Already the Skoda has been in our care for four months, but it hasnít notched up as many miles as some of the long-term test cars weíve run in the past. An average of 1,500 or so miles per month is a good 25 per cent down on what we usually rack up, but thatís no reflection on the Rapid, which is as usable as youíd expect a small family hatch to be.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is how perky it is, considering there are just three cylinders and 1.4-litres doing their thing up front. The only other diesel engine offered in the Rapid Spaceback is an excellent 1.6-litre four-pot, and while thatís both aurally smoother and more muscular, the relatively light 1.4 TDI (it tips the scales at 1,154kg) rarely feels short of puff.
Arguably what matters more than outright grunt for everyday driving is the engineís flexibility, and here the three-cylinder powerplant excels. The Rapid will trickle along at 1,000rpm and pull happily, despite the gear change indicator suggesting that a lower ratio is required.
There is one engine-related bugbear though; the sound it produces makes it all too clear that it packs just three cylinders. When cold, the racket emanating from the front of the Skoda is obvious enough from inside the car ñ but itís significantly more raucous on the outside. Even when warm the noise isnít quelled all that much, but once youíre cruising along, even at urban speeds, itís much less intrusive. The engineís flexibility means you donít have to row the Spaceback along on the gears, even though itís got only five of them. It never feels undergeared, but with relatively little torque on tap (the 170lb ft peak is between 1,750rpm and 2,500rpm) an extra cog wouldnít go amiss. The gearchange itself is sweet enough, but this is definitely a car that you see as a workhorse rather than something you savour getting up early for, just to take it out on a B-road thrash, which probably wonít come as much of a surprise.
If the engine and gearbox are a bit of a mixed bag, the suspension offers good news all round. The Skoda copes with corners pretty well and itís good at despatching bumps too, even though it sits on 17-inch wheels with 40-profile tyres. The ride never gets crashy, and when you hit a bump mid-corner you donít get the skittishness that afflicts some budget cars.
Bizarrely, despite the small powerplant, the Skoda is really in its element when cruising at motorway speeds. In these conditions the engine sounds relaxed, and thanks to reasonable refinement levels it never feels as though itís straining. Even at 70mph thereís plenty in reserve without having to drop below fifth, so itís a shame the Rapid isnít notching up more motorway miles. Over the next few months we definitely need to get out more…
Date arrived: 18th July 2016
Mileage to date: 6,139
Fuel consumption: 78.5mpg (combined) 49.7mpg (on test)
The instruments are clear and easy to read, with a configurable central display.
The seats become too hot on the higher of the two available settings.