New Skoda Rapid disappoints from the word go

This reviewing business being the subjective thing it is, you occasionally come across cars which either please you greatly on your initial encounter or, as is often also the case, cars which leave you stone cold right from the get-go.

New Skoda Rapid disappoints from the word go

The ?Skoda Rapid, I’m sad to say, is one of the latter and from the moment I stepped into one, I was aghast that one of my favourite car companies had produced something so uncharacteristically naff. ?Skoda has for years, after all, been making hearty meals from the crumbs off the VW masters’ table.

It has to be admitted, of course, that you could hardly get a better table from which to forage crumbs, but that’s where the Czech outfit has been since it was consumed by the German behemoth. But it has shown an innate ability to be able to mine gems from seemingly spent seams.

That being the case, it was something of a surprise then when the VW Group seemingly imposed the Rapid and the Toledo — both identical — on ?Skoda and Seat respectively. Based on the VW Polo platform, the engineers did a fine job, stretching it to make it more of a small family car rather than a supermini.

They did not, however, imbue the car with anything resembling a decent suspension system and the results were predictably dire.

All very un-?Skoda-like, I thought, all the while harbouring the feeling that this was a car the company was never really that happy about in the first place. They subsequently produced a Sportback five-door hatchback version, but as the original was a saloon masquerading as a hatchback anyway, the point of the thing was certainly lost on me.

The Sport version is a slightly tarted-up version of the Rapid, and looks way better than it actually is. One or two styling tweaks — alloy wheels and a variety of other driver aid accoutrements — have added to the appeal of the car on both a visual and an owner well-being point of view, but the bottom line is that the car is not any great shakes to drive.

Sure, changes to the rear suspension and steering have certainly made the driving experience better but, even though it is still considerably cheaper than nominal rivals such as the Ford Focus and the VW Golf, it is nowhere close to them when it comes to its’ ability to deliver anything close to driver satisfaction.

The 1.4 litre turbodiesel is a very familiar unit from the VW parts bin and, with 90 bhp available, a top speed of 185kph and an 11.7 second 0-100kph capability, as well as claimed consumption of 3.6 l/100km and a claimed emission rate of 94 g/km (fitting into Tax Band A), all look reasonably acceptable figures, but the reality is a car in the ‘wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing’ category.

The Rapid Sport is a well kitted-out car with many creature comforts for the price. Family buyers will be impressed by the interior space, while singles or empty nesters will like the looks and the fit-out.

But, if you’re looking for a really dynamic driving experience, then my advice is to seek it elsewhere. Skoda make very many fantastic cars, but sadly this isn’t one.

COLLEY’S VERDICT

The Cost: From €18,195-€23,825 as tested.

The Engine: Very familiar — and vastly economical — turbodiesel.

The Specification: The Sport version has a lot of added kit you won’t find the competitors boasting about.

The Overall Verdict: Not one of ?Skoda’s finest.

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