This Ford Focus-sized hatchback is likely to account for 6,000 sales in a full year and the range will expand with next year’s introduction of an SW version which could account for a further 9,000 sales. Rapid joins as Skoda UK sales in October passed the entire registrations for 2011 of 45,000 models and the 46,000 cars sold in the first ten months of this year mean the company has enjoyed a nearly 18pc growth in sales in a market up by just 5pc, and Skoda is on course to pass 50,000 sales in Britain this year.
The most successful year for Skoda is being crowned by the arrival of the five-seater Rapid, which sits between the smaller Fabia and larger Octavia, and which comes with a choice of four petrol and one diesel engine, but a further greener diesel will be added in 2013.
There are eight versions in S, SE and Elegance trim levels from under £13,000 and rising to £17,850 with buyers able to choose from a variety of option packs to include appropriate features to match how they use their cars. It comes with three years servicing and low rate finance as well.
For now there is the choice of the 1.2-litre, three cylinder normally aspirated petrol 75PS unit, the 1.2 TSI 86PS four cylinder turbocharged petrol unit, a 105PS version of the same 1.2 TSI engine, a 1.4 TSI 122PS turbocharged petrol unit and one diesel engine the 1.6-litre TDI 105PS with headline fuel economy of 64.2mpg and the lowest CO2 emissions in the range of 114g/km.
Four of the five engines are mated to five or six speed manual transmissions but for auto lovers the 1.4 TSI 122PS petrol unit is fitted with a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox as standard.
Vicky Magill, Skoda’s UK product manager for Rapid and Octavia ranges said the best selling version will be the 1.6-litre diesel SE variant priced at £17,100 followed by the 1.2-litre 86PS TSI petrol SE, at £14,650.
Vicky Magill said the new Rapid sits in the price sensitive area of the C-segment family car market and it undercuts the new Hyundai i30 and Kia cee’d models which have become more expensive.
It also competes against the base models in the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane ranges but the Rapid importantly offers much more rear seat space and leg-room, is better equipped and offers from 550 to 1490 litres of bootspace. Clean lines inside for Skoda Rapid
She added that the likely buyers could be retiring drivers who are moving out of company cars but still want the space, high equipment levels and performance but with frugal purchase and running costs.
Other users will be families on a budget and anybody who doesn’t wish to spend a lot of money. About 70pc of Rapid buyers are expected to be private individuals paying with their own money.
As a result, Rapid is very keenly priced and attractively specified and offers a very good proposition in this sector, and will be snapped up by taxi operators who value its luggage space as well. Boot rises from 550 to nearly 1500 litres.
We first tested the 86ps 1.2 five-speed Rapid SE at £14,650 which is roomy and comfortable and turns out enough performance to see off the 0-62mph dash in under 12sec and has a maximum 114mph.
Two up it did well on flat roads, struggled a little on hills and we averaged 34.2mpg but its quietness and smoothness with the slick five-speed box means it’s an enjoyable drive nevertheless.
By contrast, the 105ps 1.6 TDI at £17,850 for the Elegance was disappointing, despite Skoda saying they thought it would be the best selling version. In the Elegance version tested it is nearly 25pc dearer than the petrol SE and despite returning 62.4mpg it was not a comfortable drive at all.
The engine was noisier when idling or under acceleration but the major annoyance was its poor hard ride over all but the smoothest road surfaces. For the record it does 0-62mph in 10.6sec and has a 118mph top speed.
You could really save yourself a wedge of cash even if you splashed out on some option packs for the 1.2TSI, and its cheaper to insure than the bigger diesel.
It’s Rapid by name, which dates from the 1930s Skodas, but I would urge you to take your time deciding which of these realistically priced and roomy packaged models you would choose to live with.