Skoda Rapid 1.6 TDI SE road test

  • Skoda’s boxy hatchback offers first-rate practicality
  • Here we test the car in mid-range 1.6 diesel spec
  • Low running costs and quality feel. Costs £17,100

In the mobile phone world there’s a market for basic, simple phones, the type that just make calls and send text messages. In a way, the Skoda Rapid is the automotive equivalent. If you just want a car, one with inoffensive styling, four doors and a decent boot, then this is the machine for you.

It has a boxy saloon car silhouette but a hatchback tailgate, making access to the huge boot very easy. Skoda is part of the VW Group empire and the Rapid’s interior is composed from a hotchpotch of Volkswagen switchgear and fittings.

It also has a virtually identical (but cheaper) sibling in the SEAT Toledo, another VW-based product. Of the two cars, the Rapid is arguably the better looking. You could never accuse it of being an exciting car to look at, but it’s quite elegant in an understated sort of way with some crisp detailing including a sharp crease line along the car’s flank like a freshly pressed pair of trousers.

If the Skoda Rapid was a pair of trousers it would be a pair of sensible slacks. Everything in the plainly styled interior is where you’d expect to find it, the instruments are clear and easy to read and there’s bags of leg room for both front and rear passengers.

We drove the Rapid with the 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine in mid-range SE spec. This includes a fair bit more standard kit than the entry-level ‘S’ version, but it’s still quite sparsely equipped.

For your £17,100 you get cloth seats, wind-up windows in the back, manual air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and acres of dull grey plastic trim. Trim that feels like it’s been put together really well and will last forever, mind you, but dull nonetheless.

Chances are you will want to spec some optional extras to liven things up, and our test car did carry a few.

It featured the optional Winter Pack, which comprises heated seats and front headlight washers, together with the Sat Nav pack which adds a touchscreen module in the centre of the dashboard and a rather tinny sounding DAB radio function.

On the road, the Rapid is easy to drive and a car you’ll feel at ease with in short order. Ride quality can become a little lumpy at times, on uneven motorway surfaces for example, but if you’re faced with a long journey there are far worse companions to have than a Skoda Rapid.

The 1.6-litre TDI engine with a five-speed manual gearbox is currently the only diesel option available for the Rapid, and although it’s a little gruff sounding when pushed it’s an economical engine.

Claimed average fuel consumption is 64mpg, meaning a theoretical average range of 770 miles. CO2 emissions are 114g/km, meaning low VED road tax rates.

For such a 'sensible shoes' kind of car, there are a few annoying foibles. The small cup holders ahead of the gear lever are a perfect size for fizzy drink cans but less well suited to bottles. Putting a 500ml bottle of water in them, for example, means it fouls the switches just above the cup holders.

There’s no handy cubby box to store loose objects in behind the gear lever and handbrake as there is in many other cars of this size, although some extra interior stowage bins can be specified as part of the Storage Pack, a £150 option.

The sat-nav screen seems to be especially badly affected by glare from sunlight, making it awkward to view on bright days although the handy sunglasses holder (standard on SE-spec cars, but not on the S) is a welcome feature.

Overall the Skoda Rapid is a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin sort of car, and quite likeable for it. If you’re looking for a saloon-shaped hatch with lots of space, low running costs and an understated character it’s perfect. If you’re looking for excitement, though, you’ve come to the wrong place.

The list price for this car is £17,100 without optional extras and the Rapid is available to order now.

For more information about the model range as a whole, take a look at our full Skoda Rapid review here.

Skoda Rapid interior

Cloth seats are firm but comfortable and there’s plenty of room for taller drivers

Skoda Rapid

A coat of optional Denim blue metallic paint jazzed up our test car's exterior a bit

Also consider:

SEAT Toledo

Virtually identical to the Rapid and a little bit cheaper too. Not quite as elegant though, and the Skoda is likely to fare better on the resale value front.

Ford Focus

Better to drive and more interesting than the Rapid, if not as spacious. The 1.6 TDCi Edge version is a good equivalent to the car tested here.

Volkswagen Golf

A quality product that’s hard to ignore. Pricey, though. Try the 1.6 TDI S five-door.