Dib dib dib, the Roomster’s gone scouting…
Yep, Skoda’s quirky-looking mini-MPV dons a neckerchief and becomes the Roomster Scout. The ‘transformation’ includes a hike in ride height – the Scout sitting some 43mm higher than the conventional Roomster – more rugged-looking bumpers, wheelarch extensions, roof rails, tinted windows from the B-pillar back, a tyre pressure monitor and exclusive 16-inch alloy wheels. Surprisingly, name badges are limited to a single Scout one on the bootlid.
The Scout badge implies an adventuring, go-anywhere spirit...
That's what the marketing men want you to believe. Truth is, it’ll not get much further off-road than your average supermini - unlike Skoda's Octavia Scout, this one retains front-wheel-driv. Think of it as more of a traffic hump-friendly urban machine than a mini Land Rover. The interior gets a mild makeover, featuring branded floor mats and Scout upholstery, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, plus aluminium pedals. It should win a Scout badge for practicality, as the Roomster’s useful Varioflex seating can be folded or removed completely – turning it into a useful carry-all.
So it’s a van with seats?
No, the Roomster’s based on the same platform as the Fabia and drives decently enough. You’ll be happy to put your kids in it, too, with a reassuring five-star Euro NCAP performance, ESP and side and curtain airbags as standard. The raised ride height makes the suspension a touch more compliant without being too roly-poly through corners. Certainly, it feels more car-like than rivals like Citroen’s Berlingo Multispace/Peugeot Partner and Renault Kangoo. It also features a slicker interior, the neat, simple dashboard shared with its Fabia relative.
Why not just buy a Fabia then?
The Roomster’s far more versatile, even if you pay a bit more for that practicality. The Roomster Scout starts at £12,510 for the 85bhp 1.4-litre version, rising to £14,070 for the 1.9 TDI PD with 105bhp – the same prices as the non-scouting Roomster in ‘3’ spec. A 1.6-litre petrol with 105bhp and a 1.4-litre TDI with 80bhp are also available. The diesels make the most sense, particularly if you’re actually going to use the Roomster’s load-lugging ability, both the 1.4 and 1.9-litre units feeling faster than their 14.7 and 11.5 second 0-62mph times suggest.
Is there anything else I should consider?
The previously mentioned Citroen Berlingo Multispace, Peugeot Partner and Renault Kangoo all do a similar job to the Roomster and are much cheaper. The Citroen/Peugeot duo are arguably a more entertaining drive with their incisive handling and decent feedback. The Renault Modus and Vauxhall Mervia are also worth considering. However, the Skoda feels far more solid than any rival – certainly up to the abuse a young family might give it – and is also the most versatile. Whether you can live with the looks is another matter. The Scout additions hardly help to mask what is already an odd-looking design. But then there's no accounting for taste...
Space oddity, or worth buying?
A bit of both. There’s loads of space in the Roomster and children should love the deep rear glass that gives them a great view out of the back. Sure, it’s an unconventional looker but that’s no bad thing in a marketplace littered with uninspired, bland designs. The Roomster's bold, well built and with that raised suspension and tougher non-painted bumpers can easily take the parking knocks, bad roads and traffic calming that typify urban motoring. We reckon it's worth considering if you’ve got a growing family and are short on parking space, money and need something reliable, practical and decently equipped.