Oddball to look at but strangely satisfying to drive, the Roomster is massively spacious and very reliable family transport.
A mixture of Fabia and Octavia underpinnings, the Roomster was always an odd looking car, but there was method in its madness. The whole idea was actually to have two cars in one – up front, there was a low-roofed traditional hatchback cabin with a reasonably low-slung driving position. Behind, the bodywork bulged out and up and created a rear cabin that was spacious, airy (thanks to massive side windows) and has just about enough space for three-abreast in the rear seats. Like its relative, the Yeti, those seats separately split, fold, tumble and can even be removed altogether. The boot is also massive; 480 litres is really good room for something this compact on the outside. There’s an all-new Roomster coming, but it will be less distinctive to look at (it’s based on the Volkswagen Caddy van) and we suspect that the outgoing model will develop something of a cult following.
Mostly you’ll find Roomsters with either the old 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder engine or, more rarely, the three-cylinder 1.4-litre TDI diesel. The 1.2 is smooth, but really pretty underpowered for a car that’s able to carry people and luggage so easily. An output of 70hp is the best you’re going to get (and lower power versions were available) so make sure you’re not planning any trips on motorways, or up steep hills, before buying one of those.
The 1.4 diesel was a lot better in the performance stakes – not much in the way of power, but it has enough torque to keep the Roomster rolling along. It’s very, very noisy though.
Your best bet then is to track down a more recent Roomster and get one with the brilliant 1.2 TSI petrol turbo engine. This really is the best of both worlds – smooth revving but with enough torque, and good enough fuel economy, that you won’t miss the diesel. It will be a touch more expensive though, as the TSI engine wasn’t introduced until the Roomster got a mid-life facelift in 2010. That year also saw the arrival of the Greenline 1.2-litre TDI diesel with emissions of 109g/km. The ever-popular 105hp 1.6 diesel was also available and there’s the super-rare Scout version that comes with extra body panel protection in case you want to take it off-road. Quite why you would want to is a different matter…
They’re robust and long-lived, and as long as you keep a Roomster properly serviced, it should last just as long as you want it too. Just keep an eye on versions with the optional sunroofs, as the seals can leak and cause rust to start eating at the roof panel.
A 2010-on model with the 1.2 TSI engine is the best Roomster to have, but you can pick up an older one for as little as €3k if it’s cheap transport you’re after.
Skoda Roomster 1.2 TSI 85hp
Engine: 1,197cc four-cylinder petrol
Maximum speed: 170km/h
0-100km/h: 13.2 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5.7 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: *****
• Very spacious
• Quirky styling
• Robust and reliable
• Not many around to choose from
• Quirky styling…
• 1.2 non-turbo engine underpowered
It’ll never be mistaken for an oil-painting, but for all its challenging looks, the Roomster is a spacious, reliable and pleasantly quirky family companion. Snap one up while they’re around.