BEING sensible and being clever isn’t necessarily the same thing, as ably demonstrated by the Skoda Roomster. The sensible solution to creating a car flexible and spacious enough to cope with all manner of family life would be to create a great big box. But the Roomster has other ideas.
Introduced in 2007, the Roomster is a car with a split personality. At the front, it has the looks and proportions of the Fabia supermini – very car-like in other words. Yet at the back there is a spacious estate-like rear that makes the most of the car’s footprint to give you as much space as possible. It’s so smart, you have to wonder why it hasn’t been thought of before.
So from the outside the Roomster is unquestionably an unusual-looking car, but by modern standards it’s not over the top. The front end has the Skoda family grille and the big bold headlights to give it an appealing expression, and, while the rear is more practically-minded, it has a chunky solidity to it. It also can’t hide the fact that the rear is going to be very spacious.
Slide into the driver’s seat, which is a cinch thanks to the big doors, and the view out is superb thanks to the big windscreen and the slightly raised driving position. The cabin layout is exactly what you want from a car of this nature; simple to understand and operate, and finished in sturdy materials.
It feels built to last, and although it’s not brimming with luxuries, it has all the things you need as standard, such as air conditioning, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof, but the Roomster’s ace in the hole is in the back. Climb into the rear seats through those giant side doors and you sit higher than in the front – even the kids get a better view out the front as a result. There are three individual seats in the rear too, which slide forwards and backwards to adjust the amount of legroom and boot space. The middle seat can also fold forward to create a table, or be removed altogether. Then the outer seats can slide sideways or be taken out too to give a huge van-like boot; 1,780 litres in total.
And don’t think that all this MPV-like practicality means it handles like a bus either. The Roomster’s underpinnings are most definitely car-derived which is good news. The modern 1.6-litre diesel unit offers a useful blend of performance and economy, with sufficient torque to keep up with traffic even when loaded-up. On the flip side, CO2 emissions of just 124g/km and the potential for over 60mpg is welcome.
The driving experience is nicely biased towards keeping the car’s occupants comfortable and relaxed. The steering is accurate, making it easy to place the car on the road as well as slotting into parking spaces. Likewise the suspension does a respectable job of filtering out road imperfections, and although it won’t trouble a hot hatch through the bends, neither does it feel like it’s going to fall over should you start to hurry it through a series of corners.
As if that wasn’t enough of a good case, the Roomster is also something of a bargain. The basic version starts at a measly £11,790, while the cheapest version with the perky 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine is just another £700. There’s even the Scout version which has a raised ride height and body cladding for a 4x4 look.
Practical, sensible and yet quirky at the same time, the Roomster manages to cover a lot of bases with a great deal of charm.
CAR Skoda Roomster 1.6 TDI CR SE
ENGINE 1.6-litre diesel, 90bhp, 169lb.ft of torque
Performance Top speed 106mph, 0-62mph in 13.3 secs