Skoda Roomster

We've seen the future of Skoda - and it's set to offer a new dimension in space travel. The Roomster, which wowed the crowds at the Frankfurt Motor Show, is only slightly longer than a Fabia, but it has more room inside than a Superb!

Skoda is adamant the Roomster will see production, and if our first impressions are correct, it will be a success. The looks may polarise opinion, but its minimalist style, space and practicality are bound to impress. And with the excellent engineering and build we expect from Skoda, it's sure to be a hit.

We've seen the future of Skoda - and it's set to offer a new dimension in space travel. The Roomster, which wowed the crowds at the Frankfurt Motor Show, is only slightly longer than a Fabia, but it has more room inside than a Superb!

Auto Express is the first British car magazine to Czech out the newcomer for itself, and can report that it's sure to be a big hit - in more ways than one. We took to the streets of Prague in the car, scheduled to be built in two years' time, to see what it will bring to the market when it arrives in the UK.

At first sight, the Roomster isn't exactly beautiful. It's a curious mixture of odd angles and flat panels, while it's as wide as a BMW 5-Series. But the look is certainly distinctive, and the sweeping front windows and glass tailgate give a bold, hi-tech appearance. But if the exterior is a vision of the future, the inside mixes retro and space age.

The cream plastic seats are shrouded with alloy-effect panels. The dashboard is simple, yet attractive, with four dials mounted in separate pods behind the steering wheel, and a large oblong LCD screen in the centre giving driver information such as mileage, temperature and fault warnings.

In the middle of the facia, a five-inch DVD monitor rises electronically from the centre console, its controls concealed beneath the display when it isn't in use. Families will love the wipe-clean vinyl seats, rubber mats and chunky plastic door panels. But the Roomster really scores with its practicality.

You can only gain access to the rear through a passenger side sliding door. Once in, there's a vast amount of leg-room - even more than in a Mercedes S-Class - while the rear bench sits on runners, so it can be slid forward 8cm to increase the boot space.

Even with the seat in the foremost position, there is plenty of knee-room, while the chairs can be folded into the floor or removed. The front seats also rotate 180 degrees, so passengers can face each other when parked up.

Despite the massive internal dimensions, the Roomster feels nimble and compact from behind the wheel. It has an airy ambience, thanks to two huge sliding glass sunroofs and a strip light. The driving position is high and upright, while the alloy-finish steering wheel is well positioned. Visibility is excellent, and the seats are supportive and comfortable. The Frankfurt show car seen here has a two-pedal semi-automatic gearbox controlled by steering wheel buttons, but this is still being developed.

So from our early impressions, the Roomster has much promise. Its long wheelbase gives a smooth ride, while the wide track and tyres mean handling should be on a par with that of class leaders. When the production version appears in 2006, it's likely to be similar to the concept, but with a wider choice of drivetrains. We'll make sure we give it plenty of space!

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