Skoda have been busy making use of their momentum in the motoring world by adding new models to fill as many segments of the market as they can.
Short of a sports coupe and a top-end executive SUV, they have been carefully releasing new and, as they would say, clever models to a public that have been eager to get on board.
The latest addition to the Skoda family is the Rapid.
Here we have a mid-size saloon aimed very much at a family looking to carry more stuff without spending too much money to get it.
Have they achieved what they have set out to do?
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past six months, you will have seen just how serious Skoda are about getting these cars on the road. The TV, radio and press have been positively heaving with Rapid advertising – and why not? They have a quality car delivered at a good price ready for a market that is growing ever-conscious of how much it can spend on the new family car.
I spent a week with the 1.2-litre TSI 86bhp petrol version of the Rapid.
Solid. Everything I have come to expect from this brand.
It won’t get too many jealous looks from younger drivers, but that’s hardly the point.
Rapid drivers won’t be all that bothered with image, but they will be happy with a car that looks solid and well proportioned.
This is a practical motor designed to offer serious practicality at a seriously competitive price.
So, while it won’t set the world alight in the looks department, it does have a comfortable interior and affords the occupants a bucket load of safety features and space.
Ah yes, space. What is it about Skoda engineers and squeezing every last millimetre of room out of every car?
The Superb range leads the pack in rear leg room, which gets better with every new model. The CitiGo is Tardis-like in how many fully-grown adults in can accommodate in a very small car.
And the Octavia boasts a boot that would give an airplane hangar a run for its money.
As with all Skoda models, the build quality of the interior is top-class.
I never feel as though a Skoda interior is likely to age badly or deteriorate like some of its competitors will.
The materials are tough and the parts never flimsy. The chrome accents that highlight parts of the cockpit in the Elegance spec model I drove looked as though they will always add a little class to its appearance without fading or cracking.
The leather on the steering wheel felt luxurious and the radio and telephone controls were just where they should be and behaved just as expected.
So, the other bits and pieces in the Elegance spec include upgraded 16″ DIONE alloys, the ‘vintage’ interior, Onyx-Onyx dashboard (or no cost optional Onyx-Beige), a chrome pack that includes upgraded gear stick knob, frame of shift lever, control elements of interior air supply and locking button of hand brake.
For safety and comfort, it includes rear parking sensors, cruise control, climatronic air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, a rear centre armrest, two additional rear loudspeakers and height adjustable driver and passenger seats.
So, there is a lot there to add to the car’s appeal.
And there’s the rub.
For me, for all its practicality, functionality, build quality, safety and comfort, the car just wasn’t at all special. It was just a bit dull.
From a driver’s point of view, I felt the clutch took far too long to get used to and didn’t provide the feedback I would like, and the suspension is not forgiving enough for a car that is clearly geared at families.
At the price point where it enters the market, and because there are so many attractive finance packages available, even from Skoda themselves, I would personally go rummaging around the back of the sofa for the extra few quid required to buy an Octavia.
Put it this way, the Rapid range starts off at €16,515 and the Octavia comes in at €18,590. Not a huge difference in price, and, for my money, the Octavia is a better car AND it’s just been given a very pretty upgrade lifting it out of the ordinary and making it a real eye-turner.
Watch this space for a review of the new Octavia in the coming months.