2012 Skoda Rapid Hatchback Review

The Skoda Rapid sits between the Fabia and Octavia in the line-up

The Rapid isn't a bad-looking car and could be a sensible buy for those that need the space and would rather have a new model on the driveway.

Review

Good points: huge boot, good economy and choice of engines.

Not so good: not refined enough for the price, Octavia way better.

Test car details:

Model tested: Skoda Rapid 1.2 TSI 86 Elegance
Pricing: €21,405 (Rapid range starts at €16,515)
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Renault Fluence, SEAT Toledo, Toyota Corolla
CO2 emissions: 119g/km (Band A4, €200 per annum)
Combined economy: 55mpg (5.1 litres/100km)
Top speed: 183km/h
0-100km/h: 11.8 seconds
Power: 86hp at 4,800rpm
Torque: 160Nm at 1,500- 3,500rpm

Our View:

Having spend several months at the wheel of the SEAT Toledo, I feel I already know its sister car, the Skoda Rapid, quite well. They share a lot, including a saloon-car-ish look that hides a far more practical rear hatchback. Under there is a scarcely believable 550-litre space for luggage. The cabin is generously proportioned in all directions - other than width - as well.

Buyers have plenty of interior colour choices at no extra cost, which can help brighten things up, but no matter which option is selected it's clear that the Rapid is designed to be a durable car rather than a tactile and desirable one. The top-level Elegance model driven here helps though, as it enhances the ambience a little. In fairness, the smart money goes on the mid-level Ambition model. It adds niceties such as air conditioning, a fancier instrument cluster, Bluetooth, electrically adjusted and heated door mirrors and a leather multi-function steering wheel to the rather basic specification of the entry-level Active version.

In our minds there's little point in the Active model. Likewise the cheapest engine, a three-cylinder 1.2-litre unit producing 75hp. That means the realistic starting place for the Rapid range is the 1.2 TSI 86 engine in Ambition trip, which costs €19,550. Or €555 more than the entry-level Skoda Octavia with the same engine. The new Octavia is a considerably better car.

Like the Toledo, the Skoda Rapid doesn't do much wrong. At a high-speed cruise there's a bit too much noise and this 86hp engine, while fine for life in and around a big town or city, isn't all that impressive when the car is full and you're out on the open road. We tried the 1.6 TDI 105 model too and that's far better in terms of performance, though the engine can be a little raucous. At least it's economical.

In fairness, the Rapid isn't a bad-looking car and could be a sensible buy for those that need the space and would rather have a new model on the driveway. Through Volkswagen Bank Skoda has a decent PCP (Personal Contract Plan) finance offering, which may make it easier for some to get all of that. We'd urge buyers to closely compare the Rapid with the equivalent SEAT Toledo though, and to keep an eye on the new Skoda Octavia.

Real alternatives:

Renault Fluence: recently facelifted to give it more appeal; well-equipped and has decent warranty.

SEAT Toledo: the Rapid's sister car and in reality its closest rival.

Toyota Corolla: a bit long in the tooth, but Toyota's excellent dealer network ensures that sales remain strong.