Skoda Roomster Scout

The car equivalent of the gyrations of a balding man with a comb-over

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Would suit: Postman Pat, retired
Price: £14,420
Performance: 113 mph, 0-60 11.5 secs
Combined fuel consumption: 53.3 mpg
Further information: 0845 7745745

The Skoda Roomster: what a great car. I drove it a few months ago and loved it. It was practical, quirky, honest and well built. Yes, ma'am, I'd be happy with one of those. But the new Skoda Roomster Scout? More embarrassing than me dancing.

So how can slightly raised suspension and a few bits of plastic cladding turn a car from niche-busting, clever, functional design, to Richard Madeley on wheels?

If I were, say, design guru and motoring sage Stephen Bayley I would probably natter on here for a few paragraphs about "form trumping function"; say something clever about Le Corbusier's trousers; throw in a quote from Barthes; then hurry off to Terence Conran's house for an expresso and some biscotti. Sadly I am not Stephen Bayley.

If I were Jeremy Clarkson I would stick the Scout next to the G-Wiz on the Cool Wall and then re-enact a scene from Last of the Summer Wine in which Foggy, Compo and the Hamster use illegal immigrants as skittles and a Scout as a bowling ball. But sadly, neither am I Jeremy Clarkson (if I were, I would have won Motoring Correspondent of the Year that time, and not him, and I would be the megastar billionaire with Emmies, Aston Martins and American TV contracts sticking out of every orifice, although thank the Lord I don't dwell on it too much).

But if I can borrow from both these titans of motoring philosophy, I can agree that the Scout undermines the Roomster's admirable function-over-form ethos and, as a result, is about as cool as, well, like I said, a balding, slightly portly, 36-year-old father of two doing salsa to Black Lace's " Agadoo".

The increased ride height does nothing for the already slightly top-heavy handling, making it roll even more when you corner, and the black cladding only adds more weight to a none-too-lithe package. About the only good thing about it is the diesel engine, but you can have that in the common-or-garden, vanilla-flavoured Roomster, so why bother with the disguise?

Why choose a Skoda van with a Jeremy Beadle-type beard made out of cheap, rough, black plastic? Why would you want to pretend your car is an off-roader, when it is no such thing? Something tells me the kind of men who would buy a Scout could also convince themselves that abnormally long strands of ear pubes, if placed with strategic precision over their forehead, count as a full head of hair.

But when I put on a plastic nose, glasses and moustache ensemble, does it make me a Groucho Marx- style comedy king? No. If I were to have a tattoo, would it make me any better in a fight? No, I am already dirty, fast and not afraid to bite and scratch like a girl, and that's all you need; a tattoo isn't going to make me any tougher. The Skoda Scout is the automotive equivalent of a toupee. If I were to don a toupee, would it mean I had hair? No (although, if I thought I could get away with it for one moment, I would).

But do you know the most stupid thing about the Scout? For the same price you can have a perfectly good, top-of-the-range normal Roomster with parking radar and a sunroof. And for an awful lot less you could have a Renault Kangoo.

It's a classic: Lada Niva

It might not look it but the Lada Niva was a pioneer – perhaps the first budget SUV. Launched in 1976, this Russian-built two-door tank arrived in the UK in 1979 and found favour with farmers and slightly smelly, single men who drove up desolate hillsides for fun. Cheap, simple and surprisingly durable for a Soviet-era machine, the Niva remains an endearing proposition, not least because you can still buy them for around £500, and few cars will be as capable in a muddy field. Original Nivas came with four-speed gear boxes and 1.6-litre engines, but as time went on, the model was radically developed with, erm, an extra gear and 100cc more engine capacity. Sadly, at least as UK sales went, the Niva fell victim to badge prejudice and emissions legislation. Lada could not afford to re-engineer the car to meet the anti-pollution regulations and stopped selling it in 1997.

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