Plain Jane

Road test: Škoda Rapid SE 1.6 TDI 105PS DPF

Škoda fulfils a space in the market which others have tried to grab but with the no-nonsense designs plus Volkswagen’s parts bin and quality control, its products stand head-and-shoulders above most other utilitarian competition. Then, just to rub sand into any wounds, it offers the technically excellent (and rather funky) Yeti and marvellous, fun Citigo.

The all-new Rapid sits between Fabia and Octavia and despite looking like there is a boot, it is in fact a useful hatchback. The little booklet reminds us that its name stems back to 1935 (like Škoda’s Superb) but there’s no mention of rear-engined Rapid of the ‘80s, favoured on the rally stages.

Competence abound

Externally, the new Rapid’s shape is clean but a little bland. It has crisp lines, a smart corporate grill and the neat new badge. Look away though and it is hard to remember any distinctive features. Inside is a continuation of the same. It’s sombre with the black-on-black-on-black trim. Despite SE spec and various option packs, there is still a slightly basic feel: no auto wipers, no auto lights, no folding mirrors, electric rear windows not operable from the driver’s seat. Peer closely though and it does have most

of the basics in there. Not only that, it has a remarkable amount of space. The boot is ample (easily extendable with the one third/two thirds split rear seats) and leg room for rear passengers could almost be described as extravagant.

The driving experience echoes the looks, with no surprises but competence abound. The 1.6 diesel is slightly gruff, especially on start-up but is lively-enough. Ride is firm and could do with a little extra suppleness for aggressive speed bumps. The seats are also firm but well-shaped and supportive.

Who will it appeal to? It’s the perfect head-over-heart car but one which is unlikely ever to disappoint. There is an elephant in the room here with the Rapid: the plain finish, the generous space and the good build quality – for all these good reasons, it’s prime material to succeed the omnipresent Octavia on the taxi ranks.

Škoda Rapid SE 1.6 TDI 105PS DPF, tested, starts at £17,100. Rapid range starts at £14,650

Power: 105 PS (4,400 rpm), torque: 250 Nm (1,500-2,500 rpm), emissions: 114g/km CO2 (band C), 0-60 mph: 10.6 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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