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Skoda Roomster 1.6 TDI CR Scout

Click to view picture gallery“The term ‘crossover has become
  rather over indulged of late — the new
black, so far as versatility goes, is
cross-market, a genre epitomised by
  Skoda’s Roomster Scout

FIRST in September 2006 there was the Roomster; and now there's the 'new' Roomster. Actually, for 'new' you can read 'facelift'. No doubt the makeover is a success: the new headlamp and grille treatment, combined with the Roomster's distinctive wraparound windscreen with its echoes of a jet cockpit, adds noticeably more road presence.

But the key to the Roomster's appeal is not its looks but, as its name suggests, its room. At 4.2 metres long, it's shorter than a Skoda Fabia estate; but its 2.6-metre wheelbase is 30mm longer than that of the Skoda Octavia. In layman's terms we're talking 'big car practicality' with five-door compact MPV versatility.

And the key to that versatility is the Roomster's Varioflex seating system. Skoda refers to its front cabin space as the 'driving room'; the rear cabin is designated the 'living room'. You can see what they're driving at and it must make the Roomster the cheapest detached property in the country!

The key to the
Roomster’s versatility is
its Varioflex seating
system — Skoda refers
to its front cabin space
as the
driving room
and the rear cabin
is designated the ‘living
Entering the so-called living room is easy thanks to tall, wide-opening doors but first you need to find the door handle… it's neatly incorporated into the trailing edge of the back door's window frame and will, first-time round, confound all but the most observant of your passengers. The windows for the rear doors (as well as the fixed third side window panels) are deep and sit several inches lower on the Roomster's waistline than the front door glazing a styling feature at the heart of the Roomster's distinctive looks.

Once inside, you'll find a row of three seats, all mounted higher than the front pair. A high roofline ensures that despite sitting stadium-style there's still plenty of headroom. The other benefit is panoramic views out both to the front and to the sides. 'Sunset' glass from the B-pillars back provides privacy for those travelling in the 'living room'. The only possible complaint from your 'houseguests' won't be about comfort or space but about the manual wind-up rear windows particularly as the Scout is the flagship of the Roomster range. Actually, it's not much of an issue; more a surprise. If you want rear electric windows they'll cost you an extra £140.

The three individual rear seats each have a reclining backrest and the outer pair slide fore and aft to either increase or decrease legroom or boot space. Unexpectedly, the narrower centre seat is fixed. But it does offer an advantage in so far as if the two outboard seats are both set ahead or behind of the middle seat, then all three have more shoulder room. There's also plenty of room for legs and feet and rear passengers will enjoy stretching out while being ferried around.

The centre rear seat can is easily removed even a child can manage it! and once this I done the two outer seats can be pushed inwards to suit a pair of rear passengers. Left in situ, it can be folded down to create a wide armrest and convenient table with drinks holders. In all, the Varioflex system has over twenty different seat combinations. All three rear seats can be folded to provide a 1,555-litre cargo bay, or completely removed to create an enormous flat loadspace with a volume of 1,780 litres (1,810 if you forgo a spare wheel in favour of a tyre repair kit).

Pub quiz fanatics (as well as Wallace and Gromit) might like to know that 1,810 litres will accommodate either a small flock of sheep or one concrete block from the Hoover Dam just don't take one from the bottom of the pile!

The fixtures and fittings
are of good quality

more John Lewis than
Homebase. The
quality is as good
as any and the overall
feel is of sitting
in a Volkswagen
The Roomster's back-end is undeniably MPV-ish but that's all to the good because it means a square-shaped vertical tailgate. Swing it up and you're faced with a pretty large 450-litre boot (480 without a spare) behind the seats. You'll also find a pair of bag hooks and a 12-volt power socket along with storage cubbies and a flexible plastic load divider that's ideal for keeping fragile items such as bottles of South African red from Tesco safe on the journey home. Handy, too, is a parcel shelf that can be installed at two different heights for a 'double-decker' storage solution.

Those hanging out in the 'driving room' will not be hard done-by either; their seats are comfortable with good back support and light bolstering. Upholstered in a smart cloth fabric, they're also height adjustable; seat belts are also height-adjustable. The fixtures and fittings are of good quality more John Lewis than Homebase and build quality is as good as any. The overall feel is of sitting in a Volkswagen. Chrome highlights enhance the gear lever, inner door handles and air vent surrounds.

The driving position is fine and despite sitting 'low', visibility is fine to the front and sides; and the deep rear screen will be appreciated when reversing especially as reversing sensors are not fitted as standard. Instruments are clear with a bar graph fuel read-out on the driver's information display separating the rev-counter and 160mph speedometer, itself calibrated in useful 10mph increments.

There's also plenty of useful storage areas spread throughout the cabin, and the A/C is efficient, with good distribution thanks to vents set high on the dash. Food and drink have a knack of appearing in family cars whether you want it there or not, so it's good to know that when it does you can at least keep it fresh in the chilled lower glovebox compartment.

Standard kit covers all the essentials and includes manual air conditioning, a radio/CD with 8 speakers and Aux socket, electric front windows (one-shot auto up/down), electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, three-spoke leather steering wheel, height-adjustable driver and passenger seats, 'Scout' body mouldings, floor mats and upholstery, tinted glass (as well as 'Sunset' glass from the B-pillars back), tyre pressure monitor, trip computer, tyre repair kit, aluminium pedal set, LED daylight running lights, fog lights, roof rails, 16-inch alloys and ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) along with front, side and curtain airbags.

The 1.6 unit is
fabulously frugal with
fuel: officially it will
return 60.1mpg
running around.
Our real-life average,
over seven days and
eight nights, worked
out to 57.3mpg
On the move, the four-cylinder 1.6 direct-injection turbodiesel is willing and serves up decent in-gear performance (max toque of 169lb ft is on tap between 1,500 and 2,500rpm) and even with 90bhp it's a relaxing motorway cruiser. Stirring the five-speed manual 'box is agreeable, courtesy of its short-ish throw, and is made nicer by the well-shaped leather gear knob that's a snug fit in your palm.

The 1.6 unit is also fabulously frugal with fuel: officially it will return 60.1mpg running around with 49.6 urban and 68.9mpg extra-urban. At the rate at which fuel costs are rising, this will be a major sales point for buyers. Our real-life average, over seven days and eight nights with our Roomster, worked out to 57.3mpg.

If you're driving to conserve fuel you'll appreciate the 'change now' indicator on the dash that helps you keep the engine in its most efficient rev range. More good news with just 124g/km emissions, there's no road tax in the first year, and only £90 annually thereafter.

Handling is car-like and, despite the tallish body, roll is well controlled and stability excellent. The low-pro tyres wrapped around the 16-inch alloy wheels do more for grip than comfort but the compliant suspension does a fair job of smoothing out the bumps and the Roomster rides better than many rivals.

The meaty rim of the leather-wrapped three-spoke wheel is good to grip, plus decent feedback from the helm contributes to the Roomster's predictable and easy-to-drive character. Braking by discs all round, ventilated at the front is dependable, and there's a long list of electronic safety systems to keep things shipshape, from ABS and ESP to anti-slip regulation traction control and mechanical and hydraulic brake assist.

With prices ranging from £11,260 to £15,380, Skoda's supermini-MPV Roomster will fit a lot of budgets. The fact that alongside the designed-in practicality you also get a rather distinctive-looking vehicle (that's as likely to appeal to kids as much as their parents) as well as car-like handling, and it's clear that the spacious Roomster is an ideal solution to a growing family's transport needs. MotorBar

Skoda Roomster 1.6 TDI CR Scout | £15,160
Maximum speed: 106mph | 0-62mph: 13.3 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 57.3mpg
Power: 90bhp | Torque: 169lb ft | CO2 124g/km