The Rapid certainly falls into the cheap-and-cheerful category – but it is very cheerful to drive indeed.
Base price: $29,990. Powertrain and performance: 1.4-litre turbo petrol four, 90kW/200Nm, 7-speed automated dual-clutch manual, front-drive, Combined economy 5.8 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 9.5 seconds. Vital statistics: 4483mm long, 1461mm high, luggage capacity 530 litres, fuel tank 55 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels on 215/40 R17 Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres (part of option pack fitted to test car). We like: On board with Skoda corporate style, great powertrain, value. We don’t like: Depressingly ordinary cabin, fussy ride on larger 17-inch rims. How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Skoda seems to be developing Russian Doll Syndrome. Recent range-wide updates have given its various offerings a very similar look: quite distinctive from a brand point of view, but hard to tell apart when you’re talking individual models.
That’s probably not so great when you’ve got the flagship Superb, but you could argue it works in your favour when you’ve got the new cheap-as-chips Rapid, a supermini-sized hatchback that now sits as the entry point to Skoda’s lineup in New Zealand.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Brilliant actually, largely because it draws on the big box of bits at Volkswagen headquarters to serve up some familiar and proven mechanicals.
The little Rapid has a 1.4-litre TSI engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission – exactly what you get in a VW Polo or Golf. It’s a crisp and entertaining powertrain, with a twinkle in its eye and finger-clicking gearshifts at your service. The chassis is good, too. The Rapid is not a sports car but it is surprisingly sporting, with a relatively agile chassis that lives up to the eager character of the engine and transmission. It’s not entirely polished but it is a lot of fun, which is a great result from a sub-$30k hatchback. The only low point is the ride, which was fussy around town on our test car. It was fitted with a $2000 option package that included larger 17-inch wheels: they do look great on the little Skoda, but in a mainstream small car such as this we’d be inclined to opt for urban comfort and stick with the smaller rims.
Then again, ignore that equipment package and you also miss out on parking radar and Bluetooth streaming for the audio. Tricky.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Skoda does have the knack of serving up a lot more interior and cargo space than equivalent VW product. It’s kind of the company’s thing and the Rapid does not disappoint, with generous interior dimensions and a boot that rivals the volume of that in a big-six sedan, at 530 litres.
Here’s something else that’s Skoda’s thing: dour interior styling and an ever-so-slightly lower quality of materials than you’d find in an equivalent VW. All quite deliberate to maintain the pecking order, we’re sure.
So there’s nothing wrong with the Rapid’s cabin. But also nothing to make you feel special and not a lot to talk about.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? There’s very little reason not to. The Rapid certainly falls into the cheap-and-cheerful category – but it is very cheerful to drive indeed. It’s an entry-level car that doesn’t skimp on powertrain technology and offers a lot of space and character into the bargain.
EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST Air conditioning: Single-zone climate Audio: CD, iPod compatible Automatic lights/wipers: No/No Blind spot warning: No Bluetooth: Yes Cruise control: Yes Driver footrest: Yes Gas discharge headlights: No Head-up display: No Heated/ventilated seats: No/No Keyless entry/start: No/No Lane guidance: No Leather upholstery: No Parking radar: Optional Power boot or tailgate: No Power seat adjustment/memory: No Rear ventilation outlets: No Remote audio controls: Yes Satellite navigation: No Seat height adjustment: Yes Self-parking technology: No Split/folding rear seats: 60/40 Steering reach adjustment: Yes Stop-start: No Trip computer: Yes
Find a Skoda Rapid HERE