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Skoda Rapid SE 1.6 TDI CR

Click to view picture galleryWhen Skoda named one of its
  models Octavia everybody knew it
t the sister of the first Roman
  Emperor, Augustus. And when they
  called their SUV Yeti it was pretty
  obvious that it was no Abominable
  Snowman — although you could go
  looking for one in it

SKODA'S LATEST CAR IS A RAPID, but we all know it's no tyre-shredding drag-racer. Whatever, given that a rose by any other name is still a rose, a Rapid by any other name is still a car. And as cars go, it's a decidedly honest one
one that slots perfectly above the Fabia and beneath the Octavia in Skoda's seven-model line-up. Which, actually, makes it just about the ideal size; big enough but not too big for today's crowded roads and shrinking parking bays. And perfectly fit for purpose.

Measure it and you'll find it's roughly the same size as the outgoing Octavia — the latest version of which has now been re-born as a bigger (and more upmarket) model. The Rapid disguises its size well, given that it's more spacious inside than the last-generation Octavia. In addition to room for four grown-ups, it also has a very large boot although you'd never guess it looking at its cleanly-styled, five-door hatchback bodyshell.

“A week’s fairly hard
real-world driving
on mixed roads returned
an average of 58.9mpg —
no reason at all why a
gentler driving style
shouldn’t nudge that
over 60mpg
In keeping with its role as a sensible car that delivers a lot of metal for not a lot of money (the range-starter comes in at 12,900), engine choices are sensible too: 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6-litre. Officially, the 1.2 and 1.4 engines drink unleaded at the rate of 47.9-55.4mpg; the 1.6 TDI turbodiesel sips fuel at a pound-stretching 64.2mpg.

Motorists for whom economy is king should wait until mid-2013, when even more efficient GreenTech models (and an additional diesel engine option) will be arriving in the UK with CO2 emissions as low as 106g/km and returns of up to 70.6mpg on the combined cycle.

As with all Skoda products, the good news is that the mechanicals all come from VW's parts bin. The 1.6 TDI is an able powerplant, generating 103bhp and 184lb ft of torque between 1,500-2,500rpm — sufficient to get it off the line to 62mpg in 10.6 seconds (not quite rapid; but brisk enough!). Top speed is 118mph.

The four-cylinder TDI unit sounds good and the turbo spools up smartly with no lag, pulling nice and clean from low down the rev range. Work it hard and the engine note could have you believing there's more poke under the bonnet than there actually is. In top gear on motorways there's ample reserves in fifth if you need to pull out and pass without dropping down a gear. Economy-wise it should deliver the goods, with official consumption figures for urban, combined and extra-urban respectively 50.4, 64.2, and 76.3mpg.

A week's fairly hard real-world driving on mixed roads returned an average of 58.9mpg — no reason at all why a gentler driving style shouldn't nudge that over the 60mpg line. The 1.6-litre unit is also manly enough for stress-free motorway cruising at the legal limit and makes for pleasant motoring out on the open road. Around town it's equally fluent thanks to the easy-shifting gear change.

More important than how it goes will, for many buyers, be its roominess and versatility. In this sector of the market, five-door hatchbacks are the bodyshapes to have, both from a desirability as well as a practical viewpoint — and the Rapid offers a lot of both.

Swing open a door and you'll find a remarkably large cabin — up front there's ample room in all directions, with best-in-class leg and head room. The comfortable front seats are particularly supportive, their long-distance comfort boosted by decent under-thigh support and non-intrusive bolstering. Driver's will also appreciate the spacious footwell with room for their knees and shins and the comfy left foot rest.

“Swing open a door and
you’ll find a remarkably
large cabin — up front
there’s ample room in all
directions, with best-in-
class leg and head room.
The comfortable front
seats are particularly
supportive with long
distance comfort boosted
by decent under-thigh
support and non-
intrusive bolstering
The Rapid's ergonomics owe more to function than fashion: no jungle-pattern upholstery here or mind-scrambling multi-menus to click through — just refreshingly straightforward dials, controls and switchgear.

And all of it easy to use (as too is the extremely user-friendly 3D SatNav). Fit and finish is good, and chrome detailing to the switchgear keeps it all looking lively.

Storage-wise there's a place for everything so that everything can be in its rightful place (essential for a family motor). A centre front armrest opens for storage although some drivers may find it cramps the traditional style handbrake. If so, no problem — just do as we did and flip it up to its vertical position alongside the seatback.

There's also a glasses holder above the rear-view mirror, easily-accessed netting pockets on the sides of the front seats' backrests and a pouch under the driver's seat for a reflective safety vest — a very good idea now that it's the law (in most European countries) that drivers keep one inside their car. Wine-drinking Rapid owners will also be glad of the extra-long glovebox which stores bottles lengthways. It's cooled, too.

Equipment, on mid-range SE models, includes AirCon, daytime running lights (with deactivation), electric windows (driver's one-shot down), heated and power-adjustable door mirrors, tinted glass, Bluetooth hands-free, trip computer, a Mobile Device Interface, height and reach adjustable four-spoke leather steering wheel, height-adjustable driver's seat, and a set of 15-inch alloy wheels.

Safety kit includes six airbags (front and side airbags provide protection for the torso area; large curtain airbags protect front and rear seat passengers' heads in case of a side impact), height-adjustable front seatbelts, ESP electronic stability control, and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Adults will find the rear cabin no hardship thanks to a backrest set at a comfortable angle and plenty of leg, knee and foot room; a near-six-footer will travel easily behind another near-six-footer sitting up front. Large glass areas keep the rear cabin light and airy and getting in and out is no problem. Two rear headrests and three belts are present — and a third middle rear passenger can also travel easily without complaint.

Behind the rear seatbacks is an impressively large boot (for the record, it's the largest in its class) — 550 litres, accessed though a wide-opening tailgate. And that's with the seats in use; fold down the 60:40 split rear seats (they don't quite go completely flat but the extended load floor is still very usable) and you'll have a 1,490-litre loadbay that's the equal of many estate cars. Additional capacity is available in the storage bin under the boot floor.

“Behind the rear seats
is an impressively
large boot — 550 litres,
accessed though a
wide-opening tailgate
And there are the usual thoughtful Skoda touches, too. For example, bag hooks, storage boxes behind the rear wheel arches, and a fuss-free rigid lift-up rear parcel shelf-cum-luggage cover. The optional reversible boot carpet is another worthwhile feature — flip it over and its wipe-clean rubber finish makes carrying mucky or muddy items a no-worry job.

All passengers will be satisfied with the Rapid's quiet cruising character but will drivers be satisfied with the handling? While there's nothing in the sales literature about any sporting talent, the Rapid is reassuringly composed with decent body control and it feels sure-footed through the bends. The ride is firm — more so than the petrol-engined versions — but not firm enough to upset your passengers.

For motorists looking for an attractively-styled drive with plenty of room for their dependants, enough kit to make life easy and an extra helping of practicality, the Rapid could be just the ticket. All that and 60mpg is enough to make even an accountant smile! — MotorBar

Skoda Rapid SE 1.6 TDI CR | 17,100
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 10.6 seconds | Overall MPG: 58.9mpg
Power: 103bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 114g/km