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Skoda's brilliant new MPV has lots of room to spare; road test Roomster 21.6 cover story.

Byline: MIKE TORPEY

THE car market is awash with multi-purpose vehicles, but Skoda claims to offer a unique concept in the shape of its new Roomster model.

So far as innovation is concerned, the Czech company can be proud of its latest offering, which is split into separate "rooms" to cater for the differing needs of driver and passengers.

Up front is the Driving Room, where the layout focuses on the driver with an optimum seating position, clear visibility and accessible switches.

Further back is the Living Room, designed to keep passengers safe, entertained and relaxed.

The trick works perfectly on the inside, though not so well on the outer.

That's because the Roomster looks like two separate cars that have been glued together - the front half appears quite elegant and racy, while the rear seems too upright and van-like.

Excuse the shape and this is a car deserving of considerable praise on just about every other count.

Roomster is Skoda's fourth model line and comes with a choice of three petrol and three diesel engines in models badged 1,2 or 3 depending on trim grade.

Prices are from a competitive pounds 9,920 for the 1.2-litre Roomster 1 to pounds 14,050 for the 1.9 TDIPD Roomster 3 diesel, while around the middle of the range is the tested Roomster 21.6-litre petrol version at pounds 11,855.

This model is the most powerful in the line-up, its 16-valve unit producing 105bhp. It's easy and enjoyable to drive, extremely agile given its shape and frugal with it.

There's plenty of punch from low revs for urban conditions and the Roomster never feels stretched on faster roads.

But the best news concerns the interior. The Roomster's wheelbase is longer than the large Octavia model, allowing the designers to provide Tardis-like space.

Key to the packaging is its VarioFlex seating - standard across the range and with 20+ positions - which means the rear seats slide, fold and remove.

A tug on a lever releases the individual chairs and, because they only weigh 16kg, you don't need a crane to lift them out.

Increased rear seat height, together with large side windows, means there's also excellent visibility for passengers and the centre rear seat folds down to reveal a padded table with cup-holders.

Some of the interior plastics look cheap and seem brittle, otherwise the ergonomics are very agreeable, the trendy zigzag pattern seats feeling like they are made to last.

And for stowage, the boot is large with seats in place and cavernous with them out, whilethe near vertical side walls and low edge make loading easy - even up to roof height.

Decent spec is guaranteed - the base grade Roomster 1 has six airbags, ABS, electric front windows, CD player with MP3 connector, reach and rake adjustable steering, immobiliser and adjustable parcel shelf.

ENGINE: 1,598cc, 16-valve petrol.

POWER: 105bhp at 5,700rpm.

PERFORMANCE: 0-62 in 10.9 sees, top speed 114mph

ECONOMY: 30.4mpg Urban, 48.7 Extra Urban, 39.8 Combined.

C02 EMISSIONS: 170g/km.

BIK RATING: 21%.

INSURANCE: Group 5.

PRICE: pounds 11,855 on the road.

WHAT'S HOT: Space, practicality, driving dynamics, value for money.

WHAT'S NOT: Oddball shape, brittle plastics.

RATINGS (OUT OF FIVE)

LOOKS 3

EQUIPMENT 4

RIDE AND HANDLING 4

PERFORMANCE 4

VALUE FOR MONEY 5

CAPTION(S):

SPACIOUS: Roomster split into separate "rooms" for driver and passenger
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 8, 2007
Words:566
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