Hailing from Czechoslovakia, Škoda the brand has not had a presence in the Australian market since approximately 1983 but that is all about to change.
A fully owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, Škoda are heading to Oz in late 2007, with two models leading the charge, the quirky Roomster and the Octavia.
The history of the Škoda brand is a long one and harks back to an early success with building bicycles and then motorbikes before finally trying their hand at motor cars in 1905, making Škoda one of the oldest established automotive brands in the world today.
Škoda now sells cars in over 90 countries, with production plants in 7 countries around the world employing more than 27,000 people. The slightly odd looking but no-doubt rather practical Roomster is described by Škoda as the ultimate family car.
The Roomster is the first Škoda car designed and built using the 'module' concept, designed to maximise return on investment, minimise time to market, and boost the vehicle's economic fundamentals.
Proven components from within the Volkswagen Group have been integrated into the Roomster's design. In other words the Volkswagen and Škoda parts-bins have been raided in the creation of the Roomster.
The Roomster shares its front-end with the Škoda Fabia, the rear axle is borrowed from the Škoda Octavia Tour while the rear platform is all Volkswagen Golf and the result is a surprisingly refreshing and practical vehicle.
With the seats out, the Roomster converts to a capacious two-seater offering a huge 1780 litres of cargo volume. The straight side-walls that form the Roomster's distinctive external styling together with the low boot lip height provides the Roomster with the ability to accept bulky, boxy roof-height loads.
Since its international launch last year in Geneva, the Roomster has been critically acclaimed across Europe, including winning Car of the Year in Estonia, Finland and Bulgaria and Family Car of the Year in Sweden and Belgium. Production capacity is currently being ramped up to meet global demand levels.
The Škoda Roomster is only offered in one specification level only and it’s got the basics covered with standard equipment highlights including:
• Remote central locking
• Front and rear power windows
• Electrically adjustable heated rear-vision mirrors
• Climatronic air conditioning system
• Eight-speaker radio/CD/MP3 in-car entertainment system
• Cruise control
• Alloy wheels (6J x 15-inch, with 195/55 tyres)
• Multi-function onboard trip computer
• Leather-bound steering wheel.
The Roomster is available with a choice of two engines including a 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 77kW at 5700rpm and 155Nm at 3500rpm.
This engine features 10.5:1 compression and direct injection technology. Its recommended fuel is 95 RON unleaded. It is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, with an optional six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic is also available.
A diesel engine is also available, being a 1.9-litre turbocharged diesel engine with 19:1 compression and electronically controlled high-pressure direct injection system developing 77kW at 4000rpm and 240Nm at 1800rpm, with more than 200Nm of torque available from 1400rpm to 3600rpm. The diesel engine is only available with a five-speed manual transmission.
On the safety front the Roomster is equipped with standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP), an advanced Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) as well as a Traction Control System (TCS).
If thats not enough to keep you on the straight and narrow then the Roomster also features engine braking control (EBC) which prevents the driven wheels from locking if the accelerator is lifted suddenly, or if the vehicle brakes sharply because a low gear has been selected. Sounds fairly foolproof.
The Roomster's body structure features defined load paths that reduce and control collision forces and channel these into the floor structure, away from occupants, while front, head and side airbags are standard (six, in total).
The EuroNCAP crash-test evaluation awarded the Roomster five stars for occupant protection and four stars for child protection.
The Roomster is even pedestrian friendly, with body construction designed to fulfil today the requirements of stringent pedestrian protection regulations that don't come into force across Europe until 2010.
A deformable bonnet and de-coupled or covered rigid forward structures distinctly reduce the likelihood of serious pedestrian injury.
Not that the average Roomster is likely to see a bush track but Škoda have seen fit to include a standard full-sized spare tyre - not a space saver.
Roomster 1.6 petrol five-speed manual $26,990
Roomster 1.6 petrol six-speed Tiptronic automatic $29,290
Roomster 1.9 TDI diesel five-speed manual $28,990