ONE of Skoda's strengths is that it boasts a model range that's just a little out of kilter with the mainstream.
Take the Octavia for instance. It's a car that sits somewhere between Volkswagen Group stablemates the Golf and the Passat rather than directly correlating to one or the other.
The Rapid, whether in saloon or estate-ish (Spaceback) form, is similar in many respects, in that it occupies a niche that is pretty much all its own.
In the Skoda range it sits somewhere between the Fabia and the Octavia.
It also scores highly in terms of what might be termed Skoda's secret weapon - oodles of passenger space in the rear.
If you've ever travelled in the back of a Skoda Superb chances are you'll have been struck by its limousine-like proportions. Rear seat passengers enjoy the kind of legroom you'd expect in something like a Mercedes S-Class.
The Rapid offers similar characteristics, albeit scaled-down, in that it boasts class leading rear leg and headroom.
Its practicality is further enhanced with a 415-litre boot, though somewhat bizarrely the longer saloon offers a whopping 515-litre boot due to its lengthy rear overhang.
With the rear seats folded down however the Spaceback offers 1,380 litres of carrying space.
Looks-wise the Spaceback is fairly plain, though not at all unpleasant from a design perspective and although it's a ‘kind of' estate (it has been referred to as a notchback), it looks more like a halfway house between a hatchback and a regular estate.
It could perhaps be termed a budget buy but there's no compromising in terms of quality.
It feels well built, generously equipped and offers a lot of intelligent storage solutions, which include a variable boot floor and a selection of hooks, holders and nets.
This year the Rapid benefits from a modest refresh, which includes a few design modifications, a new 1.0-litre TSI engine for the range and new technology.
Minimal design changes include a slightly altered front apron with new fog lamps and a new chrome strip connecting the headlights.
Other changes include new tinted taillights and new alloy wheel designs.
Self-dimming bi-xenon headlamps and daytime running LED lights are also an option.
The Spaceback offers a decent enough drive, capturing a bit of a sporty supermini feel when it comes to navigating corners nicely and overall I found it fun and engaging.
There are three trim levels available - S, SE Tech and SE Sport. Equipment levels are fairly generous, with the S offering a radio and CD, air conditioning, remote central locking daytime running lights, height and reach adjustable steering wheel and electric front windows.
The SE Tech and SE Sport add Bluetooth connectivity, alloys, parking sensors and DAB radio, while the SE Sport comes with sports seats, a panoramic roof, tinted glass, some leather trim and more besides.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback SE Sport 1.6 TDI
Mechanical: 113bhp, 1,596cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 123mph
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Combined MPG: 67.3
Insurance Group: 17
C02 emissions: 99g/km
Bik rating: 19%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles