Despite having a history of car making that stretches back to the late 1890s Skoda remains largely unknown in Australia. A pity, because the Czech company offers a range of quality European vehicles with lots of character at very affordable prices.
Our latest test car, the Skoda Yeti, is a case in point. On sale here since late 2011 it’s a sensible and practical compact SUV but one that sits well down amongst the also-rans in the sales graph in what is admittedly one of the most competitive of market segments. Although it is built on the same platform as the Volkswagen Tiguan, shares most of its components, including engines, and is similarly priced, buyers choose the VW over the Skoda by nearly 10 to 1.
With the arrival of the second generation model earlier this year the Yeti has become a little more stylish, especially at the front where the grille is attractive. It’s still boxy in profile but that’s the price that has to be paid for being such a sensible and practical vehicle.
The Yeti’s tall, square shape and large doors allow easy access and excellent headroom in all seats. The cockpit is a bit narrow and could be uncomfortable for taller drivers especially on longish trips.
Yeti’s dashboard arrangement is simple and sensible with switches, buttons and knobs all easy to locate and control. There’s also a clever mobile phone holder that fits into the right-hand drink holder. The only problem is that it extends over the top of the left-hand drink holder meaning that you have to choose one or the other. A smart idea nevertheless – just needs a bit of design work.
There’s reasonable rear legroom and a brilliant seat arrangement. Called Varioflex it comprises three separate rear seats, each of which can be adjusted for length and also reclined. All three seats can be tumbled forward or removed altogether to provide van-like storage space. The favoured option is likely to be removing the centre seat and increasing elbow room by sliding the two outer seats towards each other. Alternatively the centre seat can be lowered to provide a table with a pair of drink holders.
The rear seats are around 20 mm higher than the front ones to improve the forward view of the rear passengers without causing any headroom issues.
Storage capacity ranges from 310 to 415 litres depending on the rear seats’ position and can get to 1665 litres with all three rear seats removed. The spare wheel is a space saver with a number of additional moulded storage bins.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Skoda Yeti is available with the choice of three engines, two petrol and one diesel. The idea of an SUV being powered by either a 1.2- or 1.4-litre petrol engine would have been unthinkable not that long ago but such have been the advances in turbocharging technology that even with maximum power outputs of 77 kW and 90 kW respectively Yeti punts along nicely in normal usage albeit at a fairly high 5000 rpm.
More importantly there’s excellent torque of 175 Nm in the 1.2-litre 77TSI and 200 Nm from the 1.4-litre 90TSI both from around 1500 rpm.
Driving enthusiasts are likely to opt for the 103TDI 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine. It’s a lively unit with sharp acceleration both from a standing start as well as in the overtaking range of 80 km/h to 120 km/h. The engine puts out 320 Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500 rpm.
There are three transmissions options – six-speed manual for both petrol and diesel, seven-speed DSG for the petrol engine and six-speed DSG for the diesel. The DSG gear changes are lightning fast . This type of transmission had problems with stop/start traffic in its early form, but has improved greatly and is now a pleasure to drive in all conditions. The six-speed manual will appeal to drivers who enjoy the driving experience. It’s a smooth shifter that makes the most of the engine’s torque.
The two petrol variants are front-wheel-drive only, the diesel drives all four wheels.
All models have a 5-inch touchscreen that displays the various information and entertainment features. These include the Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, SD card slot, and USB and Aux sockets.
Satellite navigation is available in the 90TSI and 103TDI as part of a $2900 Tech Pack which also includes bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights, 6.5-inch touchscreen and premium sound system.
Standard across the three Yeti models are seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees; ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution; emergency hazard light activation in emergency braking; stability and traction control; hill hold; IsoFix child seat anchorage; reversing camera and rear parking sensors. The 90TSI and 103TDI add front parking sensors.
Yeti’s high driving position and large windows provide almost optimum outward visibility.
On the open road the Yeti points nicely and remaines assuredly stable in long sweeping corners and tight bends with little body roll and insignificant understeer.
Fuel consumption in the 1.4-litre 90TSI that we tested is listed at 6.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. We averaged an acceptable 7.4 L/100 km in a combination of urban, motorway and rural conditions.
Adding to new Yeti’s impressive CV are price cuts of $2800 for the 77TSI and $4400 for the 103TDI compared with the previous model.
If you’re not put off by its unexciting looks then Yeti is as good as it gets in the congested small SUV market. Nor should you be concerned about the Skoda brand – although still based in the Czech Republic and semi-autonomous it’s a fully-owned subsidiary of the giant Volkswagen Group.
AT A GLANCE
Active 77TSI 1.2-litre turbo-petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $23,490 (manual), $25,790 (DSG)
Ambition 90TSI 1.4-litre turbo-petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $28,290 (DSG)
Outdoor 103TDI 2.0-litre turbo-diesel AWD five-door wagon: $33,590 (DSG)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Skoda dealer for driveaway prices.
ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Not offered in 77TSI, DSG standard in 90TSI and 103TDI
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models
SPECIFICATIONS (Skoda Yeti 90TSI 1.4-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch)
Engine Capacity: 1.390 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: OHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.1
Bore/Stroke: 76.5 x 75.6 mm
Maximum Power: 90 kW @ 5000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 200 Nm @ 1500-4000 rpm
Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Not offered (six-speed in 1.2 TSI)
Automatic Transmission: Seven-speed DSG
Final Drive Ratio: Not supplied
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4223 mm
Wheelbase: 2578 mm
Width: 1793 mm
Height: 1459 mm
Turning Circle: Not supplied
Kerb Mass: 1380 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres
Towing Capacity: 670 kg (1200 kg with braked trailer)
Boot Capacity: 321 litres (1485 litres with rear seatback folded)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson struts, lower triangular links, torsion stabiliser
Rear Suspension: Independent, four-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Disc
0-100 km/h Acceleration: 11.4 seconds
Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Fuel Consumption – Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.8 L/100 km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 8/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5/10
Three years/100,000 km