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Car reviews - Skoda - Roomster - hatch

Launch Story

Skoda logo21 Jun 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

SKODA has given its quirky Roomster mini-MPV another crack at the Australian market – almost two years after the original model was discontinued – and this time is relying exclusively on petrol power in the form of the VW Group 1.2-litre TSI engine and a substantially lower price point.

The small people-mover formed part of the Czech company’s inaugural Australian line-up in October 2007, but the brand went on to sell just 235 units over a three-year period before swinging the axe and deleting it from its line-up in October 2010.

Kicking off at $22,490 plus on-road costs (or an extra $2300 for the optional seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic), the revised Roomster range undercuts the previous starting price by $4500, while bringing a longer list of standard features and claimed improvements to interior quality.

The most obvious rivals for the Roomster are the conceptually similar Kia Soul (from $21,490 plus on-road costs) and passenger versions of light commercial vans like the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life, but the car will also compete on price with big-selling small hatches and front-drive SUVs.

The previous iteration was powered here with the choice of a 1.6-litre petrol engine and 1.9-litre turbo-diesel (the latter a manual-only proposition), but the returning model relies exclusively on the 1.2-litre engine also used in the Fabia and Yeti, plus the Volkswagen Polo and Golf.

As with those models, the four-cylinder turbocharged unit belies its tiny capacity by producing 77kW and 175Nm of torque – available between 1500 and 4100rpm – while consuming a claimed 5.9 litres of 95 RON premium unleaded on the combined cycle with both transmissions.

In comparison, the old 1.6 petrol produced the same 77kW of power but just 153Nm of torque at a much higher (therefore less usable) part of the rev band, and consumed 7.0L/100km of fuel.

The divisive exterior styling of the previous model remains broadly recognisable, however Skoda has given the nose a facelift with a wider front grille and tweaked headlight design that brings claimed improvements to “road presence”.

As before, the Roomster trades on the practicality of its five-seat cabin, with family-friendly large side windows, elevated rear seat row and a variation of the innovative Varioflex seating system used in the Yeti compact SUV.

This system allows all three of the (16kg) rear seats to be completely removed, turning the Roomster into a light commercial van with a load capacity of 1780 litres. Removing just the centre-rear seat also enables the outer pews to move inwards, freeing up passenger shoulder room.

The Roomster is based on a unique front-drive modular platform that uses parts of the previous Octavia and current Fabia, and features MacPherson strut suspension at the front, a “compound link crank axle” set-up from the Fabia at the rear and electro-hydraulic power steering.

At 4214mm long, the Roomster is about the same length as the all-new Fabia wagon (see separate story) 1607mm tall and 1684mm wide, with a relatively long 2608mm wheelbase. Skoda claims 450 litres of cargo space with the rear seats inclined, expanding to 1555L when folded flat.

Standard equipment on the single-variant range includes 15-inch alloy wheels (including a full-size spare), roof rails, air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a trip computer, eight-speaker MP3 sound system (with optional USB connection), cruise control, leather-clad steering wheel and a wide array of storage scattered around the cabin.

Skoda claims the revised cabin features higher quality materials than before, including the introduction of more tactile ‘soft-touch’ surfaces.

Standard safety equipment includes six airbags – dual front, side and curtain – and three-point belts all-round with pretensioners, with the car achieving the maximum five-star rating in the European NCAP safety tests.

Electronic stability control and ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are also standard, while the braking hardware includes front discs and rear drums.

A wide range of extra-cost options are also available, including contrasting black, silver or white roof colours, rear parking sensors, panoramic sunroof, climate-control air-conditioning and partial leather seats.

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