SKODA ROOMSTER REVIEW
Vehicle style: Small five-seat five-door people mover
Price: $22,490 (five-speed manual); $24,790 (seven-speed DSG)
Fuel economy: (listed for both manual and DSG) 5.9 l/100km (on 95RON).
Fuel economy: (tested) 6.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 138g/km
When the Roomster arrived in Australia back in 2007, it was over-priced and powered by a pretty dozey 1.6 litre petrol engine or manual-only turbo-diesel.
Despite its interior practicality, Skoda’s small but growing dealer network was able to find homes for just 235 units in the three years till its 2010 disappearance.
Now, armed with a snappy little 1.2 litre direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine (the diesel has been dropped), equally snappy pricing and some interior and exterior styling tweaks, the Roomster has made a local comeback.
As a drive, and value buy, it is vastly improved.
Quality: While the overall design of the dash and console on the test car was a somewhat sombre black and a little bland, the new Roomster has a higher-quality interior than its predecessor.
There's more soft plastic and appealing tactile surfaces; buyers also have a choice of black or grey interior treatments. Partial leather seats are on the options menu.
Comfort: The Roomster’s front seats are well-shaped and adequately bolstered and there is a surprising amount of head, leg and shoulder-room for a car of this size.
With plenty of seat adjustment and height-and-reach adjustment for the steering wheel, it's easy to dial up the perfect driving position.
Larger-than-usual glass areas mean that all-round driver visibility is as good as anything on the road and better than most. The overall feel of the cabin is one of surprising spaciousness.
And, because of the large rear-side windows, and the rear seats set higher than those in the front, the kids can also easily take in the view.
The centre section of the three-seat arrangement can also be removed which allows the outer two rear seats to be moved inwards for greater shoulder room.
Equipment: The Roomster comes loaded-up with standard features. Buyers can look forward to an eight-speaker MP3 audio system, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connectivity, roof rails, air-con, trip computer and a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel.
Also standard are front-and-rear electric windows, electric exterior mirrors, and remote central-locking. There is also provision for a tow-bar.
Storage: The family friendliness of the Roomster is enhanced by its storage space and cubby holes. There are pockets in the front-and-rear doors, boxes in the side panels of the luggage area, pouches on the front-seat back rests, a centre console with cup holders and a storage box, a split-level two-door glovebox and two rear cubholders and a small table area in the pull-down rear-seat centre arm rest.
Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to the rear. The so-called 'Varioflex' system allows the three sections that make up the second-row rear seats to be removed simply and quickly.
The result is a mini delivery van with a handy 1780litres of cargo space.
On The Road I
Driveability: Despite its diminutive 1.2litre capacity, the Roomster’s turbocharged petrol engine is a little gem.
The way it performs would be a real surprise had we not already sampled it under the bonnets of its Fabia and Yeti siblings and VW Polo and Golf cousins.
The test car was fitted with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission and its mating with the 1.2 litre TSI engine is a delightful combination.
Skoda claims a sprint time to 100km/h of 11 seconds and while it is hardly rubber-burning, overtaking and hills do not trouble the little Czech.
With a combined listed fuel-consumption figure of 5.9 l/100km, you can understand why Skoda Australia decided not to offer a diesel version with the premium pricing it would bring (and even with a work-out, we returned 6.9 l/100km)
The electro-hydraulic steering is nice and neutral and the car points and turns in with surety.
Because there is minimal front-and-rear overhang, the car sits well on the road and there is no hint of pitching and diving.
Refinement: NVH levels and pretty impressive and even on course bitumen surfaces, road-noise intrusion is minimal.
Even though at times you have to get the little engine’s revs up towards the red line, the Roomster’s nicley balanced turbo 'four' does not scream like some similar-sized engines are inclined to do.
Suspension: The Roomster’s underpinnings are carried over from the previous model. The unique platform is a hybrid-ised arrangement that combines the Fabia’s frontal set-up with an Octavia rear.
MacPherson struts with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser handle things and the front while the rear uses what Skoda calls a “compound-like crank-axle" arrangement.
Braking: There are ventilated discs at the front and drums on the rear. With ABS and other electronic aids, in a smallish light car, they are well up to the task and pedal feel is quite good.
ANCAP: Not tested (5-Star Euro NCAP rating)
Safety features: It comes as no surprise that the Roomster has the full suite of safety features. It includes dual-front, side and curtain airbags, three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners for all five seating positions, ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and stability and traction control.
How It Compares | Value For Money:
With a price tag $4500 lower than its far-too-dear predecessor, the 2012 Roomster now makes a compelling value-for-money statement.
Kia Soul - $23,490 (with auto) - The quirky 2.0 litre Soul is surprisingly appealing once you get behind the wheel (and it has a cracking turbo-diesel variant). Well-kitted, and offering good accommodation it's worth a close look. (see Soul reviews)
VW Caddy TDI250 Startline Life - $31,990 (with DSG) - Skoda’s VW cousin, it's considerably more expensive but a good little family wagon, can swallow a good load, and is a nippy urban drive (although boomy and prone to rear jiggle when unladen). (see Caddy reviews)
Renault Kangoo - $24,490 (auto) - Priced the same whether in 78kW/148Nm petrol auto or 63kW/200Nm turbodiesel form. It's really a van, not a wagon, and not as versatile as the wagon-cum-van Roomster. (see Kangoo reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR Verdict | Overall
Two years since we last saw a Roomster in the Skoda model line-up, the quirky little MPV is back. But the previous Roomster had a pretty ordinary 77kW 1.6 litre petrol engine that, with just 153Nm, gasped when asked to work.
The new model, with a 1.2 litre TSI producing the same 77kW but a much more eager 175Nm, is a more capable and appealing little wagon.
That 1.2 TSI is a terrific engine. And, behind it, Skoda's unusual little wagon offers great interior flexibility and practicality - the 'Varioflex' seating, in particular, is really smart.
Wagon, or van? It's both. With a pin-sharp price tag and a terrific fuel-efficient engine, it deserves a second look.
Roomster - 77TSI 5-speed manual - $22,490
Roomster - 77TSI 7-speed DSG - $24,790
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.
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