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Car reviews - Skoda - Roomster - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

Skoda logo15 Oct 2007

By GEORGIA OCONNELL

VOLKSWAGEN’S Czech-based value brand Skoda hopes that its new Roomster’s distinctive and modern design, class-leading packaging, high safety credentials and German engineering will help lure buyers to, as well as change perceptions of, the Eastern European car-maker.

On sale now and priced from $26,990, the Roomster is a tall four-door wagon built in Kvasiny, Czech Republic, on a new front-wheel drive light-car platform that uses the front end of a Volkswagen Polo and the rear axle from the previous-generation Volkswagen Golf.

Although Skoda says the Roomster “defines a completely new market segment” for Australia, it also says a whole range of existing small cars are targets, including the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza, Mazda 3, Holden Astra wagon, Renault Scenic and upcoming Kia Rondo.

In Europe, its more natural competitors are similar in size and concept. They include the Opel/Vauxhall Viva, Ford Fusion, Renault Modus, Fiat Idea, Citroen Berlingo Multispace and Nissan Note.

The Roomster has arrived here in one, highly specified, five-star ENCAP achieving ‘Style’ that includes ESP stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, six airbags, alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control air-conditioning, MP3/CD/radio audio, front centre armrest, remote central locking, power windows, a trip computer, electric heated rear-view mirrors, and a full-sized spare wheel.

It is available with three drivetrain choices.

The 1598cc 1.6-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine produces 77kW of power at 5600rpm and 153Nm of torque from 3800rpm.

In the five-speed manual version, it accelerates to 100km/h in 10.9 seconds on the way to a 184km/h top speed, while the combined average fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions are 7L/100km and 167g/km respectively.

Opt for the six-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox, and the corresponding figures for the 1.6-litre petrol-powered Roomster change for the worst: 12.5s for the 0-100km/h sprint, a 179km/h top speed, and 7.7L/100km and 185g/km for fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Better performance, fuel economy and CO2 emissions are part of the familiar 1896cc 1.9-litre four-cylinder direct-injection intercooled turbo-diesel TDI engine package, since it delivers 77kW at 4000rpm but a healthier 240Nm from just 1800rpm, an 11.5s 100km/h from a standing start time, a 182km/h V-max, 5.3L/100km and 139g/km.

Unfortunately for Skoda, the Czechs have not yet released an automatic Roomster TDI as yet, so a five-speed manual must suffice for now.

As mentioned earlier, the Roomster’s underpinnings are ex-Volkswagen, to “maximise return on investment, minimise time to market, and boost the vehicle’s economic fundamentals” (translated into a lower price to consumers), but also to redirect development funds into creating the unique sheetmetal and interior packaging.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts up front and coil springs in the rear, with four-wheel disc brakes (front: 288mm rear: 232mm) and an electro-hydraulic powered rack and pinion steering system also part of the package.

Betraying its light-car origins, the Roomster is nevertheless an extremely spacious vehicle, measuring a compact 4205mm long, 1684mm wide but a lofty 1607mm tall. By comparison, a Mazda 3’s corresponding dimensions are 4405, 1755 and 1465mm respectively.

Wheelbase length for the Skoda is 2617mm, which is 23mm short of the Mazda but 39mm longer than today’s Golf and 17mm more than the Toyota Corolla’s, with 140mm ground clearance on offer.

The five-seater interior layout has three separate, sliding, reclineable and individually removable rear seats known as ‘VarioFlex’ that can also be configured to achieve a four, three or two seat cabin arrangement, with the outboard ones being able to slide 110mm inboard with the middle one out of the vehicle.

Also, the rear seats are set higher than the front ones, so children can enjoy a better view out – helped out by the deep side window design.

Cargo space is also a big draw card, with 450 to 530 litres available with all rear seats in situ, rising with the 40:20:40 rear seats folded to 1535 litres, and then up to 1780 litres with all of them removed. Aiding this are straight-sided walls and a low loading lip.

Despite the Roomster’s height, it has a competitive aerodynamic drag co-efficiency of 0.33, weights between 1175 and 1260kg according to engine specification, has a 515kg payload and has an unbraked trailer load of 450kg – 1200kg with a braked trailer.

Options are limited to metallic or pearl effect paint, rear parking sensors, satellite navigation system, roof rails, an alarm package, and a glass panoramic roof – which is a single window weighing 13.8kg stretching 1370mm by 96mm. It is a multi-layer design that is accident safety approved, resistant to flying stones, acoustically tested and deflective of 80 per cent of heat radiation.

Something you cannot see is the Roomster’s pedestrian-impact rating, which already meets 2010 regulations. It also scores a four-star child protection rating.

The Roomster’s warranty is three years with unlimited kilometres and 24 hours roadside assist.

Besides value, Skoda believes that safety, Volkswagen group ownership, German technology and high owner satisfaction results in Europe will help sell cars in Australia.

Skoda will see out 2007 with about 400 vehicles, and will judge volume expectations for next year according to consumer reaction.

Mr Wiesner expects that up to 80 per cent of all Skoda sales will be made up of the Octavia, although he believes that the Roomster will probably end up with a more even percentage share of the business.

So far, 10 dealers have been appointed nationally, with a further five on the way, 20 expected by the end of next year and about 30 slated by 2010.

Since its release in Europe in June 2006, the Roomster has won a series of ‘car of the year’ awards in Northern and Eastern Europe. Production capacity has had to be ramped up to meet strong demand.

All things going well in Australia, expect the Roomster Scout to appear sometime later in 2008. Similar in concept to the Subaru Outback or the now-defunct Renault Scenic RX4, it features an SUV-style makeover with more ground clearance and lots of plastic cladding.

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