By no stretch of the imagination is the new Skoda Rapid a rapid car. It's practical, sensible, spacious and frugal but in no way is it fast or furious. It doesn't even try. Here's what it is though; incredibly good value for money.
The most basic model starts at a touch under £13k. How on earth is it possible to produce a proper family car for that sort of money? I mean, it still has everything you need; five seats, a fuel-efficient engine, a windscreen you can see through, all the legally required safety features (plus some more), electric windows and even air conditioning. If you tried to get all that stuff yourself on the high street for £13k, you'd fail. A set of comfy chairs would set you back £1,000 at least, while all the hi-fi and satnav technology would be about the same and that's before you even try and work out the relative costs for the engine, chassis and gearbox. Of course a dash down the high street with a thick envelope of cash would create a random collection of interiors and entertainment objects, not a car, but it proves a point. And all that crap wouldn't be able to cruise comfortably at 70mph either.
Back of the envelope economics aside I put the Rapid to the test by cruising to Manchester and back for a meeting. It really isn't a quick car - overtaking requires some forward planning - but it's not a terribly unpleasant car to drive. Yes, it's rather loud, the ride is a little bottom shattering and there's too much roll in the corners, but dial it down a notch, cruise along at 65mph and it's a comfortable enough place to spend time and a practical way to get across the country. And while it doesn't have an efficiency-boosting sixth gear or a start/stop system, it is still very affordable at the pumps and with the taxman.
On a more basic level the coffee cup holder is in front of the gear stick, which is a real pain if you're a sales rep with thousands of miles to cover, but other than that it is well built, well presented and exudes a rugged good sense in the way it goes about pretty much everything.
This is a car for your wallet then, not your heart, which is fine. It's hard to get excited about though; and after 500 odd miles I walked away without thinking another thing about it, which is a shame because Skoda can build fun and quirky cars. It's crossover the Yeti has a silly name but it's fun to look at and great, while the nippy Citigo city car is genuinely fun to zip around it. The Rapid is just a sensible choice for getting around, I just can't help feeling it's missing something though. Would that cost so much more?
Price: from £12,900 (£17,850 as tested)
Model tested: 1.6-litre TDI Elegance
Power Output (bhp@rpm):104 @ 4,400
Top Speed (mph): 118 0-60 mph (seconds): 10.4
Fuel economy (mpg): 64.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 114