OVER-USED press release phrase number 12: ‘this car really does offer the best of both worlds’.
It’s appeared countless times, trying to convince us that a certain car is both great to drive and also incredibly practical. Which is all well and good, but in most cases it’s stretching the point.
Not so with the Roomster, a mini-MPV which represents represents the new face of Skoda.
But it’s not the face that will get the attention. It is the function over form approach of the rest of the car, a mix of horse and donkey – a honkey, if you like – designed to offer equal enjoyment to both driver and passengers.
It has been an uncompromising approach from start to finish, right from the initial drawings of a cockpit and a house, showing Skoda’s growing confidence and determination to be different.
The result is a fourth product in its line-up, a mini-MPV which pitches Skoda up against rivals ranging from the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra to more flexible models such as the Zafira and Focus C-Max.
Skoda predicts 800 sales this year and 6,000 in 2007, when the full range is in production, with 30% going to fleets. Around 30% of buyers are expected to come from its existing models, especially the Fabia estate, meaning a hefty 70% will be conquest sales.
So what is the Roomster? Put simply, it’s a car of two halves intended to offer a ‘driving room’ and a ‘living room’.
At first glance, it looks familiar, but at the same time so different to anything else on the road. The proud parents at Skoda point to their wider family heritage that means the firm can call on Volkswagen Group technology to develop the new car, while developing ideas and technology that is fed back into the group.
Innovations include the Varioflex seating which provides individually adjustable rear seats which slide and recline but can also be removed.
The middle seat folds down to create an armrest, table and drinks holder, as part of 20 different combinations, which provide up to 1,780 litres of load space.
In the front, the emphasis is on the driver, with equipment including an MP3-compatible stereo, height-adjustable driver’s seat, electric front windows, front and curtain airbags, central locking and body-coloured bumpers in even the base model.
Skoda has decided to drop its Classic, Ambient and Elegance trim levels. Instead it has gone for a more simplistic approach: the new vehicle is available as either Roomster 1, 2, or 3.
Drivers opting for 2 get extras including air conditioning and 3 offers cruise control, fog lights, panoramic sunroof and rear parking sensors.
Engine choices are diesels, ranging from a 1.9 105bhp version to two new 1.4-litre engines, offering 70bhp or 80bhp. There are also two petrols, a 1.4 85bhp and 1.6 105bhp petrol.
A 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol with 70bhp is on the way. A wide range of options include special bike carrying kit, which secures several bikes upright in the rear when the seats are removed.
|Model:||1.8 i-VTEC||2.2 i-CTDi|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||140/6,300||140/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||128/4,300||251/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||127||127|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||42.8||54.3|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||156||138|
|On sale: January||Prices (OTR):||£15,250–£19,800|