Skoda Yeti 2012: Road Test

words - Tim Britten
Skoda's mid-range Yeti 112TSI is smallish, cleverly packaged, quick, crisp and tidy on the road

Skoda Yeti 112TSI (petrol)
Road Test

Price Guide: (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $35,290
Options fitted: (not included in above price): Privacy glass $250; Coloured roof $390; Satellite navigation $2890; Rear parking sensors $640
Crash rating: Five-star (EuroNCAP)
Fuel: 95 RON PULP
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 8.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 194
Also consider: Kia Sportage (from $26,990); Mazda CX-5 (from $27,880); Nissan X-TRAIL (from $28,490); Volkswagn Tiguan (from $28,490)

Compact, funky and slightly quirky where its Volkswagen Tiguan kissin’ cousin is compact, chunky and bordering on conservative, Skoda’s Yeti poses an interesting question for small SUV buyers: Do you jump onto the bandwagon and join Volkswagen’s inexorable global market push, or do you express your individuality by opting for a brand which, while obviously on the ascendancy, has yet to achieve wide acceptance in Australia?

Certainly if you are choosing between Skoda’s cheeky Yeti and Volkswagen’s super-successful Tiguan, the decision will come from the heart rather than the head.

In terms of pricing, there is little difference between the two.

For example the recently introduced 112TSI DSG Yeti tested here is tagged, before on-road costs, at $35,290 where the closest VW equivalent, the Tiguan 132TSI, is well within sight at $35,990. That would be okay if we were comparing equals but, although both SUVs share a lot of technology, the reality is that, in addition to flaunting a certain social status, the Tiguan is – among other things – a bigger, more substantial car with a larger-capacity, more powerful engine.

So why would you buy a Yeti?

Could it be because of the little Czech’s distinct personality, its sporty road behaviour and the slightly mystic aura enhanced by Skoda’s close connections with international cycling (despite that sport’s currently questionable status), all complemented by slightly higher-than-average versatility?

Take a look at the mid-level 112TSI Yeti that followed, in March 2012, the 77TSI (2WD) and 103TDI (AWD) turbodiesel models that launched the range in late 2011.

Sitting neatly between the front-drive petrol version and the all-wheel drive 103TDI turbodiesel, it brings more punch than the latter, combined with the all-paw drivetrain and a choice of two six-speed transmissions – a regular manual and a self-shifting DSG.

The 1.8-litre direct-injection turbo engine winds out 112kW, along with a decent 250Nm of torque produced from as low as 1200rpm, to take the Yeti from zero to 100km/h in an even nine seconds – 0.6 of a second faster than the Tiguan 132TSI.

In fact it feels punchier than that, maybe because it tends to be a bit less quiet and smooth as it goes about its business than the Tiguan. The Yeti’s six-speed DSG is great for its crispness and efficiency however.

The 112TSI quotes a CO2 figure of 194g/km which, though about ballpark with most of its competitors (except the Skyactive Mazda CX-5), is less impressive than the fuel consumption figure. On test, our 112TSI averaged a pretty decent 7.7L/100km, which bettered the factory combined figure of 8.2L/100km. This was partly offset though by the need for 95 RON premium unleaded fuel.

The 112TSI’s extra zip is commensurate with the Yeti’s overall road behaviour. The steering is very nicely weighted, sharp and responsive, the neat leather-clad wheel twirls from lock to lock in just three turns and the body sits a lot flatter in corners than the already accomplished Tiguan.

Standard 17-inch alloy wheels also contribute to road grip. The overall penalty is a firmer ride, and less propensity to take the occasional trek off the beaten track. When in comes to dealing with big bumps, the Yeti’s stiffer suspension telegraphs the effects through to passengers more obviously, and there’s less clearance underneath (180mm versus Tiguan’s 195mm) to keep the rocks at bay.

However if you treat it with some respect, the Yeti does broaden the (slightly) off-road possibilities. Like the Tiguan, the Yeti’s all-wheel drive system works with a Haldex clutch to direct power where it is needed and generally goes about its business in total secrecy. The Skoda also feels reassuringly taut and solid in the body.

In terms of packaging efficiency, the Yeti makes up for a lack of cabin volume with more versatility than most small SUVs. A standout feature is the three-way rear seats, which are not only positioned 20mm higher than the front seats to give passengers a better forward view, but can slide back or forth to balance passenger and luggage space, or be removed entirely or configured in a two-seat arrangement where the outer seats can be moved inward to allow more shoulder space. Accordingly, boot space can vary between 310 and 415 litres, while 1665 litres becomes available if all the back seats are taken out. In the end, though, the Yeti is not the most generous SUV in terms of rear passenger legroom.

Touchy-feely aspects are more Germanic than Eastern Bloc, although there are a few giveaways indication its Czech Republic origins. The internal grab handles snap shut rather than close smoothly and the park brake is a conventional pull-up lever rather than the electric system used in the Tiguan.

But there are seven airbags (including a driver’s kneebag), and a full complement of electronic safety aids including anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and Hill Hold Control, all contributing to a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating.

Standard equipment tends to be a little more generous than the Tiguan, with dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a six-CD audio system, and auto headlights all part of the package before you start optioning-up with items like satellite navigation, parking sensors, self-parking, panoramic sunroof and heated seats.

If you are not one for joining the mainstream, the little Skoda offers a Euro-credibility even more tangible than it is in the Tiguan.

SUV shoppers will either be challenged by, or love the Yeti’s looks. Some will walk away because there are Japanese and Korean SUVs that offer more space and more equipment for the money, while others will look deeper and appreciate the intrinsic quality and sharp-handling, un-SUV road manners.

The fact is, Skoda’s Yeti is about as accomplished as you are likely to get in this market segment.

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Published : Friday, 9 November 2012
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