Skoda Rapid 1.2 TSI 85 SE
Total mileage 6097
List price £14,650
Target Price £12,616
Price as tested £15,145
We’re all after a bargain, and the Skoda Rapid is one of the biggest – quite literally, in fact, because it’s considerably bigger than most similarly priced rivals.
What else does it offer family car buyers, though? We lived with a Rapid for five months to find out.
Choosing which Rapid to go for was easy. The lower-powered 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine is our favourite because it’s smooth and punchy enough for most duties, plus it keeps the price low. We also favour mid-level SE spec, which has air-conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a USB connection and four electric windows as standard. That’s a decent amount of kit, so the only optional extra I added was the £495 Denim Blue metallic paint. All in, the Rapid was a bargain £15,145.
Early impressions were mixed. We liked the spacious interior and the huge boot, and the engine felt more powerful than its modest 85bhp would suggest. The engine also pulled smoothly from low revs, which helped make the Rapid easy to drive in town, as did the light controls.
Sadly the hard ride went a long way to undermine the Rapid’s low-speed appeal, while too much wind and road noise meant it wasn’t a relaxing motorway cruiser, either. Add a flat, unsupportive driver’s seat and the Rapid wasn’t ideal on long journeys, such as from Middlesex to my sister’s house in Somerset, or to Devon to stay with my girlfriend’s parents.
As is often the case, though, you learn to live with some annoyances, and so it proved with the Rapid’s comfort and refinement shortcomings. They were still there, of course, but became slightly less of an issue the more I drove the car. Besides, the Rapid kept up with traffic on the motorway and didn’t use too much fuel on long trips. In fact, our average test economy of 40.1mpg was pretty good for such a large car with a small petrol engine.
Talking of large, the Rapid’s boot was more than big enough for everything I threw at it. The weekly shopping looked lost in the boot, and even two people’s holiday luggage and a load of sleeping bags wasn’t enough to seriously test its capacity. Once I’d folded down the rear seats, I could also get my bike in the back – with both wheels still on.
The Rapid didn’t excel at every load-carrying task, though. It was employed as a removals van, and although we got a lot of boxes and small bits of furniture in, the hard ride made everything jostle about, so the trip was far from quiet.
The cabin won few positive comments. Everyone mentioned the drab, cheap-looking plastics, and not even the interior’s pretty solid feel was enough to change people’s minds.
A couple of oddities annoyed me, too. The USB connection wouldn’t recognise my iPhone, and I had to unlock the fuel filler cap with the key, just like on the cars I drove 15 years ago.
You also expect the air-con to cool the cabin, but the Rapid’s was scarcely up to the job during the summer heat. If it was at least 25C outside, it took a good 10 minutes for the cabin to cool down, so we simply opened the windows on short journeys.
One unexpected positive was how much the Rapid’s comparative narrowness helped when parking on the street. The high-profile tyres protected the wheels from kerb damage, too.
So can I recommend the Rapid? Not really. Yes, it’s cheap and offers lots of space for people and luggage, but that’s pretty much where the positives end. It’s not comfortable or quiet enough, and the plasticky cabin isn’t a particularly nice place to be.
Put simply, the Rapid is a car you have to make too many excuses for.
Price when new £14,650
Price now (new) £14,650
Extras Denim Blue metallic paint (£495)
Total price new £15,145
Current part-ex value £9350
Overall test fuel economy 40.1mpg
Worst fuel economy 30.7mpg
Best fuel economy 46.5mpg
True MPG 43.1mpg
Official fuel economy 55.4mpg
CO2/tax liability 119g/km/15%
Contract hire £234
Cost per mile 38p
Insurance group 10
Typical quote £399
Servicing and repairs