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.
For our money, the 89bhp unit is where we’d put our interest. 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 (or the six-speed on the 108bhp 1.2).
The 1.4 TSI engine can only be had with a seven-speed DSG gearbox; performance is stronger than the 1.2 TSI, but the not insignificant price premium and subtly poorer economy over the 1.2 TSI model means you're best to stick with the smaller capacity engine on the SE trim, the only one where the 1.4 petrol is available.
The 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 10.0sec and that it can return 74.3mpg.
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.