What is it?
The Skoda Rapid sits right between the Fabia and Octavia in Skoda’s range, with prices now starting at £14,410 - £3115 more than the former and £2785 less than the latter.
For 2017, the Rapid has been given a (very) subtle styling refresh, confined to crisper-looking headlights, foglights and black tail-light tints. Inside, it’s just as subtle, with the addition of two USB ports for the rear passengers about the most noteworthy of updates.
There are three trims available: S, SE Tech, and SE Sport. The range is bookended by the 95bhp 1.0 TSI (£14,410) and the 89bhp 1.4 TDI CR DSG (£19,570), and there's a 1.6-litre diesel in the mix, too.
The 109bhp turbocharged petrol 1.0 TSI we're testing here is a new unit, replacing the old 1.2 TSI, and sits somewhere in the middle of the range, costing from £16,345 in SE Tech trim, and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, where the others get five-speeds.
The Rapid is another optimistically named Skoda, as with the Superb, but it is still somewhat likely to live up to its name with the new 1.0 TSI unit strapped in. It should prove frugal too; Skoda claims 61.4mpg and 104g/km of CO2 emissions, which is up by 3.7mpg for fuel economy but emits less CO2 compared with the old 1.2 TSI.
What's it like?
It’s like a Fabia, but bigger, rather than being like an Octavia, but smaller. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s got the Fabia’s quiet competence, but an unsettled ride and cheap plastics to match.
On rather smooth rural German roads, the Rapid’s suspension tends to amplify small ruts, albeit with an overarching softness; translate this to the UK’s more mottled tarmac and it could be a bit of an issue. These aren’t really welcome, and the bumps, combined with the 1.0-litre three-pot’s raspy note and interior vibration, make things a little less serene than they could be under a heavier stomp of acceleration. It does pull relatively well from low revs, and is flexible.
The boomy engine adds a little aural drama to an otherwise fuss-free cabin ambience, but some could grow tired of this, because it serves as a reminder that the engine has to be worked hard to get any convincing oomph out of it. The steering is much the same: unless treated with considerable vigour, it’s overly numb. There's little body roll, though.
Should I buy one?
There are few reasons not to, if you’re in the less emotional end of the family car market. The Seat Leon offers more personality, albeit in a different package, while the Volkswagen Golf offers a similar amount of personality, but in a plusher package, but both cost far more than the Rapid.
The 1.0-litre TSI Rapid offers a mid-point to the 1.6-litre and 1.4-litre TDI models; it doesn’t have the low-end shove of the 1.6 - although that engine does peter above 3500-4000rpm - but it’s got a fair bit more than the 1.4. All three have around the same level of engine noise.
This petrol version could find a growing number of customers, given the anti-diesel rhetoric swirling around the industry. Currently, 70% of UK customers go for the Rapid Spaceback over the regular Rapid liftback, and SE Tech (£16,345) will be the best-selling trim level with its alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control, front foglights and other basic creature comforts.
Keener drivers need not apply, though.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.0 TSI 110 Specifications
Location Frankfurt, Germany On sale Late June Price from £14,410 Engine 3cyls in line, 999cc, petrol Power 109bhp at 5000rpm Torque 148lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox 6-speed manual Kerbweight 1110kg 0-62mph 9.8sec Top speed 123mph Economy 61.4mpg CO2/tax band 106g/km, band F (£140 per year) Rivals Kia Cee’d, Vauxhall Astra