"Practical, well priced and economical to run, the Skoda Roomster is a sensible choice for growing families."
The Skoda Roomster, Skoda's small people carrier, offers big practically and good economy for an affordable asking price. It's cheap to run in any specification, and while the interior doesn’t have the same kind of flair as the outside, it is still functional, solidly built, spacious and practical. That quirky looking exterior may not be to everybody's taste, but the Roomster is nonetheless a sensible purchase and meets the needs of anyone looking to transport more than your average amount of luggage on a regular basis. What's more, it won't cost you the earth to buy or run.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
None of the models in the Roomster range are expensive to run, but for the lowest costs we’d recommend the 1.2 TDI GreenLine II, which returns 67.3mpg in fuel economy and emits 109g/km of CO2, so road tax is also minimal. However, 1.2-litre TSI petrol also proves to be a similarly inexpensive proposition to run, returning 49.6mpg and emitting of 134g/km of CO2. Surprisingly, the entry-level 1.2-litre 12v is actually the least efficient engine on offer, returning 45.6mpg and emitting 143g/km, which means you’re looking at £125 road tax a year, so unless you’re really strapped for cash, we’d definitely suggest paying a bit more to save in the long term. Insurance on a Roomster will be also be extremely cheap, ranging from insurance groups five to 13.
Interior & comfort
The Roomster has a comfortable ride, with supportive seats all round and lots of head and legroom on offer in the back, with enough space for even taller adults with long limbs to sit comfortably. As you’d expect, there's little in the way of wind and road noise, but the engines can actually be quite loud – especially the diesels, which clatter a lot when accelerating hard.
Practicality & boot space
If there's one area that is the Roomster's trump card, practicality is it. It's easily one of the most spacious cars available within this price. With the rear seats in place you get 450 litres of boot space, which is pretty good. Folding down those rear seats – which is very easy to do thanks to Skoda's clever VarioFlex system using one lever to fold it and another to tumble it – more than triples the capacity, taking it up to an enormous 1,780 litres. Not only that, the rear seats can also be completely removed, while the two outer seats can slide and recline, too, or even be moved closer to the middle to create more space for their passengers. You get two glove compartments and useful wide door pockets as well, while some under-seat storage is also available. And you can even get an optional panoramic glass roof to make the huge space feel even bigger.
Reliability & safety
Lexus may have just pipped it to the post in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but Skoda is still king of the happy owner castle. More to do with Lexus having a particularly good year by raising their game than Skoda losing any of its renowned reliability, Skoda has spent years at the top of the poll. That's why it's a bit surprising to see the Roomster enter the survey for the first time at number 71 in the top 100 cars. It scored well for practicality, but overall it really did underperform compared to its stablemates in all other regards, including reliability and build quality. But remember that this is relative, and the fact it's in the top 100 sets out as a good car, plus Skoda's service network has a deservedly high reputation. The Roomster also scored the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash safety tests, performing particularly well for adult and child occupancy. It comes fitted with six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and ISOFIX child seat anchor points, as standard - although the electronic stability control is a £350 option on entry-level models.
Engines, drive & performance
With two 1.2-litre petrol engines on offer in the Roomster, we’d recommend avoiding the entry-level 69bhp model, because it struggles to keep the Roomster's ample dimensions moving, while the turbocharged 104bhp 1.2-litre performs much better and actually turns out to be cheaper to run as a result. However, the 90bhp 1.6 TDI diesel is most definitely the best choice and the engine we’d go for – it has more mid-range power, which makes it better suited to the Roomster's utilitarian nature. The steering is accurate and responsive, and, overall, the Roomster is very comfortable over long-distances.
Price, value for money & options
Very few cars offer as much as the Roomster for such a small cost, with the low purchase price making it a very attractive proposition. The downside to this is that entry-level models aren’t especially well equipped, but that's excusable for this kind of money. You do get electric front windows, a CD player, a height-adjustable driver's seat and a useful 12v socket in the boot – all fitted as standard in basic S models. Upgrade to an SE model, and you can add alloy wheels, air-conditioning, an alarm and electric mirrors. The top-of-the-range Scout models get 4x4-style body mouldings, roof rails and a leather steering wheel as well. As Skoda's cars and reputation has improved over recent years, you can expect the Roomster to have strong resale value in the used car markets compared to its rivals.