Skoda offers a few different engine options. These start with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, which you can order in two states of tune: 94bhp and 109bhp.
We haven’t tried the 94bhp version yet, but the 109bhp option is a sound one; this cracking engine pulls willingly from around 1500rpm, and keeps going until it reaches maximum revs. It’ll crack 0-62mph in a very respectable 9.8sec (that’s quicker than a Ford Focus 1.0 125 Ecoboost), which is plenty for most people’s needs and makes it good enough for motorway use as well. Like a lot of three-cylinders, the engine thrums a little and sends some vibrations through into the interior when you work it hard, but it’s not unruly.
Which isn’t something you’d say about the 1.4 TDI diesel. It’s rough sounding and slow, so much so in fact that we think it’s best avoided.
The 1.6 TDI diesel isn’t that smooth, either, but matches the pace of its rivals including the Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110. Most of that oomph is delivered in the mid-range, making it a marginally more relaxed performer than the rev-happy 1.0 petrol, and a slightly better proposition for those that regularly carry a car full of passengers or luggage.
Every engine comes with a manual gearbox as standard, with the option of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox on the 89bhp 1.0 petrol and the 1.4 TDI. The manual has a decently light and slick change, and the positive clutch bite makes smooth driving in stop/start traffic an easier affair than in the auto, which tends to judder off the line.
The Rapid’s handling is pretty average, mainly due to the poorly weighted steering – this saps confidence of what the front wheels are up to as you flick it into bends. That said, the Spaceback does control body lean pretty well and delivers decent grip. It’s not as fun as a Focus, though, by a country mile.
It doesn’t ride as well as a Focus, either, or an Astra for that matter. It fidgets over ripples in the road and fails to filter out the abrasiveness of sharper-edged potholes, resulting in a jarring thump through your seat. Bigger wheels only compound the issue, so avoid the SE Sport trim on its 17in rims.
The suspension makes a din as it works over bumps, too, and while we’re on the subject of noise, both road and wind noise at motorway speeds are prevalent to the point of being tiresome on a long journey.