Review of the new Skoda Roomster TDI Range

ROOM RAIDER

SKODA ROOMSTER TDI RANGE

star rating 7.5 out of 10 (7.5 out of 10)

REVIEW DATE: 2007-05-09 12:07:00.0

It's hard to know exactly where the Skoda Roomster fits. It's impossible to deny that it's a very smart piece of design though, and the diesel version looks especially attractive. Andy Enright strokes some chin

Skoda Roomster

SKODA ROOMSTER TDI RANGE NEW CAR REVIEW

It must be genuinely tough to come up with an all-new niche product - at least one that will sell. Skoda thinks it's cracked it with the Roomster, a utility MPV-style vehicle that doesn't cost the earth. I know what you're thinking - isn't every manufacturer leaping on the MPV bandwagon? Not like this. The Roomster offers the practicality and no nonsense nature of a van-based MPV with the refinement and ride of a car. That's the party line at least. Here we take a look at the three diesel engines that Skoda offers.

Perhaps three is stretching things a bit. It's really two with trimmings. There's a 1.4-litre TDI unit with three cylinders that's offered in either 70bhp or 80bhp forms. Unless you're really strapped for cash, it's well worth ignoring the cheaper of these engines and looking instead to either the 80bhp version or the 105bhp 1.9-litre TDI powerplant. Here's why. The Roomster is not a small car. By buying one you clearly have need for lots of space, and utilising all of that room brings with it a concomitant weight penalty. Think about all the gear you could pack into the back of one of these things. The kids aren't getting any lighter and yes, even you should put that Whole Nut bar down and reach for an apple instead. Load up one of these cars and you could easily tack 300kg onto its already hefty 1,345kg weight. That would make your family outing weigh more than the Volvo V70 on the turntable in the dealership you drive past. Therefore, you need an engine with a bit of torque to drive the Roomster uphill.

It boggles the mind to think that Skoda offers the Roomster in a 1.2-litre petrol guise with just 111Nm of torque to call upon - this really isn't very much. Opt for the 1.4-litre TDI diesels and the story is a little happier, the 70bhp version serving up 155Nm and the higher power 80bhp unit good for 195Nm. It's a huge step forward and both units are capable of giving the Roomster something more than a gentle prod forwards. The 1.9-litre engine really is the pick of the bunch with 240Nm to call upon - that's about the same as a 2.5-litre Jaguar X-TYPE.

Economy figures for all of these diesel units are, as you'd expect, very impressive, but again you should factor out a big chunk if you're running the Roomster fully-loaded. For the record, the 80bhp 1.4-litre manages 54.3mpg on the combined cycle. Emissions figures are also decent, the 70bhp emitting 142g/km, the 80bhp 138g/km and the range-topping 1.9-litre chugging out a mere 149g/km. Flat out performance isn't really the Roomster's forte but if you're interested, the 1.9 will get to 60mph in a respectable 11.5 seconds and run on to 113mph. All the engines get a 5-speed gearbox.

"Novelty, practicality and affordability are often mutually exclusive concepts. Skoda says it doesn't have to be that way"

The Roomster offers so much more than your average van-based MPV. Skoda have recognised the strengths of this commercial vehicle derived genre and designed a purpose-built product around them. It's a car of two halves - or 'rooms' as the Skoda PR machine would have us refer to them. The 'Driving Room' is the area occupied by the driver and front passenger and it feels very much like that of a conventional family hatchback. The driving position is comfortable, with a good degree of adjustment and much less upright than in most MPV products. Decent materials have also been used and build quality is strong.

As you progress rearward, you enter the Roomster's 'Living Room' and it's here that the vehicle's van-like silhouette pays dividends. The roofline steps up, allowing the rear seats to be mounted 46mm higher than those in the front: this boosts the space available to passengers. Leg and headroom are both extremely generous and there's a light, airy feel to the space thanks to the large windows. An optional panoramic glass roof increases this effect with Skoda pointing out that children become bored more quickly if they don't have a good view of the scenery.

The rear seating has also been thoughtfully designed. All three sections of the rear bench are individually foldable and removable. They also recline as well as sliding fore and aft so that owners can choose either to maximise passenger legroom or to bump up capacity in the extremely generous boot behind. This boot is accessed through a large tailgate which lifts to reveal a capacity of 450 litres. Then, depending on the position of the rear seats, owners have the option of increasing that cargo space right up to a truly van-like 1,780 litres - which is achieved when all three seats are positioned in the garage at home. All this helps to open up a wide range of potential interior configurations for the Roomster - a real strength when it comes to meeting the varying needs of modern families.

To go with its car-like driving position, the Roomster also delivers impressively car-like handling. Despite the high roofline at the rear, it resists body roll admirably and the general ride quality is far superior to van-based MPV rivals. It stays nice and quiet when you're on the move as well, with only limited wind and road noise finding its way inside.

There's no doubt that, with its composed handling and clever interior, the Roomster is a far more sophisticated proposition than your typical van-based MPV and you'd expect it to be priced accordingly. Pay close attention. Whilst you'd expect to pay just over £11,000 for an entry-level diesel Citroen Berlingo Multispace, that would make the equivalent Roomster cost, what, £12,500? Seems reasonable, but instead of wanting another £1,500 off you, Skoda goes head to head with the Citroen, the Level 1 1.4TDI 70bhp car opening at £11,040. Even the punchier 80bhp model seems good business at £12,470 in Level 2 trim. The best buy still looks to be the 1.9-litre car, priced from £13,070, again in Level 2 guise. All derivatives look well-equipped, however, with air-conditioning, front, curtain and side airbags, body-coloured bumpers and an MP3-compatible CD stereo. The top Roomster Level 3 derivatives really pile it on, adding the panoramic glass roof, parking sensors and cruise control amongst other items. The only other option is the butch Roomster Scout with its raised ride height and 4x4 styling cues but no 4x4 transmission.

Being a cynic is easy when it comes to genuinely innovative products but the Roomster is worth the benefit of the doubt. It pays to do a little homework when shopping for a diesel model but it's worth the effort. There would be room in my garage for a 1.9-litre model.

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RATING OUT OF 10

For ROOMSTER TDI RANGE
OVERALL 7.5 OUT OF 10
Performance star rating 7 out of 10 7
Comfort star rating 8 out of 10 8
Handling star rating 6 out of 10 6
Economy star rating 8 out of 10 8
Space / Versatility star rating 9 out of 10 9
Styling star rating 8 out of 10 8
Equipment star rating 6 out of 10 6
Build star rating 8 out of 10 8
Depreciation star rating 7 out of 10 7
Insurance star rating 8 out of 10 8
Value star rating 8 out of 10 8
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