It is possible to buy a slower Rapid than our 84bhp, 1.2-litre test car, 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 our test car is, 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.
In the Rapid, this engine 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.
That five-speeder is common to all Rapids save the seven-speed, DSG-equipped 1.4, whereas most rivals would at some point in the range opt for six-speed manual units. Here in this 1.2 turbo, however, the lack of a sixth ratio makes little difference to the fuel economy, which was a strong 46.7mpg on a touring run and 39.5mpg overall – a decent result given that our testers run with more leaden right feet than most owners will. Don’t be surprised to find that an average economy figure in the mid-40s is achievable if you drive relatively sedately.
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.