12 May 2008
The car market in Australia is changing. Skyrocketing fuel prices
are seeing many re-evaluating their needs in cars. Coming down in
size means savings on fuel, or rather an attempt to return to the
levels spent on fuel only a couple of years ago. The problem is
that we are often forced to buy smaller cars with relatively
Thankfully from our point of view, we can call on the
experience of European drivers. Because they have suffered high
fuel prices for decades car designers have been forced to come up
with cars that make a lot of sense. We are currently on Europe on
a series of car launches, and are having to pay a whopping three
dollars a litre for diesel in England.
Many of the latest crop of European cars are what you could
call Ďmini people moversí, vehicles that are small on the
outside but provide a surprising amount of interior room. Some of
them work very well from a point of view of providing good space
for four or five, but are on the boring side in their appearance.
Enter the Skoda Roomster. Designed in the Czech Republic by
Skoda, one of the oldest European marques, the Roomster comes with
far more style than is usual in this market segment. So no longer
do you have to put up with a bland vehicle to gain practicality.
Skoda, which these days is controlled by Volkswagen, but still
has a fair degree of independence, has clever designers who said,
"We wanted to make our Roomster look like an aircraft at the
front and a house at the back."
In a vehicle thatís only 4.2 metres long, Skoda has provided
stretch out space for four big adults. Itís relatively narrow,
so three grownups in the rear will be uncomfortable. But, three
children have room to move. Note that the division of the back
seat into a 40/20/40 per cent arrangement means one of the kids
should be smaller than the others.
The window line is significantly lower at the rear seats than
the front, resulting in huge side windows that let even small
children get an excellent view of the outside world.
The boot is huge and a pair of large suitcases can be carried
with ease. The rear seats can be folded down to further increase
cargo space. They can be folded individually, either in a single
motion, or double folded, as is common in a station wagon. The
seats can also be completely removed without too much of hassle to
give an almost van-like space.
The centre-rear seat can be removed entirely. Having done that,
you can either have a good sized gap between the two rear seats,
or slide them closer together. A further option is to fold down
the backrest of the centre-rear seat to create a small table with
built-in padded armrests and holders for drink containers.
There are numerous interior features such as storage drawers
beneath the front seats and stowage areas for sunglasses, mobile
phones, diaries and suchlike.
Skoda Roomster is powered by either a 1.6-litre petrol engine
or a 1.9-litre turbo-diesel. Our recent road test car was the
turbo-diesel. Performance in the relatively light car is good,
with the surge of torque thatís such a feature of diesels.
Typically the engine used about six to eight litres of diesel
per hundred kilometres on motorways and reasonably level country
roads. This rose to about eight to nine litres per hundred in
suburban driving, but itís unlikely you will see consumption
over 10 litres unless you do a lot of traffic-clogged commuting.
Handling of the Roomster is good, the steering is generally
neutral at normal to higher-than-average cornering speeds. The
added height of the Skoda over that of a conventional hatchback is
noticeable if you push hard, but few, if any, will buy a car like
this to look for sports car performance.
Skoda Roomster has the sort of appearance that will appeal to
quite a few people, though there are many who would simply never
consider its radical looks. We donít have a problem with that.
After all if you try something thatís really original you are
always going to polarise buyers.
Those who can think outside the square should certainly put
this fascinating little car from the Czech Republic somewhere high
on their shopping list. And when you do make a trip down to your
Skoda dealer make a point of giving yourself plenty of time with
the vehicle because there are many features well worth
investigating, particularly in that fascinating interior.
AT A GLANCE
Roomster 1.6-litre five-door hatch - $26,990
Roomster TDI 1.9-litre diesel five-door hatch - $28,990
ABS Brakes: Standard in both models
Air Conditioning: Standard in both models
Automatic Transmission: $2300 option with petrol engine, not
offered with diesel engine
CD Player: Standard in all models
Central Locking: Standard in both models
Cruise Control: Standard in both models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in both models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in both models
Stability Control: Standard in both models
Traction Control: Standard in both models
SPECIFICATIONS (Skoda Roomster TDI 1.9-litre diesel
Capacity: 1.896 litres
Configuration: Transverse, four cylinders in line
Head Design: OHC, two valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 19.0:1
Bore/Stroke: 79.5 x 95.5 mm
Maximum Power: 77 kW @ 4000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 240 Nm @ 1800 rpm
Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Five-speed
Automatic Transmission: Not offered
Final Drive Ratio: 3.158:1
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4205 mm
Wheelbase: 2617 mm
Width: 1684 mm
Height: 1607 mm
Turning Circle: 10.5 metres
Kerb Mass: 1260 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres
Towing Ability: 450kg (1200kg with braked trailer)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson struts, lower triangular links, coil
springs, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension: Compound link crank axle, coil springs, anti-roll
Front Brakes: Ventilated Disc
Rear Brakes: Disc
0-100 km/h Acceleration: 11.5 secs
Standing 400 Metres: 17.8 secs
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Consumption - Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 5.5 L/100km
Three years/unlimited km
Marque Publishing Company