It is possible to buy a slower Skoda Rapid than the 84bhp 1.2-litre petrol model, but we would not advise it. Not because it’s bad form to have a car that is incapable of completing a 0-60mph dash in at least 11.2sec, as in the 1.2 TSI model, but instead because the base 74bhp three-cylinder engine is unlikely to save you a great deal of money.

It costs only a little less, in the way that headline-grabbing base engines do, yet it is expected to return significantly worse economy, is subject to higher road tax and will not retain its value so well. No, for our money, this 84bhp unit is where we’d put our interest.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
With peak torque arriving at just 1500 rpm, it's easy to get the best from the Rapid 1.2 TSI

In the Rapid, this 1.2 TSI engine (available in two power outputs) makes a quiet and unobtrusive companion, as it does in the other cars in which we’ve tried it. At idle it is near-silent, while above that it spins quietly and easily towards its 6000rpm redline.

As we’d hope for in a car aimed at – and let’s be honest here – those who are unenthusiastic about driving, it makes its peak torque figure where it is easily accessed, at just 1500rpm, which makes it easy to get the best from it. Even so, stirring the gearbox is hardly a chore, so easy is the five-speed manual’s shift action.

The 1.4 TSI engine can only be had with a seven-speed DSG gearbox, this gearbox being optional on the 1.2 TSI engime. Performance is stronger than the 1.2 TSI, but the not insignificant price premium and poorer economy over the 1.2 TSI model means you're best bet is to stick with the smaller capacity engine. 

The diesel option, a 1.6 TDI, rouses to a bit of a grumble, louder than the class average, but still acceptable. The five-speed manual gearbox stirs slickly, and engine response is positive. Skoda says the diesel Rapid is good for 0-62mph acceleration in 10.6sec and that it can return 64.2mpg. We believe the former, and returned economy approaching 50mpg in mixed driving.

Braking performance was also good. The nature of the surface on our dry handling circuit means that, when wet, stopping distances are often longer than on the grippier, less rubbered bespoke wet braking surface. Hence the Rapid wanted fewer metres in which to stop in the ‘wet’. As such, a fine 48.1m plays 50.7m in the ‘dry’. Which was wet.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Skoda range

Driven this week

  • BMW's prototype fuel cell concept is based on the 5GT
    First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Fuel cell-powered 5 Series GT concept previews a revolutionary storage and refuelling system which could pave the way for hydrogen to become the alternative fuel of choice
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    There's another BMW 2 Series variant on the horizon; we drive a late-stage prototype plug-in hybrid Active Tourer
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Wagon version of Skoda's cut-price limo is relaxing to drive, vast inside and great value, provided you avoid the range-topper
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Hyundai's new crossover has great potential and a winning character that should have Nissan and Ford worried
  • Car review
    30 June 2015
    Expectations are high and the competition fierce. Can it deliver?