IN the same way that I approach reading a good book, I like to come to a car cold.
I like there to be neither preconceptions nor the opinions of others to cloud my mind before tackling the “real thing”.
In the case of books, it may well be that, for example, before reading the wonderful Don Quixote, which I did recently, a reader might be tempted to ponder the thoughts of the critic Harold Bloom in the preface.
But this was not for me. With Don Quixote I wanted to read exactly what Cervantes wrote, to see what all the fuss was about concerning this deeply humorous classic, without being tainted by someone else’s opinion.
Cars, of course, are at first sight even more inanimate than books — that is until you drive them.
However much you like the look of a car, its character, strengths and weaknesses remain unrevealed until you get behind the wheel.
So I approached this week’s drive, the Skoda Rapid — a new model in the Skoda range — not knowing a thing about the car. I had not read any road tests or reviews. I wanted, like a good book, to come to the Rapid cold.
First of all, I must confess that simply because of the name, I was expecting something rather quick. Call me old-fashioned, as one of my brothers is fond of saying, but if you call a car “Rapid” then you expect there to be some reason for this and you could be forgiven for thinking the car was rather nippy.
The Skoda Rapid, like just about all the new Skodas I have driven over the past few years, is well turned out — but the version I drove was not fast.
This car, a 1.2 TSI 86PS, could reach a top speed of 114mph in the wilds of the state of Montana, where I understand there is no speed limit (though I’m happy to stand corrected on this point). But when I put my foot down, getting from 0 to 62mph took 11.8 seconds.
However, then I realised I was driving a version with a smaller engine offered in the range and all became clear.
This did explain the car’s subdued performance. (Suffice to say, the car’s miles per gallon rating for a petrol-fuelled car is good at 55.4 on the combined cycle.)
Had I been driving the Rapid with a 1.4 TSI or 1.6 TDI engines then my reaction might have been different.
I think the answer to my quizzing the Rapid name is that I would need to drive the quicker versions to “justify” this rather clever moniker in my mind. I hope to report on one of the bigger engine versions of the Rapid at a later date.
I suppose this does all relate to my nagging advice over the years for new car buyers to be sure about getting the right specifications for the model they might choose.
My experience is that the higher the spec, the better the car.
Of course you pay more money but driver satisfaction soars, too. I think this would certainly be the case with the Skoda Rapid.
There is no question that the Rapid has good, clean design lines and from the outside is an attractive hatchback.
Indeed, Skoda says that the Rapid is “the first model to embody Skoda’s new design language, characterised by crisp lines that help to define the clean surfaces”.
No argument there.
The boot space is cavernous so this car could be very much at home as a family hatchback.
The seating — especially for rear-seat passengers — has been thoughtfully achieved.
Options are numerous — and researching this would profit the potential buyer in his or her quest to achieve the spec they wanted.
For example, there is an Amundsen satellite navigation system available as an option on SE models that has integrated maps of Western Europe and a 5in touchscreen that comes with digital radio (DAB).
There are also what Skoda calls “Simply Clever” features: a ticket holder at the A-pillar; a storage compartment under the front seat for a safety vest; a reversible boot floor (either carpet for cases or rubber for wet wellies); and a MDI (mobile device interface), standard on SE and Elegance models, for connection of an MP3 player through a USB.
As with all Skodas — and of course the group ownership and influence of Volkswagen is in evidence here — the interior layout is excellent.
All controls — radio, satnav, etc — are clearly accessible. Stressing Skoda’s green commitment there are also GreenTech versions of the Rapid available.
Skoda Rapid SE
- Engine: 1.2 TSI 86PS
- Transmission: five-speed manual
- Price (on the road): £14,650
- Some of options fitted:
- Steel grey metallic paint: £450
- Driving Pack: £600
- Sat-nav Pack: £550
- 15in temporary steel spare wheel £75
- Total price with options: £17,320
- 0 to 62mph in 118 seconds
- 55.4mpg on the combined cycle
- Amundsen satellite navigation system available as an option on SE models that has integrated maps of Western Europe and a 5in touchscreen that comes with digital radio (DAB).