In the trade this car is known as the Rooster because of its frustrating ability to sit for long periods of time on Skoda dealers’ stock lists. One look will tell you why it’s not the most popular machine out there. This is a distinctly strange-looking piece of equipment, a normal enough car from the B-pillar forward and an apparently unrelated van-based product behind. But get over its appearance and spend some time getting to know it and you’ll soon realise why it looks that way. For once, in a market dominated by looks that flatter only to deceive, here’s a genuine triumph of substance over style.
Six engine specifications are available, split equally between petrol and diesel, but as the most powerful has just 104bhp, you’re not going to be tearing up the town whichever Roomster you choose. Oddly enough, the most powerful petrol model uses less fuel than the least, despite having a 0-62mph time almost five seconds quicker. In this case we’d suggest a 1.2 TSI petrol motor over its diesel equivalent unless you’re likely to be covering very high mileages.
Whichever you choose, you’re more likely to be impressed by its handling than its performance. There’s nothing particularly clever under the skin of the Fabia-based Roomster, but Skoda has provided a car with reasonable ride quality and unexpectedly engaging handling. It’s no racing car, but it turns into each corner accurately and responds with eagerness to the driver’s commands.
Wonder why the Roomster looks so odd? If the name doesn’t give the game away, one look through those high rear doors undoubtedly will. The Roomster provides perhaps the best rear seating of any small car, with acres of headroom despite a high seating position that provides a grandstand view. It’s a five-seater; the two outer rear seats both slide and recline, and the centre seat folds down to form a handy armrest when not in use. The seats also tumble forward or, if you really want the full van effect, can be removed entirely to provide a greater load area than is found in any Volvo estate on sale.
Life is less good for those up front. The driving environment is fundamentally sound but the dash is spartan and dreary to look at.
What to look out for when buying a used Skoda Roomster
Skoda owners are mostly a happy bunch — they consistently rate their cars well in customer satisfaction and reliability surveys, and praise the service from Skoda dealerships. Skoda has been in the top 10 in the UK JD Power survey for the past 19 years, coming second in 2012, and taking three of the top four places in the 2012 Auto Express Driver Power survey (with the Yeti, Superb and Octavia).
The Roomster has suffered some of the problems that have afflicted models across the Volkswagen Group, however, including issues with the DSG software, excessive oil consumption from the TSI engines and power steering failure. Owners have also reported suspension knocking, cutting-out of the 1.4 TDI, and some general build defects such as leaking windows, electrical failures, loose trim and cabin rattles. However, most appear to be pleased, if not overwhelmed, by their cars’ performance.
The one to buy
Skoda Roomster 1.2 TSI SE Plus (105PS)
- 1197cc, 4 cylinders
- 104bhp @ 5000rpm
- 129 lb ft@ 1500rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 10.9sec
- Top speed:
- Road tax band:
- L 4214mm, W 1684mm, H 1607mm
Or buy used for similar money
- Skoda Yeti (Check Skoda Yeti used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Ford C-Max (Check Ford C-Max used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Citroën C4 Grand Picasso (Check Citroën C4 Grand Picasso used car prices on driving.co.uk)