We head to the UK and eschew supercars for a wallet-friendly Skoda Rapid. And no, we’ve not gone mad.[Not a valid template]
Being part of the automotive industry, I occasionally borrow a car from a manufacture to drive when I’m back in my native UK. It’s a perk of the job. My friends all urge me to go crazy – why not spend a week with a Rolls-Royce or a Ferrari? Live the dream!
Well, that would be fun right up until the first fill up. Or until I have to leave it in a supermarket car park. Or park it on the street. You see, the UK is not like the Middle East. Fuel is vastly more expensive. Parking spaces are considerably smaller. And scallywags, of the type that delight in petty vandalism, are sadly more prevalent. Having a large, thirsty, expensive car in the UK can be a liability.
So, on a recent trip back, I tried to figure out what the best car to use for traversing England’s green and pleasant land would be. And this is what I came up with. The Skoda Rapid.
“What?!” I hear from the collective petrolheads out there, “You picked a Skoda?!” Yes I did. And I’ll tell you why. Because it’s comfortable, it’s anonymous, it’s economical and it’s got everything I need for modern UK motoring. When you have to cover several hundred kilometres, you don’t want an Aston Martin – it’ll drink through petrol and filling up a tank would cost at least £100, around five times more than in the UAE. This diesel-powered Rapid covered my entire week’s motoring on a single tank.
Despite its size, it’s also great for long journeys. Cruise control? Yep. Comfortable ride? Uh-huh. Satellite navigation? Oh yeah. And all in a package from the people that brought you Volkswagen, so it’s brilliantly put together. There’s room in the back for two people’s luggage, and space in the back for three. Park it up and no one will even glance at it. It’s perfect for what I need.
Performance isn’t stellar, but it’s not bad. The 104bhp, 1.6-litre diesel engine chugs when you’re used to petrol purrs, but the torque is most welcome. The manual gearbox is snickity and precise, the steering weighty and direct, and the handling not bad. Not sporty, but the front end is keen and a few lift-off oversteer moments around roundabouts were amusing. Until the wife glared at me.
It’s not the best looking car in the world, admittedly. I’m not convinced by the latest austere Skoda face, but it’s hardly ugly. Stick some bigger rims and lowering springs onto it and it would have a decent amount of presence. Sort of.
But look, the Rapid isn’t a car to pose in. It’s a car for getting things done, well and properly. Modern Britain is a difficult place in which to enjoy one’s motoring unless one has a fat wallet, and I do not. Which is why I’m not ashamed when people find out I have a Rapid, not a Rapide. I’m proud. And I’d borrow it again.
|Power:||104bhp @ 4400rpm|
|Torque:||184lb ft @ 1500-2500rpm|
|Transmission:||Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||McPherson strut, coil springs, dampers|
|Rear suspension:||Multilink, coil springs, dampers|