off the shelf and available to all within the VW Group. The range kicks off with a three-cylinder 1.2, before moving to our test car’s 84bhp, four-cylinder, turbocharged 1.2. There’s also a 104bhp variant of the same unit and a 121bhp 1.4 petrol that comes with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard. And there’s one diesel: a 104bhp 1.6 TDI. In our experience to date, the 84bhp 1.2 TSI of our test car represents the range’s sweet spot.