This special edition of the Rapid is practical, refined, decent to drive and even better value – but still wilfully short on desirability

What is it?

A bit of extra value and kit-related bling for the already value-packed Skoda Rapid. The Rapid Sport isn’t a performance makeover, but a special edition version of the cut-price Ford Focus rival that does what special editions always do: rekindle a bit of interest by bundling optional kit together for a bargain price.

Based on the mid-range, 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI SE model, the Sport gets 17in alloy wheels, sports seats, steel pedals, black door mirror caps and a bootlid spoiler over and above ‘SE’ specification.

Its equipment Skoda claims is worth £1250, thrown in for nothing – since the Rapid Sport is priced at the same £15,630 as the regular SE.

Beyond that, this is an ordinary Rapid – with the emphasis resolutely on the ‘ordinary’. Longer, slightly narrower and a bit cheaper than the average full-sized family hatchback, the Rapid is very much the Czech maker’s familiar ‘liftback’ body style downsized a bit: generous of passenger space – functional, robust and unadorned by way of material feel – and in need of all the help it can get on desirability.

What's it like?

All the car you most probably will ever need on a daily basis. Skoda’s intention was clearly to address that brief with the Rapid, and to deliver it as cheaply as possible. And given it’s so cheap – fully £3000 less than an equivalent Vauxhall Astra, itself a very reasonably priced car – it’s remarkable how pleasant and well mannered the Rapid is.

This is an edition of the car squarely aimed at private buyers, and that being the case, Skoda certainly chose the right engine. The 1.2-litre turbo petrol in the Rapid is remarkably quiet and smooth, yet at the same time torquey, economical and willing to rev.

It’s the kind of engine you’d defy anyone to find a reasonable fault with. At idle or a gentle cruise, all-but-noiseless – but responsive when called upon. Flatten the pedal and it’ll pull keenly, cleanly and consistently from well below 1500rpm until well above 5000rpm.

It’s the only engine in the Rapid range to be offered with a six-speed gearbox, so relative to the economy diesels it feels markedly more sprightly anyway. And, while 52mpg may sound quite run-of-the-mill, the Rapid Sport reproduces high-40s fuel-efficiency without trying. It may not overtake on the motorway with the utmost authority, but there aren’t many criticisms more serious than that you could level at it.

The 1.2 petrol is also 165kg lighter than 1.6-litre diesel ‘Greenline’ model – something likely to show in just about every dynamic dimension on the road. And it does. The Rapid Sport rides softly and quietly, with all the advantages and compromises implied by a basic, low-rate chassis specification. It’s compliant and unobtrusive, although can crash over severe ruts. It’s also untroubled by much in the way of damper control.

The Rapid’s body bobs about gently over its wheels, never running beyond a dependable sense of outright control, never undermining grip levels and seldom disturbing your comfort levels much - but rarely settling either. Steering is light, predictably paced, entirely monotone and empty of contact patch feel – but usable. The car is wieldy, and corners flatly and neatly enough. It feels more rudimentary than the chassis setup on, say, a Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus or Peugeot 308 – but a lot closer to those cars than to a Dacia Logan.

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Which is more than you can probably expect for the money. And in other ways, the Rapid over-delivers on its price tag. It’s super-roomy for four occupants, with a cavernous boot and a hard-wearing, contemporary and entirely pleasant cabin. The sports seats and steel pedals work with the leather-faced controls to lend a smattering of richness, and standard equipment such as climate control, cruise control and Bluetooth media streaming, all impress.

Externally, the black mirror housings and 17in wheels add a little bit of visual presence to the car. The body-contrasting bootlid spoiler looks misplaced – a little like shiny white trainers on a pensioner. And spoiler and all, there’s still no escape from the pervading sense of humdrum function about the Rapid. Black mirror caps certainly don’t turn it into an object of desire.

Should I buy one?

You know you should. And you could do plenty with the money you’d save if you did. The Rapid Sport makes the financial case even stronger for a car that already took some beating for the private motorist.

It’s more practical, better turned out and more refined than any cut-price option has any right to be, and is entirely adequate to drive. Not great – but a long way from bad.

The more important question is, could you impose such extraordinary ordinariness on your everyday motoring existence? Can you see the appeal in such obvious contempt for ‘appealingness’? Do you look at a Kia Ceed and wonder why the automotive arena needs such extravagance and excess?

If you do, you’ll be in a minority – albeit, perhaps, an enlightened one.

Skoda Rapid Sport 1.2 TSI 105

Price £15,630; 0-62mph 10.4sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 52.3mpg; CO2 125g/km; Kerbweight 1100kg; Engine type, cc 4 cyls, 1197cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 104bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 129lb ft at 1550-4100rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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erly5 29 May 2014

Taxi Driver Special

Does this version also come with a rear Taxi Licence plate as standard? I've yet to see a privately owned Rapid on the road!
fadyady 29 May 2014

Matt finds

that this car feels more like Dacia Logan than VW Golf or Vauxhall Astra but it's priced closer to the latter therefore calling it good value can't be right unless someone has a penchant for the Skoda's trail blazing (if we were in eighties) design language. This car would probably struggle for 2 stars if it weren't for its "desirable" (to Autocar testers) badge.
RSkoda 29 May 2014

fadyady wrote:that this car

fadyady wrote:

that this car feels more like Dacia Logan than VW Golf or Vauxhall Astra

No he doesn't, read it again....

fadyady 29 May 2014

Cleverly worded

RSkoda wrote:
fadyady wrote:

that this car feels more like Dacia Logan than VW Golf or Vauxhall Astra

No he doesn't, read it again....

Thanks. I read it again and found it cleverly worded. But it doesn't change my view that this car should be priced closer to the Dacia Logan than the VW Golf.

RSkoda 29 May 2014

They should do the Spaceback

They should do the Spaceback in this "sport" option, then it would actually look like the car in the adverts, and IMO, add a bit more desirability.