Is it a classic? Škoda Roomster

Is it a classic? Škoda Roomster

Even under German ownership, Škoda always felt like Volkswagen’s slightly eccentric Czech cousin. The range included dull but worthy vehicles – the kind of things driven by non-car people – but there was always an oddball or two. The likes of the Felicia Fun, Fabia vRS diesel and Yeti must have been conceived over a liquid lunch of Pilsner and debauchery. In 2006, Škoda unveiled the Joyster concept, which always sounded like something you’d find in an Ann Summers catalogue. Allegedly.

This was also the year in which Škoda launched the Roomster, itself based on a 2003 concept of the same name. Back then, the Škoda range was still relatively small; buyers could select from the Mk1 Fabia, Mk2 Octavia and Mk1 Superb. Making room for the Roomster made sense; five-seat compact MPVs were still the vehicles of choice for many school run mums and dads in search of practicality and convenience. It’s just that Škoda, like the rest of the automotive world, failed to predict the birth of a new breed of crossovers, kickstarted by the imminent arrival of the Nissan Qashqai. Still want that Almera?

In fairness to Škoda, it had a ready-made Qashqai alternative in the form of the Yeti, unveiled as a concept at the 2005 Geneva motor show. Four years later, the Yeti was back in Geneva, this time in production form, which left the Roomster looking less like an eccentric uncle and more like a drab aunt. It soldiered on regardless, with the faux SUV Scout variant arriving in 2007, followed by a facelift in 2010. Plans for a Mk2 Roomster based on the Volkswagen Caddy were axed, with Škoda CEO Bernhard Maier telling Auto Express: ‘As part of our Strategy 2025 we are looking at the segments we are in and the ones that are interesting for us in the future. In the last year we sold 16,600 units and we looked at the projection of what could be positive and the capacities we have to develop, produce and sell a car. Then we decided to focus on the segments which will drive our future. So we decided to skip the Roomster.’ Škoda sold 2000 units in the UK in 2015, the last year of sales, so there was still a small but loyal legion of fans unwilling to skip the Roomster.

Škoda made no attempt to hide the fact that the Roomster looked like two cars in one, stopping just short of labelling it a ‘cut-and-shut.’ Calling the front the ‘Driving Room’ and the back the ‘Living Room’ was a move straight out of the Big Book of Estate Agency Nonsense; it’s a wonder Škoda didn’t call the Roomster the DesRes-ter.

“Opening one of the front doors to the entrance vestibule reveals a well-appointed cabin lavished with Germanic quality fixtures and fittings, plus a myriad of storage solutions. Unlike more lofty properties on the market, the lowered seating arrangement delivers a more pleasurable driving experience. Leaving the ‘Driving Room,’ we enter the ‘Living Room’ via one of the large back doors, each one benefiting from extensive glazing to allow light to flood the spacious living area. The VarioFlex raised seating has over 20 different seat combinations; slide the outer chairs forwards or backwards and turn the middle seat into an additional armrest or table.

Remove them altogether to increase the living accommodation from 480 litres to 1810 litres. The ‘Living Room’ can also be accessed by a large back door, which opens to create a veranda-style rear porch. Would suit a cyclist or other outdoor leisure enthusiast. Viewing is highly recommended as the Roomster offers a unique proposition at a price commonly associated with more bijou properties. No chain.”

The Škoda Roomster is the steak and kidney pie in a world of haute cuisine. Straightforward, honest, good value and fulfilling. The passengers travelling in the back aren’t made to feel like they’re sitting in the cheap seats, especially with the middle perch removed. Look at the size of the rear side windows, which are perfect for playing I-Spy or Pub Cricket. Now look at the size of the rear windows in the Toyota C-HR – it’s like forcing your kids to watch television through the letterbox. Progress, what progress?

Today’s Škoda range is arguably the best it has ever been. People who know about these things will tell you that the Enyaq iV is one of the best electric cars you can buy, while the three conventional SUVs rival the leaders in their respective classes. The Skoda Superb remains a superb alternative to an Audi, while the Octavia offers greater value for money than the Volkswagen Golf. Oh, and the Fabia Estate remains one of the most under-rated cars of the modern age. Yet despite all of this, the Skoda range is missing an oddball or two. Where’s the crazy yellow pickup, the madcap diesel hot hatch, the automotive des res or the compact SUV with an abominable name? If location, location, location really matters, I’d like to escape to the country in a Roomster Scout. You can keep the mystery house, Ginny.

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