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When Skoda returned to Australia in 2007 it did so with two models, the mainstream Octavia sedan and a quirky, boxy little city car called the Roomster. While the Octavia has been successful, the Roomster didn’t appeal to local buyers, partly because of its relatively high price and partly because of its awkward looks, and was dropped from the Czech carmaker’s Australian range in 2010.
The past couple of years have seen a marked change in Australian car buying habits with smaller cars growing in popularity so Skoda has decided to give Roomster a second chance. While the styling remains much as before, the price has been cut by over $4000 from the 2007 model.
The 2012 Skoda Roomster sells for $22,490 with five-speed manual and $24,790 with seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. Government and dealer charges need to be added to these prices.
Equipment levels are modest with standard features that include front, side and curtain airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, cruise control, air conditioning, black roof rails, protective side mouldings and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The options list contains a panoramic sun roof $1690), rear parking sensors ($390), climate control air conditioning $390), front fog lights ($340), and leather trim ($1190).
Styling of the Roomster is distinctly different and likely to polarise opinions. But it will gain a tick of approval from those who bemoan the sameness of contemporary cars. We were able to talk with Skoda’s chief designer back in the 2007 and he explained the design philosophy: “We wanted to make our Roomster look like an aircraft at the front and a house at the back.” His logic being that it was possible to produce a vehicle that looked sleek at the front but which also functional.
Despite its compact exterior dimensions (4214 mm long and 1684 mm wide) Roomster provides plenty of interior space. Leg and head room will only provide problems for the tallest of occupants, most contact will between shoulders and elbows.
As always check it out with the broadest of potential testers on your road test before making your final decision – but make sure to check out the options provided by the clever rear seating system first.
The Roomster’s rear seats are raised above the level of the front seats to allow better vision and the rear windows are large, two big plusses for young passengers. Likewise, visibility from the driver’s seat is also very good with the exception of the front side where the A-pillars are bulkier than we prefer.
There are numerous interior features such as storage drawers beneath the front seats and stowage areas for sunglasses, mobile phones, diaries and suchlike. We did try it out with five adults on board for a short trip and they just managed to squeeze in. Certainly not a long distance cruiser – but it’s not intended to be one.
Skoda calls this seating system Varioflex and we’ve seen it previously in the Yeti compact SUV. It offers a number of different seating and cargo variations including the ability to easily remove one or more of the rear seats and gain up to 1780 litres of storage space, effectively turning this versatile little hatch into a light commercial van. Even with all seats in place the maximum boot space is an amazing 530 litres – that’s more than many a family sedan. There are also some useful storage areas within the boot to prevent small items from rolling around.
When carrying four passengers the centre rear seat (it comes with a 40/20/40 split) can be removed allowing the two remaining seats to slide towards the centre of the car and spread the available space. Alternatively the centre rear seatback can be folded down to create a small table with built-in padded armrests and holders for drink containers.
The original Roomster came with the choice of 1.6-litre petrol or 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engines. This time around there’s just one, an all-new turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine with an official fuel consumption reading of just 5.9 litres per hundred kilometres. The previous diesel engine returned 5.5 L/100 km so the decision to not import it does make sense given our relatively low petrol prices.
On the road Skoda Roomster handles surprisingly well for such a tall, boxy vehicle with little body roll at normal cornering speeds. Steering is neutral at normal to higher-than-average cornering speeds. Even at freeway speeds, despite the small engine, it cruises comfortably.
Skoda’s decision to give Roomster a second chance in Australia is much more likely to succeed than before. While the unusual styling will polarise opinions the mini MPV’s functionality and versatility, together with a much better price, could make it a valuable addition to the Czech carmaker’s range.
|77 TSI||1.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$5,800 – 8,910||2012 Skoda Roomster 2012 77 TSI Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data