2012 SKODA YETI REVIEW
Vehicle style: Compact AWD Wagon
Fuel economy (claimed): 6.7 l/100km
Fuel economy (tested): not recorded
Don't underestimate Skoda's new compact AWD wagon, its appealingly-named Yeti. This is one tough little brick.
We put it through an ordeal by stone, sand and water in the Fiske River Gorge out of Alice Springs. From 'The Alice' to Boggy Hole and back.
It's a track that had the Amarok support vehicles struggling. In ten blue-moons you would never sensibly point a light-duty AWD at such terrain with no low-range, with just 180mm ground clearance and sitting on fat low-profile road tyres. Yet the Yeti skittered through.
A few in the convoy got stuck, buried to the chassis in the soft sand; the treatment was cruel, but most churned and bounced from one sandy river hollow to the next. Massive kudos to the Czech 'snowman', this gutsy little Yeti.
Quality: Skoda interiors generally are pretty hard to fault; the Yeti has one of the smarter ones. Soft textured dash surfaces and door-trims, cold-metal garnishes, appealing seat fabrics and the robust feel common to most Volkswagen Group products.
Change the badging and you could be in any quality European compact.
Comfort: The seats are great - just right for my frame with loads of adjustment (fore, aft and height) and with a tilt and reach-adjustable steering wheel. No ergonomic nightmares here (though I would prefer to be able to set the wheel a little lower).
Rear-seat comfort is also good, and all three rear passengers get headrests. And, even with a lumpy 6'1'' colleague at the wheel, there was enough kneeroom behind for an adult. That's because the Yeti sits on the medium-segment Octavia's platform - it looks a lot smaller because it doesn't have the overhangs of the Octavia and the cabin is narrower giving a wide stance under pumped-out guards.
Equipment: The 4x4 103 TDI we drove comes standard with remote central-locking, tinted windows, silver roof-rails, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, air-con and trip computer.
There's also Bluetooth phone connectivity, MDI interface, Radio Bolero with eight-speaker audio, six-CD stacker, MP3 player, SD/MMC memory card slot, 6.5-inch clour display auto lights, rain-sensing wipers, underbody protection, foglights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Storage: While the boot is low and flat, and there are storage areas, drinks holders and cubby-holes everywhere, the party-piece for the Yeti is its flexible rear-seating - its VarioFlex system - which can potentially turn it into a little van (with the selective - and easy - removal of seats).
Luggage capacity is from 310 to 415 litres, depending upon the rear-seats position, and up to 1665 litres with the seats removed.
There are also bag-hooks in the back (for the shopping) and, sit down for this one, a 2.0 tonne braked towing capacity, 700kg unbraked.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: It's all good news here. The 103TDI diesel produces 103kW and 320Nm of torque. While it's quick enough off the mark (0-100km/h in 10.2 seconds for the DSG version), it's strongest when you need it most, with a quick stab of speed between 80km/h and 110km/h.
The six-speed DSG is simply super. Bury the shoe and it will hold gear-changes until 5000rpm, then - 'zink' - instantly grab the next. It's fun and brisk and, mated to that willing diesel, will fire the little Yeti out of the hole if you need to overtake quickly.
It has manual control as well (via the shifter); and on downshifts it 'blips' and rev-matches.
Off-road: While it's supposed to be a light-duty AWD, our trip to Boggy Hole showed that the Yeti can handle the occasional excusion into the rough. But you'd bash it to bits if you did it too often.
It's Haldex 4WD system and off road technologies clearly help: hill descent and hill-start assist, and off-road modes for ABS, traction and stability controls. (In the sand, traction control has to be disabled. It didn't catch us, but at one point it decided to turn back on and then briefly refused to turn off again.)
It's also well-protected underneath although we'd have reservations as to how long the 'glass fibre reinforced thermoplastic' underbody panels would last in the real world of Australian off-road tracks.
For getting to the snow though, or to a favorite out-of-the-way camping spot, the Yeti is just the ticket.
Refinement: On road, on the very coarse blue-chip highway surfaces of the Northern Territory, tyre roar barely intruded and with wind noise all-but absent.
Even at very high speeds, the refinement of the Yeti and its easy ability to swallow long highway kilometres puts it in a class above.
There was a rattle from around a rear seat by the time we got back to Alice Springs - we didn't have time to check where it was coming from - but, for the pounding the car took over the previous two days, this was entirely forgivable.
For 'noise, vibration, and harshness' (NVH), the Yeti is again in a class above. The 103TDI makes a beautiful sporty rasp when at work - we had it revving its ring off through the sand dunes - it's most un-diesel-like; it's only at idle that you'd notice it's a diesel at all (and, of course, at the pump when you're pocketing the savings).
Suspension: Skoda suspension-tune generally is more compliant, and with longer suspension travel than its Volkswagen Group counterparts. It may be that the markets Skoda does better in have rougher roads to contend with.
The Yeti has a little more body-roll than you'd notice in, say, the Golf Wagon, but it jars less over broken bitumen than the more taut and constrained VW set-up.
With struts up front (and a very high sway-bar link) and multi-link rear with torsion sway bar, it's an ideal set-up for highway cruising and a very comfortable one generally.
Brakes: Discs all round, a good pedal feel and sitting on 225/50 R17 rubber; it's a combo that has no trouble pulling up the little SUV.
ANCAP rating: (untested in Australia; Euro NCAP 5-Star)
Safety features: The Yeti's features include hill-start assist, hill-descent assist, and off-road modes for ABD, ASR and electronic diff-lock; seven airbags (including a driver’s knee bag), whiplash-optimised front head restraints, electronic stability control, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, anti-slip regulation and hill-hold control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three-year/unlimited kilometres; two-year warranty on Škoda genuine parts and accessories; three-year warranty for paint defects; and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Kia Sportage SLI 2.0 DT ($35,720): The seductive Sportage is the cream of the crop for value, style and overall performance. It's bigger than the Yeti and with arguably sharper style. But the Yeti will whip it on a winding road and is more alive and engaging at the wheel. (see Sportage reviews)
Hyundai ix35 CRDI Elite ($35,490) - Like the Sportage, more power and torque than the Yeti, but you'd never know it - the Yeti feels more lively. Well-built and clearly well-accepted by Australian buyers, but the superior 4X4 technology in the Yeti makes it our preferred choice. (see ix35 reviews)
Nissan X-Trail TS Wagon 4X4 2.0 DT ($38,240) - Some genuine off-road ability and more internal space than the Yeti. The X-Trail is a capable and versatile wagon, but its general dynamics and styling is a bit ho-hum. The closely-priced TS is bettered by the Yeti's interior and on-road feel. (see X-Trail reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
This is the best effort yet by Skoda - the Yeti is a cracker. It won't set the world on fire for its looks: but there's a brattish charm to the front and its boxy wagon lines are more about utility than uber style.
Its appeal though is more than skin deep. It's swift, easy to drive, comfortable on road, and, if asked, can be pounded to within an inch of its life off-road and still bob up for more.
For a couple or young family, we get the sense it will withstand almost anything you or your kids can throw at it or spill on it.
It's a very complete package, Skoda's Yeti. We think you will like it a lot.