Model/Engine size: 1.4 TDI 80bhp 5dr
Fuel economy combined: 55.4 mpg
So what exactly is a Skoda Roomster? The side profile looks like the front end of a car and the back end of a van have been welded together. And with the doors and windows being at different heights front and back, it doesn’t even look as though it has been welded together particularly well.
But this is exactly the idea behind the Skoda, and the form translates into functionality. Yes, the rear end has the practicality of a van-derived vehicle such as a Citroen Berlingo or a Renault Kangoo. However the Roomster definitely drives with all of the very un-van-like flair of the Fabia.
It even comes with a wide choice of engines. There are three petrol options, a 1.2, 1.4 or 1.6, a 3 cylinder 1.4 litre diesel in two power outputs, or a 4 cylinder 1.9 diesel. As is often the case these days, the diesels offer more torque and better economy and emission figures, therefore these represent the best options to most people.
A close look at the Roomster’s fuel economy and emissions figures make interesting reading.
Both the 3 cylinder 1.4TDI 70bhp and the 105bhp 1.9TDI have identical statistics, with 53.3mpg and 139g/km CO2. But the most economical variant is the higher powered 80bhp version of the 1.4TDI engine, which manages 55.4mpg and 135g/km CO2. Although the 1.9TDI has a higher top speed (113mph), it’s around £2000 more than the 1.4TDI 70bhp model.
So the Roomster doesn’t really compete with the larger MPVs that can carry lots of children and their associated ancillary equipment. So it’s a small MPV – but it’s not van-like to drive. So it competes most closely with the likes of the Renault Scenic mini-MPV, however it’s still in a fairly lonely niche. Because of this it finds it difficult to win ‘best in class’ awards because it’s not in a mainstream category.
But that doesn’t mean you should overlook it. It’s actually a practical alternative if you want a small car with extra space and reasonable economy.
And on closer inspection, you start to see the method behind the Skoda designers’ apparent madness. The rear seats are higher than those at the front. This gives the rear seat passengers a better view and an improved feeling of space. The rear doors are higher because of this to give better access, and the rear side windows are higher and deeper to provide a better view of the world outside. Apart from a soundproofed compartment with video games, what could be better for a rear seating area full of kids?
As is common with such MPVs, the designers are also under pressure to create innovative flexible arrangements for the rear seats.
There are two full size seats in the rear, with a slimmer one in between that can also convert to a central armrest. This ‘Varioflex’ arrangement means that all three can be reclined, folded or removed. Just the centre seat can be taken out, and the two outer ones can be moved inward to give more room, and they also slide back and forwards to create more luggage space or legroom. Each seat can be removed completely to give an uninterrupted flat floor. As you would expect with a car of this shape, headroom is good and the boot is big, with straps and dividers designed to keep strange-shaped loads where you put them.
It is a shame that the interior doesn’t reflect the innovative design of the exterior, but VW group products are hardly renowned for their funky interiors. However the quality of the interior materials is good. The Roomster as a whole shares parts with both its Fabia and Octavia stablemates.
Equipment levels improve from the entry level Roomster 1 up to the top spec Roomster 3 which has panoramic roof, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
So it’s a practical car, and as already suggested, it also drives well. Handling and ride is excellent, although the suspension is firm; steering is accurate and a good combination between feeling light in towns and well weighted for country roads; and refinement is good. The 5 speed gearbox shifts well, and build quality and reliability are also Skoda strong points these days.
The combination of MPV versatility and practicality, van-like capacity, car-like road manners, entertaining handling, good levels of refinement and reasonable economy makes the Roomster an attractive if slightly quirky proposition.
There is also the Scout version that looks like an off-roader, but only has front wheel drive, so fuel economy and emissions figures match the standard Roomster models.
Fuel economy extra urban: 62.8 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 46.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 135 g/km
Green rating: VED band C – £115
Weight: 1240 Kg
Company car tax liability (2007): 18%
Price: £12,590 (From £10,045 to £14,210)
Insurance group: 4
Safety: NCAP 5 Star
Max speed: 102 mph
0-60mph: 14.7 seconds