Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Skoda Rapid is the ideal Golf that's not a Golf

YOU'LL have all seen the ad's simplistic strapline by now. Why buy something like a Golf when you can buy a Golf?

Ironically, it'll become a much tougher question than you'd think when Volkswagen itself launches a Golf that's a bit like a Golf a little later this year. Only it'll be made by Skoda and chances are it'll be cunningly cheaper. We've got the Chinese to thank for the new Rapid - apparently, it's been designed with their booming market in mind - but it means that for the first time the Czechs have got a car that'll compete directly against the Astra, the Focus and the million other mid-sized hatches on sale right now. Oh, and against the Golf, the flagship of sister company VW's range.

Admittedly, it's got a slightly naff name in the finest Skoda tradition, because go-faster yoofs will realise it ain't as rapid as it says on the tin (note to Skoda: get cracking on the vRS version) while older readers might gag a little at the connotations of the godawful Rapid, a rally winning rear-engined oddity you could buy in the bad old days of Skoda being run by resentful communists in the old Eastern Bloc. But then again, Skoda also produces the equally odd-sounding Superb, which really is what it says on't tin, and the Yeti off-roader, which isn't at all abominable but is quite good on mountain terrain.

I haven't driven the Rapid yet - it goes on sale here at the end of the year - and the all important question of prices still hasn't been answered, but the signs are looking good. In fact, the car itself looks good; swipe the Skoda's badges and stick four interlocking rings on the grille and you'd swear it was a new Audi. Say what you like, but it's a fine looking thing.

While everyone else has been fretting about the environment or slimming down its range in reaction to the recession Skoda's been quietly getting on with making cheap, practical cars, which is why they're absolutely everywhere these days. Yes, I know that the Golf is the best-selling car in Europe and it's nice to drive and built like a bunker, but it's priced as though it's been made from unobtainium. The only reason you'd buy one over a Rapid is because you're either going for the Golf GTI (in which case I don't blame you) or because you're a bit sniffy about Skodas. Beneath the skin they're almost identical.

I've no doubt the Rapid will describe the speed it flies out of the company's showrooms but the big question will be whether it can topple my favourite something-like-a-Golf-that's-not-a-Golf.

The Ford Focus.


  1. Good afternoon David. You have missed an important point here. The original Rapid (not 'Rapide', which is an Aston Martin trademark) was a 2-door coupe version of the rear-engined S-series of Skoda saloons.
    Sorry to correct you but I am certain that you do not wish to mislead your readers.
    Best wishes,
    Iain P W Robertson

  2. I stand corrected - the original rear-engined model was, as you rightly point out, the Rapid rather than the Rapide. Happy to clear up any confusion on this one.

  3. Good to hear from Anonymous about the name. Here I was trying to buy a matching "e" letter to fix on my new RAPID.