Driven - Skoda Roomster

Skoda's return to Australia is spearheaded by two models. The funky Roomster blurs the line between small wagon and people mover, whereas the Octavia is a more mainstream model. Reactions to the Roomster were generally positive from people absorbing what the new car was when we had it on test. The styling is quite unusual... It's a different way of expressing the roominess that a high roof small wagon can offer.

To most eyes, it looks like two different sized cars joined in he middle... A thing of beauty, it's not.

It certainly has space inside for six-foot-six people to wear top hats. While that's pretty useless in the front, it does help give a very spacious load carrying area in the rear. The back seat is a 3-piece affair, each folding, sliding and easily removed - though the centre seat is very narrow and only suitable for kids. There are plenty of tie-down hooks, nooks and even two glove boxes - probably sufficient storage places to satisfy anyone.

Performance from the 1.9-litre turbo diesel unit is quite reasonable. It's a bit slow of the mark, but has strong mid-range acceleration, typical of a turbo diesel. The gearchange is easy and clutch remarkably light. An automatic version will be available later. The majority of the mechanical components are shared with other vehicles in the VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda ranges.

The finish is to a high standard, and while there is plenty of hard plastic inside it all seems good quality and there's no doubting the durability - Skoda came out ahead of it's siblings VW and Audi in English quality surveys recently. The light coloured lower sections of the interior trim help give a classy feel and emphasise the spaciousness. Equipment level is high, with power everything, climate control and alloy wheels standard.

Performance drivers won't get excited by the Roomster, but that's not who it's for. Anyone wanting a practical car which is out of the ordinary - and great value for money, would find the little Skoda a valuable companion.

Postscript: Skoda dropped the Roomster after a couple of years trying, and then reintroduced it a couple of years later, to the same less than lukewarm reception from buyers. Not a winner in Australia.

Engine type: 1.9-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 77kW
Torque: 240Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Performance: 0-100km/h 11.5 seconds
Price: $28,800 at time of review
Photos & text - Paul Blank (copyright)