Just before Christmas 1997, daddy Dredge passed from this world to the next, and most years since then, the Dredge clan has marked the occasion by taking a day out on the anniversary to visit the Elan Valley in mid-Wales. It was one of his favourite destinations and the place where his ashes were scattered. So, in December five of us clambered aboard the good ship Spaceback and set off for the wilds of Wales.
Driving along the A44 through Pembridge, Rhayader and on to the mountain road to Aberystwyth, the Elan Valley is a beautiful place at any time of year. It never seems to get busy, so itís the perfect place to enjoy some tranquil driving. Before we set off though, I wasnít sure if the Rapid was the right car for the job. There was talk of one of the more spacious and powerful family cars being pressed into service instead, either a Kia Sportage or Audi A4. We neednít have worried though, because despite the Skodaís compact dimensions, there was enough space for the five of us. It helped that there was only one six-footer amongst us, but the Rapidís cabin proved more commodious than any of us had expected.
This was the first time that Iíd sat in the back of the Skoda for any length of time; I was driven for the whole 250-mile round trip, and itís interesting how different the perspective is from the back seat. The glass roof really came into its own, allowing a fabulous view of the red kites that dominate the skyline around Rhayader. Whatís not so good is the ride. In the front seats youíre between the axles; move back a row and youíre almost directly over the rear axle line. Whereas the carís ride doesnít appear crashy when driving, in row two, things arenít quite so comfortable.
I was also unsure as to how the 1.4-litre engine would cope. Since the car was delivered, we havenít loaded it up all that much, so the engine has had a relatively easy time. But even with everyone aboard ñ and the carís mass increased by an estimated 400 kilos (or 35 per cent), the Skoda didnít grumble. It was still happy to negotiate the hills without having to be rowed along on the gears. Cruising at 60mph in fifth, the ambient noise levels were plenty low enough for us to talk to each other and take in the majesty of Greg Lake belting out I believe in Father Christmas, along with an array of other festive tracks. So, respect is definitely due to the Rapid and its abilities, but I still wouldnít necessarily put one on my Christmas list from Santa. Make of that what you will.
Date arrived: 18th July 2016
Mileage to date: 1,581
Fuel consumption: 78.5 (combined) 48.5mpg (on test)
The roof doesn’t open, but provides a great view outside, especially from the back.
In the winter, all cars get grubby, but the Rapid seems impossible to keep clean.