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Skoda has new models to Czech out
Skoda Fabia wagon. Supplied picture

Skoda, one of the minnows of the Australian car industry, has created two new class categories as it continues to build up its model portfolio.

This week, the Czech car maker became the first manufacturer in Australia to offer a small performance wagon. It will be sold alongside the Fabia RS hatch.

It has also re-introduced the Roomster, a vehicle that launched the brand in Australia nearly five years ago. The second coming of the Roomster - a versatile car that looks like a "tall boy" hatch but has the versatility of a small people mover and a van - comes with a much-improved drivetrain, the option of an automatic transmission and a far better-value equation.

Although unrivalled when it comes to flexibility in a car this size, it has the looks only a mother could love. Skoda has also added a wagon variant and the option of a DSG automatic transmission to its compact Fabia hatch, which was previously only available in standard and the higher spec'd Monte Carlo model.

And in a move aimed at attracting younger buyers to the brand, newcomers will be able to individualise their car with options such as different-coloured roofs and alloy wheels.

With the addition of these new models, Skoda now has a competitor in most of the major market segments, with one important exception - the small-car market that accounts for nearly 25 per cent of all new vehicle sales in Australia.

But by this time next year it will be able to offer the Rapid as a small-car contender.

Skoda Australia director Matthew Wiesner said there were also plans to add the Citigo sub-compact hatch next year and to launch a new-generation Octavia range.

The Fabia, which has the potential to become the brand's biggest-selling model, is now available as a hatch or wagon, and - for the first time - with the option of an automatic transmission.

All models except the performance-based RS are powered by the same 77kW 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine used in the 2011 World Car winner, the Volkswagen Polo, and come standard with a five-speed manual. A seven-speed DSG is a $2400 option on all models.

The wagon is 250mm longer than the hatch and has a bigger cargo area than its sibling.

Skoda Roomster. Supplied picture

Both come with a full suite of safety gear, including six airbags, and have a host of standard features that includes Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, an MP3 compatible audio system with eight speakers (an iPod plug is an option), 15-inch alloys and a full-size spare tyre.

But the big news is the addition of the sporty RS hot hatch and performance wagon, which are powered by the twin-charged 132kW 1.4-litre engine matched to a seven-speed DSG transmission - the same engine found in the VW Polo GTi and producing almost the same performance figures.

As with its slightly more expensive cousin, it is only available with a seven-speed DSG transmission delivering power to the front wheels. It is a combination that propels both the hatch and wagon to 100km/h in 7.3sec., which is only about 0.4sec. slower than the lighter Polo.

While the RS models are not overtly sporty looking there are enough pointers - such as the black-mesh front grille and smaller spotlights, a rear spoiler, twin chrome exhaust tips, a unique alloys design and RS badges - to distinguish it from the standard Fabia.

Inside are RS sports seats, RS badging on the steering wheel and RS scuff plates in the door frames.

It also comes with a stiffer suspension and stronger springs to ensure it handles the big dose of extra power (see drive impression story above).

The relaunched Roomster is powered by the same engine as used in the standard Fabia and is available with the same transmission options. Its predecessor was powered by a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine and was only available with a manual transmission.

Skoda has also given it more standard features than its predecessor - which failed to attract much interest first time round - and reduced the price by $4000, bringing the entry cost down to $22,490.

While it is slightly shorter than the Fabia wagon, it has more interior space and comes with Skoda's unique Varioflex seating, which means the rear seat - which can be split into three and moved individually - can be folded, flipped or removed for a range of cargo-carrying options.

ROOMSTER


Manual $22,490
DSG $24,790

FABIA


Hatch manual $18,990
Hatch DSG $21,990
Wagon manual $20,990
Wagon DSG $23,990
Monte Carlo hatch manual $21,990
Monte Carlo hatch DSG $24,290
RS hatch DSG $27,990
RS wagon DSG $29,990