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A little big car that is not reliant on gimmicks

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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Skoda's Rapid squeezes into a gap in the range between the Fabia and Octavia, but it's not a great deal smaller than its big sibling and its boot is huge. It's clear where cost has been taken out of the car but it still appears a quality product.

There's a simple strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear end with tried and trusted Volkswagen Group engines plumbed under the bonnet.

What's a little less predictable is the way this car has been created.

The front end is a modified Polo platform, whereas the rear end comes from the Beetle.

The result is a car which rides firmly and probably won't appeal to enthusiast drivers.

Light steering and excellent all-round visibility make the Rapid an easy car to drive. There really is very little that's at all threatening or intimidating about this Skoda.

The entry-level engine in the range is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol unit that packs 75PS. It'll thrash its way to 60mph in 13.4 seconds.

A more satisfying option can be found in the rather brilliant turbocharged 1.2-litre TSI four units (in 86 and 105PS states of tune) while there's a seven-speed DSG-gearboxed 122PS 1.4-litre TSI at the top of the range that looks a little redundant but which is the only car in the line-up that can crack 10 seconds to 60mph.

Diesel drivers get a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 105PS. So, as you can see, rapidity isn't big on the Rapid's agenda.

The Rapid is an unusually proportioned car. Fairly long and relatively narrow (4.48 metres in length, 1.7 metres in width), it's a hatchback that looks much like a saloon and is also a good deal bigger than you first expect and indeed expect at its price point.

The chassis is shared with the SEAT Toledo which will have its work cut out against the Skoda.

It's not extrovertly styled in any way and this feeling of sparse utility is really rather refreshing in a market rammed with gaudy attention seekers.

The Rapid might seem unremarkable on the face of things but Skoda has in fact built something rather intriguing. It has brought to market a car that doesn't rely on gimmicks in any way.

That presupposes a real maturity from its customers and it would be heartening to see the Czech brand's faith repaid.

The Rapid is a car that can only be bought by the self-assured customer.

It would be the sort of person who doesn't need to hide behind a badge to impress others.

Overall? Well, perhaps we are entering an age of pared back utility.

After all, 2012's coolest car may well have been the Dacia Duster.

The Skoda Rapid isn't that pared back but it will still appeal to the buyer who'll never be deemed a try-hard. We like that.

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