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Skoda Rapid Elegance 1.6 TDI CR GreenTech driven by Andy Goodwin
Pulling up in our white Rapid near airports, railway stations and shopping centres, I am often worried someone will get in the back and rattle off the details of their preferred destination.
And no, I’m not knocking the Skoda, on the contrary, the merits which would make it such a great taxi are the same ones which have impressed us the most in the past four months.
The first cabbie-friendly feature is the Rapid’s abundance of interior space. Performance magazines often talk about power per pound, to work out the best-value hot hatch – well, the Rapid must have more litres of storage per pound than any other car in the country, and we’ve previously mentioned that its 550-litre boot is bigger than a Mondeo’s – just.
The Rapid also has a long wheelbase – 137 millimetres longer than a Fabia Estate – which equates to excellent rear passenger legroom, while the hatchback roof also offers plenty of rear headroom before sloping gently away. Getting in and out is easy too, with doors designed to open at a right-angle to the car.
Once passengers are seated comfortably, the next consideration top on any taxi driver’s list must be driving comfort and fuel economy.
Well, the cloth seats aren’t the most luxurious on the Diesel Car fleet, being fairly flat and with only basic adjustments, so in our experience you’ll probably want a short break after three hours behind the wheel. They are tough, however, with fabric which should stand up to plenty of abuse and still scrub up well.
On the road, light steering and an easy clutch keep fatigue at bay, while we also like the long-legged five-speed gearbox, which requires a little less stirring than a six-speed diesel. The Rapid’s economy has left us impressed, with 57.5mpg overall so far.
This has come down slightly, but I’m not worried, as I’ve not only been driving the Rapid on shorter journeys lately, I’ve been enjoying a bit more of its performance thanks to the dry weather.
The great thing is, I know if I need to save pennies, I could go out in the Rapid now and return over 70mpg using basic eco-driving techniques, as I often do on long airport runs (not as a cabbie, I might add).
It’s a little early to discuss reliability, but the early signs are good here too. The Rapid just doesn’t feel like a car which is going to go wrong, especially given Skoda’s past reputation for toughness.
This is partly because of the tried and tested engines and gearboxes on offer and also the simple nature of the Rapid, with its basic cabin and simple suspension layout.
It has a three year or 60,000 mile warranty, with a variable service indicator as standard. Our car has given no cause for concern at all, and if I’m being honest, the only time the bonnet has been lifted was to take a picture of the engine.
How about safety? This is something we all take for granted, but sadly, statistics dictate the longer you spend in a car, the more likely it is you’ll be involved in a collision.
The Rapid gets anti-lock brakes and stability control as standard as well as five adjustable-height three-point seat belts with pre-tensioners. In the event of a collision there are front, side and curtain airbags which can deploy, the fuel supply is cut off along with selected electrical circuits, the doors unlock and the interior lights and hazard warning lights are turned on.
These are all worthy selling points, but the Rapid’s coup de gras is value for money. While the £16,150 starting list price of a Rapid S 1.6 TDI isn’t as cheap as chips, the reality seems to be big dealer and internet discounts, so it’s worth shopping around for the best deal.
A 30-second search of one classified cars site revealed pre-registered SE trim cars with less than 100 miles on the clock for under £13k, which is an absolute steal.
|Date arrived:||5th April 2013|
|Mileage to date:||3,610 miles|
|Fuel consumption:||70.6mpg (official combined)
60.1mpg (on test)
The Rapid is one of those cars which grows on you the more you live with it.
Ours has spent most of its life with the rear seats folded down and its boot is simply enormous (1,490 litres). The rear hatchback allows surprisingly tall objects to be squeezed in, and during a recent heatwave, I fitted an outdoor table, six folding chairs, a parasol and a lawnmower in there with some room to spare.
The interior is fashioned with typical Skoda sobriety, but simple and clear white graphics look classy and remain easy to read no matter if it’s bright sunshine or moonlight. Drive with some gusto, however, and the seats fitted in our Elegance model feel rather flat-bottomed and lacking in lateral support.
Economy has suffered recently, but that’s down to the Rapid tackling more miles on country lanes than motorways, so I’ve no doubt the engine is getting more economical with miles.
It’s certainly no slouch, the 1.6-litre TDI feeling impressively flexible and responsive. In corners the Rapid initially feels lethargic, but this is largely down to its slow steering rack, which requires quite big inputs. Steer positively and the Rapid will grip gamely, with only moderate body roll.
It’s a decent car, the Rapid. Our only concern is that it lacks that showroom wow factor, and surfing Skoda forums confirms even some fans of the Czech brand seem quite lukewarm to its understated appeal. It will be up to Rapid owners to extoll its virtues, then.
|Built:||Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic|
|Layout:||5-door hatchback, 5-seats, front-wheel-drive|
|Engine:||1598cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbodiesel with stop-start|
Most trips in the Rapid are spent trying to keep the fuel needle in suspended animation, a task the Skoda is rather good at.
With so many runs from my home in the North West to airports in the South East, it makes sense to save money by sitting in the slow lane, and the results have left me pretty impressed.
A best run to Stansted via the M6 motorway and A14 dual carriageway showed an indicated 71mpg, with just a quarter of a tank of fuel dispatched.
Ours is a GreenTech version, benefitting from low rolling resistance tyres as well as kinetic energy recuperation and stop-start, a package which should net a five to eight per cent economy boost according to Skoda. Its hatchback-masquerading-as-a-saloon shape is also quite slippery, with an aerodynamic value of 0.301.
Hypermiling isn’t all the Rapid is capable of, with the 1.6-litre diesel also proving surprisingly grunty, despite its low mileage. With only 104bhp available, you’d hardly call the engine a firecracker, but its substantial 184lb ft of torque comes on stream at just about 1,500rpm, and with only five forward gears, it seems to spend longer in its power band than most six-speed 1.6-litre diesel models I’ve tested.
Another reason for its unexpected turn of speed is its 1,179kg kerb weight, which makes the Rapid amongst the lightest cars in its class. Despite having a bigger boot than our Editor’s Mondeo long termer, and just a small power deficit, the Rapid is a massive 317kg lighter.
And ah yes, that boot. Measuring 550 litres with the seats up and 1,490 litres with them folded forwards, this space is surely one of the biggest selling points of the car. I’ve filled it with everything from shelving units to snowboards and not once wanted for more room. The only thing I’ve found is that the Rapid is quite a narrow car, so three rear seat passengers will find shoulder room a squeeze.
If I was ordering the car myself, I’d have chosen the £150 Storage pack option, which our car does without. This adds a multimedia holder – essentially a cup holder with a slot for your phone – door waste bin, boot net, seat side nets, boot hooks and wheel arch storage panels.
Simply keeping items securely in the boot, free from lateral forces, is almost worth the outlay on its own. In keeping with Skoda’s ‘Simply Clever’ mantra, there are some neat and practical touches which I’m noticing as I spend longer with the car.
At the Rapid’s press launch, Skoda was keen to show off the ice scraper mounted in the fuel filler door, while the deep glovebox and central armrest with cubby are all proving useful.
But, it’s not all clever. With no built-in satellite navigation (it’s a £550 option on Elegance trim), I use an app on my smartphone to navigate, but the 12V outlet is infuriatingly positioned next to the handbrake, stretching the charger to its maximum length, which spans the cable past the gearlever.
Accessing your phone on the Bluetooth system, as well as viewing the trip computer and car settings, is also not as easy as it should be thanks to an antiquated user interface which relies on a rocker switch for ‘up’ and ‘down’ and single ‘OK’ button under the wiper stalk.
To navigate between main functions you need to press the ‘up’ button for around three seconds, which feels like an age and often results in turning the wipers on in bright sunshine.
Going from viewing my average mpg to redialling the last number I called takes 12 button presses, which is jarring in this modern age of the iPhone.
But as the Rapid settles into the DieselCar fleet, it certainly has some strong selling points. Its engine is proving to be a real winner, which is well-suited to this practical Skoda.
There’s plenty of rear legroom for passengers, and the stonking boot is the most ‘Simply Clever’ part of the whole package.
|Date arrived:||5th April 2013|
|Mileage to date:||2,374 miles|
When the Rapid arrived, I wasn’t totally sure who it was aimed at, but I think I’ve got it now.
As the Octavia grows both in size and cost, the Rapid seems more similar in ethos to the original Octavia released back in 1996.
Like that car, it feels functional, cheap to run and has a huge boot. Our white Elegance model is fitted with smart, easy-to-clean, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and an all-important Bluetooth connection, which makes listening to your music collection while on the move a real boon.
And as this is the GreenTech model, there’s standard brake energy recovery and stop-start technology.
During our first few outings, my driving impressions of the Rapid were mixed. I loved the gearbox and engine, but the ride seemed so firm over bumps.
I was worried Skoda had missed its target audience and taken the Rapid badge a bit too literally. But, that was with just 100 miles under its wheels, and I suspect the springs and dampers needed some time to bed in.
With four digits now on the odometer, there’s a definite improvement in ride quality. One thing that’s undeniable is its staggering economy.
I’ve already driven the 360-mile round trip from my home to Stansted Airport twice and returned between 68 and 71mpg, admittedly driving with frugality at the top of my priority list.
The boot has been called into service too, with trips to buy flat-pack furniture under its belt, so the commodious Rapid is already proving its worth.
|Date arrived:||5th April 2013|
|Mileage to date:||1,029 miles|
|Fuel consumption:||72.4mpg (official combined)
60.7mpg (on test)