Cars that look like small vans with windows seem to be a growing trend at the moment.
Not only did the original people carriers like the Renault Espace have very van-like profiles, but manufacturers are now turning out car version of actual van models – such as the Citroen Berlingo Multispace and the Fiat Doblo.
Clearly there’s a market for this type of affordable and ruthlessly practical vehicle. Clearly it is a market perfectly suited to those makers of superb quality but still slightly untrendy vehicles, Skoda.
The amusingly-named Skoda Roomster is Skoda’s answer to this market opportunity.
It’s a hatchback-cum-estate car with the approximate exterior dimensions of a small van – a Citroen Berlingo, for example. On the inside, it’s a modern, comfortable car – at least in the front – with the good quality trim and generous specification we’ve come to expect from Skodas.
I recently spent a few days driving a Skoda Roomster around northern Spain – mostly heavily loaded along mountain roads. I was extremely impressed by the experience. Despite my car only having the 85bhp, 1.4 litre petrol engine, it pulled well and was flexible enough to avoid having to change gears constantly as I negotiated the endless bends and hairpins. The balanced, neutral handling dealt effortlessly with the winding, cambered roads and fuel consumption was good too, at around 48mpg (a mixture of national roads and smaller mountain roads).
The Roomster was also one of the most comfortable cars I have driven in some time. After a couple of day’s driving, I had no aches and pains and (unusually for me) felt no desire for a larger, more spacious car. The cabin feels spacious and all of the controls come easily to hand – it’s definitely a car you can just get into and drive.
The compact size of the Roomster belies its generous interior dimensions. Fold down the rear seats and you have a whopping 1555 litres of space – making the Roomster a capable small van. Indeed, I understand that left-hand drive European markets will soon be getting a proper van version of the Roomster.
In conclusion, I enjoyed my time with the Roomster. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, comfortably and with no fuss. It was easy to drive, I liked the 16-valve petrol engine (although the 1.6 would be more fun) and there was loads of room inside. What more can you ask?