Everyone likes something for nothing, and on the surface that's exactly what the new Skoda Rapid 1.2 TSI Sport appears to give you. It's based on SE trim and costs exactly the same as that model, but gets more standard equipment. So what's the catch?
What’s the 2014 Skoda Rapid Sport like to drive?
Just one engine is offered with Sport trim: the 1.2 TSI 105. It's paired with a six-speed manual gearbox that has a more pleasing and precise shift action than the five-speed 'box fitted to the lower-powered version of the 1.2 that's available in other versions.
The turbocharged engine is a characterful and willing performer, getting you to 62mph from rest in a respectable 10.4sec. However, the power tends to surge as you accelerate through the gears, which makes smooth progress difficult. It's a reasonably refined engine, but becomes too noisy when revved.
All of the oily bits remain unchanged, so the Rapid still handles neatly, grips well and has decent body control, while the steering is accurate and weights up reassuringly through faster corners – although it is also rather slow and devoid of any feedback.
Skoda tried to improve the Rapid's suspension when it launched the Spaceback version, and you might imagine 17-inch alloys wouldn't help its case. Surprisingly, the ride is only marginally firmer, but it’s still uncomfortable on badly surfaced roads, and the front end picks up on imperfections, jostling and shaking you and your occupants around.
The Rapid also gets thrown off line if you hit bumps mid-corner, while there's considerable road and wind noise at motorway speeds, which combines with the harsh ride to make it a tiring cruiser.
What's the 2014 Skoda Rapid Sport like inside?
Sport trim comes with slightly more standard equipment than SE, which gets 15-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear glass, front foglights, a leather-covered steering wheel, handbrake and gearlever, air-con, cruise control and electric windows all-round. Sport trim swaps the 15-inch wheels for 17-inch alloys and adds sports seats, smart steel pedals, black door mirrors and a small rear spoiler.
Those seats are more supportive and height-adjustable too. They're comfortable, but taller drivers will find the squab too short; as a result, it doesn't provide enough leg support on longer journeys.
Otherwise, it's business as usual, which means a spacious cabin and an enormous boot. There's lots of headroom for all occupants, while rear passengers enjoy more kneeroom than in most rivals. The dashboard plastics are largely hard, though; you're unlikely to forget this is a car built to a tight budget.
Should I buy one?
In SE trim, the 1.2 TSI 105 is good value for money, so this Sport edition makes even more sense. Our main concern with this version was that the bigger wheels would ruin the already average ride quality, but luckily that isn't the case.
The 84bhp version of the 1.2 TSI engine is better value, but this isn't available with Sport trim. It's worth taking the lesser engine for a test drive to see if it's worth spending the extra, but if your heart's set on a well-equipped version of the Rapid, we wouldn't blame you at all if you opted for the Sport.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Torque 129lb ft
0-62mph 10.4 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 52.3mpg