Skoda Roomster

It’s all go at Skoda! Once seen as the VW Group’s sensible arm, the Czech firm is rapidly changing its image

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Hats off to Skoda – the Roomster is a clever new supermini-MPV. The looks may not appeal to conservative buyers, but combined with a highly flexible interior, they do result in a spacious cabin. Entry-level models lack pace, though, which means this range-topping 1.9 TDI model is the pick of the bunch. The diesel has ample power, and in Level 2 trim, it costs a reasonable £13,050.

It’s all go at Skoda! Once seen as the VW Group’s sensible arm, the Czech firm is rapidly changing its image – and the Roomster is probably the most innovative car it has produced in its history.

We’re already big fans of the newcomer, even though the two 1.4-litre models we’ve driven so far (in Issues 912 and 913) have lacked power. So is the range-topping 105bhp 1.9-litre TDI version the one to go for? We took the Roomster out on UK roads for the first time to find out.

Before you even turn the key, the new Skoda impresses. And that’s despite the slightly strange looks. The contrasting front and rear ends don’t initially seem quite right, but you soon grow to appre-ciate the car’s chunky stance.

Neat headlights and a pronounced bonnet shape are distinctive depart-ures from the look of previous Skoda models, while the hidden rear door-handles are further evidence that the firm is taking its styling in a radical new direction. The bold looks make more sense when you step inside. Up front, the Roomster feels just a like a normal hatch with excellent visibility, thanks to a wide, wraparound windscreen. Mean­while in the back, those vast side windows do exactly the same – increasing the sense of space for passengers.

Not that the Roomster is short on carrying capacity. Thanks to a healthy dose of flexibility, even six-footers will be happy in the back. All three rear seats slide individually and fold flat. That means owners can accommodate two adults or three children in comfort. There’s plenty of luggage space, too – 450 litres with the seats up and a huge 1,780 litres with them folded.

Van-based people carriers such as the Citroen Berlingo Multispace offer more room inside, but they don’t have the same build quality as the Skoda, which boasts a classy split-layer dashboard and soft-touch plastics. The equip-ment tally is impressive, too, with this mid-range Level 2 model boasting air-conditioning, alloy wheels and curtain airbags as standard.

Our car also had options such as a panoramic glass sunroof – which makes the cabin feel even more spacious and features a clever two-part blind to keep the sun out. Satellite-navigation was included, too – an extra which would add around £1,000 to the Roomster’s basic £13,050 list price.

The Skoda also delivers on the road, with a compliant ride, accurate steering and, despite the tall bodywork, surprisingly little roll when cornering. While it’s not the most fun car to drive, it is composed at all times.

But how does the 1.9 TDI engine shape up? With 105bhp and 240Nm of torque, it’s not very powerful compared to the latest generation of oil-burners, although it’s more than capable of propelling the little Skoda.

There’s plenty of urge even in fifth gear at motorway speeds, and the lusty, torquey power delivery means that overtaking is a straightforward affair. What’s more, it’s also very economical and clean, returning 51.4mpg on the combined cycle and emitting 149g/km of CO2. If we had one criticism, it’s the motor’s refinement – VW-sourced diesels can often sound harsh, and this unit is no different. Yet despite its draw-backs, the 1.9-litre TDI is by far the best engine in the Roomster range.

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