Skoda Roomster 1.6 2
07 June 2006
Category: Supermini MPV Price: £9920-£14,050
On sale: September Key rival: Nissan Note
Skoda's no joke - hasn't been for years and under Volkswagen's tight reins, the Czech firm's flourished, producing high quality cars at low cost. The firm's inroad to fleet is inevitable, offering a range of capable and competitive cars with enviable RV's, whole-life costs and comparable lease rates.
What modern Skodas do lack is character. We're not asking for a return of the 'characterful' rear-engined soviet cars of yesteryear, but perhaps for something worthy of fleet's heart as well as minds.
Skoda's new offering is a step in the right direction, far from the usual dull-but-worthy offering, its looks polarise and better still, beneath the controversial skin, hides the basis for a fine car.
Available this September the spacious Skoda, dubbed Roomster, is pitched to go head-to-head with Nissan's spacious new Note, Vauxhall's Meriva and a raft of van-erived MPVs, like Renault's Kangoo.
The Roomster is based around a modified Fabia's floorplan with the addition of the bigger brother Octavia's rear suspension. Like the Fabia, it's blessed with a supple and compliant ride that deals well with all types of horrible road surfaces. Despite not being that much fun in the handling department, there's plenty of grip and the optional ESP kept us out of the hedgerows on the damp roads we drove.
The Roomster is available with a wide range of engine, a petrol 70PS 1.2, 85PS 1.4 and 105PS 1.6. Covering the diesel bases will be 70 and 80PS versions of 1.4 and a 105PS 1.9. All come with a 5-speed 'box with the option of a six-speed automatic on the 1.6. We picked the 105PS 1.6 for our drive, which seemed to be a good match, providing just enough performance, which hints that the lesser engines will struggle with the weight. Cost means the 1.6 does without the BIK-friendly FSI direct injection technology.
Inside the Roomster can't fail to impress with class leading quality and refinement on the move. Packaging wise, all the seats can be removed and like the Meriva, the seats slide and can be arranged in a manner to support even the most active of small families.
Closer in size to the van MPVs than supermini MPV's, there's a subtle way in which the Roomster could prove both a hit with families and fleets alike, snobbery. Van derived cars like Renault's Kangoo have their appeal limited by selling an equivalent LCV. Skoda's pledged any forthcoming van version will not make it to these shores, leaving the Roomster untarnished by its working class roots.
In the end, it's a highly likeable supermini MPV with character a-plenty, the costs are of course fine, now all you have to do is decide whether or not you like the looks.