Our cars: Skoda Rapid - July
Week ending July 26
Current mileage 2562
Miles driven this week 112
Skoda Rapid review
A weekend spent in our long-term Rapid has left me feeling slightly puzzled.
I attended the UK launch of the Rapid last year, and came away thinking that the car was, if entirely undistinguished, at least reasonably competent. It majored on offering an impressive amount of space for not a lot of money.
So, several months on, it’s come as a bit of a shock to discover that our long-termer is such a soggy horror.
On the road, the fussy ride veers, depending on speed and road surface, between annoying and appalling, and the vague steering, limited roadholding and mushy handling are enough to deter even moderately spirited driving. Thrust it down a motorway in a crosswind, and it grows noticeably unstable. Ask it for acceleration from low revs, and you’ll be hanging on for a reply for a very long time.
Add to that too much road noise, a tacky interior and an air-con system that felt like being breathed on by a gnat (on a hot day it wasn’t only the handling that was soggy), and I’m at a loss to explain how a firm that produces such a fabulous all-rounder as the new Octavia can also produce this.
The problem is the Rapid feels curiously out of date already; certainly its ride and handling feel like that of a car from 30 years ago. I’m quite sure there are better ways to spend £14,500 too, and, though that enormous boot could prove useful on a long family holiday, so poor is everything else that I think I’d rather go by train.
By Mark Pearson
Week ending July 19
Current mileage 2450
Miles driven this week 573
It's a horrible feeling, that slight tug of the steering wheel as you inadvertently brush your car's wheel against a kerb.
I'd pulled in to the left and stopped to give an oncoming driver enough space to get by. When there still wasn't enough room, I edged to the left some more and eased past, nudging the kerb in the process.
I winced, fearing the worst, but when I got out to check the state of the wheel, it was blemish-free. Thankfully the Rapid has tyres that stick out a bit from the wheels, giving them some protection.
Few modern cars have fairly small wheels and big, chunky tyres, but I'm glad the Rapid does. After all, big shiny alloy wheels look great when they're new, but they don't when they're covered in scuffs and scratches.
Week ending July 12
Current mileage 1877
Miles driven this week 229
The warm weather has highlighted an issue with the Rapid: its weedy air-con system.
If it's at least 25C and the car has been sitting in the sun for a few hours – as many cars do during the summer, let's face it – the cabin takes an age to cool down.
Even with the fans in their noisy maximum setting and the air recirculation switched on (which means the air-con is chilling the air already in the cabin, which will gradually get cooler, rather than the hot air from outside), it took a good 10 minutes for things to feel suitably chilled one afternoon recently.
If I'm doing a short journey I simply open a window to get some ventilation or, better yet, cool down with the help of an ice cream.
By Barnaby Jones
Week ending July 5
Driven this week 572
Last week I mentioned the Rapid's hard ride and excessive road noise, neither of which made me relish a long drive to Devon in the Skoda this Thursday evening.
True, the journey could have been quieter and more comfortable, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. The flat driver's seat made me fidget around a few times to get settled, but the four-hour journey wasn't unbearable by any means.
The little turbocharged engine didn't like the hills in south Devon, though, especially when there were four people in the car. In fact, on some of the particularly steep, winding roads coming back from the beach, I had to drop to first gear to maintain momentum.
Our Rapid certainly doesn't live up to its name, then, but it's a lot of car for £14,500. Everyone had plenty of space, and the boot easily took two people's luggage, plus the load of sleeping bags we had to return to some friends.
All in, the Rapid was decent enough transport for three days and 500-odd miles. The thing is, other similarly priced small family cars do rather better than 'decent enough', so the Rapid has a lot to prove in the next five months that it's with us.
By Barnaby Jones