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 VW Golf, Ford Focus or Peugeot 308 – but a lot closer to those cars than to a Dacia Logan.
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.