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With the new generation Octavia moving significantly upmarket from the previous generation, the Rapid is now the Skoda of choice for those seeking a “reasonably priced car”.
Having driven the car at the launch event back in September, I was keen to give it a longer test under the more difficult conditions of the British Winter.
From the outside the Rapid looks tidy, if a little generic, and while it won’t turn too many heads it won’t cause you any embarrassment to drive. Inside, the dash is functional rather than exciting, which combined with a slightly thin steering wheel gives the cabin a slightly dated feel. The gear stick actually has quite a good, sporty feel which is a bit of a contrast to the rest of the cabin. Cabin storage is pretty good, but the coffee cup holder is located right in front of the gear stick and isn’t the easiest to access. Generally the build quality is okay, but it’s clear that compromises have been made in order to save money: the boot closes with a less than reassuring clunk, and some of the interior finishes are a little uninspired, but there’s nothing you couldn’t live with about this car.
With a 1.6 TDi engine generating 105PS, the car copes well with in town driving, although on the motorway the absence of a sixth gear means that engine noise is a bit of an issue. If you do a lot of motorway miles then the Rapid is probably not the choice for you. However if you mainly drive around town then it really could be, because here’s the good news – the Rapid gets excellent real-world fuel economy. Its official urban economy figure is 50.4 mpg, but I found myself regularly exceeding this – 55 to 65 mpg can easily be had around town, and this stretches even higher once you get outside the city limits. With so many cars failing to achieve their official mpg figures in the real world, the Rapid provides a very pleasant contrast. With fuel costs seemingly only going one way, this can only be in Rapid’s favour.
Handling is surprisingly good, and there’s a responsiveness to the steering that I wasn’t really expecting, so you actually get a lot of confidence that the car is going to go where you want it to. The ride quality is also well-balanced between firm and forgiving.
Skoda have a reputation for maximising space and they’ve certainly done it again here, with the rear seats being more than comfortable for even the most fully-sized of adults. Boot space is, of course, huge for the size of car and this combined with the excellent fuel economy will make the Rapid a great choice for second hand buyers, especially families looking for a big car on a sensible budget. Currently only available as a slightly saloon-looking hatch, the estate or “Spaceback” as Skoda are calling it will begin production late 2013, and with the addition of roof rails looks quite a bit better than the Hatchback version.
Skoda has some pretty ambitious growth targets, but with Rapid and New Octavia in their line-up they’re well placed to achieve them.