Car reviews - Skoda - Yeti - 112TSI 5-dr wagon
Perky engine, slick DSG auto, nimble on-road performance, versatile and roomy interior, compliant ride, good suspension travel, quirky styling, little intrusive road noise
Room for improvement
A few cabin squeaks and rattles, standard tyres struggle with loose surfaces, occasionally vague manual gearbox, no standard parking sensors
28 Mar 2012
THE Yeti 112TSI is just what the doctor ordered for the rapidly expanding Skoda brand in Australia, giving it a (some would say overdue) presence in the ‘sweet spot’ of the booming compact SUV segment.
When it comes to overall sales, it is the petrol-powered all-wheel drive models that rule the roost, despite an ever-expanding presence of niches like diesel power and front-wheel drivetrains.
Equally important for Skoda Australia is the price – kicking off from $32,990, the Yeti 112TSI neatly fills the substantial cost breach between the base 77TSI and the 103TDI.
Equipped with an identical level of specification to the flagship diesel, this $2700 price advantage over the 103TDI starts to looks pretty tempting.
This is further emphasised by the fact that, unlike some of its rivals, the 112TSI’s 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine more than holds its own against its oil-burning sibling.
Like most Volkswagen Group TSI engines, it’s a perky and energetic little unit that needs to be kept on the boil, but its eagerness to rev beyond 6500rpm and a broad slab of torque that belies its diminutive displacement make this no real chore.
Matched to either the six-speed manual or slightly less powerful DSG semi-automatic, it feels substantially swifter than its 77TSI sibling despite having to lug an extra 200kg.
The need to detune the engine by 6kW to accommodate the DSG was noticeable on the sweeping roads around Bathurst where the press launch was held, with the manual exhibiting more pizzazz exiting out of bends and on overtakes.
Strangely, the six-speed manual gearbox on our test car exhibited a sense of vagueness not present in the 77TSI test car we drove the same day.
Despite its brick-ish appearance, the Yeti is at the sharp end of the segment for vehicle dynamics, alongside foes like the Tiguan from sister brand VW and Mazda’s new CX-5.
On the rugged and potholed tarmac that made up a sizeable chunk of our drive route, the little Czech exhibited the poise and compliancy of a locally made large sedan thanks to its forgiving dampers and plentiful suspension travel.
Nor does this compliance give way to an unreasonable amount of bodyroll when the going gets twisty – its relatively low stance surely plays a part here – and it is only at the limit that any pronounced understeer comes into play.
The steering itself is super-light around town but firm and quick off-centre once at speed on the tarmac, but felt less assured and more woolly on unsealed gravel.
The rear of the Yeti is quite happy to step out on the loose gravel before its traction and stability control systems snap into action, and the car never felt to us quite as planted on unsealed surfaces as we would have liked.
A quick glance at the low-profile road-going rubber revealed the culprit, however, and we suspect a set of more off-road oriented tyres would improve this no end. To its credit, we noticed little in the way of tyre roar, complementing the high level of sound insulation found on the underbody and firewall.
The lengthy travail on gravel also provoked a few annoying squeaks and rattles from the dash, instrument panel and door trim, although this relented once back on the black stuff. This is a solitary black mark on what is otherwise a refined and comfortable cabin.
Most contact points – with the notable exception of the door panels – are finished in soft-touch plastic, and the whole interior feels well screwed together and durable enough to handle road trips or a tribe of children in the back.
Its level of equipment is line-ball with most Korean and Japanese rivals, and includes a concise audio unit, dual-zone climate-control and a simple-to-operate Bluetooth phone streaming system.
Among the plethora of options we sampled were high-quality, wipe-clean black leather seats and an integrated navigation system, which cost an eye-watering $2830 and $2890 respectively, while sat-nav is standard on the equivalent CX-5 Maxx.
We would also prefer to see standard parking sensors – Skoda charges $640 for the rear or $990 for a front/rear sensor package.
We like the wide range of colour choices – including three no-cost solid hues alongside 10 metallic/pearl effect finishes – and the option of four different contrasting roof colours which, at $390, are an affordable way to add quirk and character to an already interesting little car.
Where the Yeti comes into its own is in its interior flexibility. Skoda calls the seating layout ‘VarioFlex’, but whatever which way you label it, it remains a real ace-up-the-sleeve.
Each seat can be quickly and easily slid forward, folded flat or removed completely, giving the interior a level of practicality and useability that would give larger members of the compact SUV segment a run for their money.
Headroom and legroom is excellent all round, with room above and beyond the requirements of my 194cm frame, although rear shoulder room feel a touch tighter than in the class-leading CX-5.
Low and straight window lines and wide expanses of glass lend brightness and spaciousness to the cabin – sure to appeal to parents of young children – while simultaneously helping all-round visibility.
Importantly, the passenger compartment and load area are both replete with hooks and storage cubbies galore.
On first impressions, then, the 112TSI is the missing link we were hoping it would be.
The Australian Yeti line-up launched late last year was an excellent compact SUV range crying out for a more mainstream petrol engine and AWD combination, and that is exactly what this car delivers.
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