Car reviews - Skoda - Yeti - Active 77 TSI
Brisk performance, staggering load ability, build quality
Room for improvement
Some people won't appreciate boxy shape, no auto headlights
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14 Apr 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
SOME overseas markets consider Skoda as the poor man’s Volkswagen, a reference to early Skoda days when the German giant purchased a major company stake and began sharing components.
Skoda pricing also undercuts Volkswagen. In the case of the base Yeti versus the equivalent Tiguan, there’s a $5500 saving or 19 per cent by being pragmatic.
People buy Skodas because they’re relatively inexpensive and very good value.
But caution should be exercised here. There’s no point buying a value-rich car and then either loading it up with features or selecting the premium version.
You may as well buy a more expensive marque.
The Yeti Active 77TSI is a front-wheel drive variant so despite appearances, this is a cardboard box-shaped suburban hauler and possibly not your next beachside fishing companion.
With an automatic transmission, it costs $25,790, plus on-road costs, and fits somewhere between the baby crossover and compact-SUV segments. Rivals include other front-drive SUVs such as the Honda HR-V, Ford EcoSport and Mitsubishi ASX, as well as slightly larger fare including the Nissan Qashqai.
For the money, Skoda will include a four-speaker audio with Bluetooth, cloth upholstery, roof rails, a cargo blind, air-conditioning and heated mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels and a reversing camera with rear parking sensors.
Move up to the Ambition and for the extra $2500 there’s a more powerful 90kW engine, standard automatic transmission, eight-speaker audio, automatic headlights and front park sensors.
Is it worth it? There are more features but if you’re lured by that you’ve probably missed the point. A pragmatic person would look at the price difference and see two year’s worth of fuel. Interior
The Yeti and the Honda Jazz rate as the remarkable modern small hatchbacks with an enormous appetite for cargo.
Or people. It rekindles memories of cramming university students into small cars – the record is 27 in an original Mini in 2014 – for no particular reason.
The Yeti would be a shoe-in not only because of its flip-fold-removable rear seats but also for its high ceiling, square-edged door corners and long cargo length.
It sits high so the hip-point suits less nimble owners though there’s a big sill that has to be stepped over. The seats are narrow and don’t appear to offer much support until your weight is applied.
The adjustable seat height works well with the vertical and telescopic range of the steering wheel but there’s always a sense that you’re in a sit-and-beg position, more like a small bus than a car.
Volkswagen’s influence in the cabin starts with the sombre colours – black with some relief in charcoal and dark grey – but there are no complaints with the quality of materials, soft-touch plastics and fabrics.
Fit and finish is excellent, dragged down mainly by the simplicity of the central touchscreen and its annoying reflective surface in sunlight.
Clever use of space produces areas for personal storage including big door pockets, a top-tray on the dashboard, large glove box that is also cooled by the air-conditioner, a pull-out tray between the front seats for the rear occupants and a boot with side pockets, cubby holes surrounding the temporary spare and more room beneath this wheel.
It seats four adults – five at a squeeze – with good luggage space. The 321 litres (seats up) isn’t bad for a 4.2m long car but it’s the 1485 litres when everything is folded down that is impressive. Remove the seats – two clips and Skoda even provides carry handles – and there’s a whopping 1665 litres available.
The rear seat has a large central armrest that folds independently of the neighbouring chairs, further adding to the cabin’s flexibility. This armrest – in fact, the third seat in the back – can be removed and the two remaining seats slid together.
There are 20 combinations of seat variations, and adjustments include tilt for each of the three back seats and a fore-aft travel of up to 150mm.
Engine and transmission
A reduction in model variation has left the Yeti with two front-drive variants – the 77TSI and the 90TSI – and a single all-wheel drive diesel, the Outdoor at $33,590 plus on-road costs.
Given that the majority of the small-SUV market is front-driven, the 77TSI stacks up as a logical entry-level machine from Skoda.
The engine is Volkswagen’s 77kW/175Nm 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol that is used on other cars in different outputs including the 66kW and 81kW Polo.
But it’s the torque that gives the Yeti its excellent blend of economy and performance. The tiny-tot engine’s 175Nm arrives at a very low 1550rpm and stays flat until 4100rpm. By comparison, a Mazda3 has a 2.0-litre engine with 200Nm of torque but it peaks at a high 4000rpm.
The 77TSI gets a six-speed manual as standard for $23,490 plus on-road costs but city and suburban life perhaps prefers an automatic.
The extra $2300 buys a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that extracts as much performance and economy from the little engine as possible.
Cynics will point to the 0-100km/h acceleration time of about 12 seconds as being lethargic. In fact, the Yeti feels far quicker than a mere number suggests, bubbling along at ridiculously low engine revs in a manner more befitting a diesel.
It’s also sparklingly responsive, quick to find a gear through the corners and willing to downshift as the car slows.
But this is on a good day. The dual-clutch transmission (DSG in Volkswagen language) can be caught napping, reluctant to change gears when the driver wants an instant decision and far too hesitant to respond when accelerating quickly from the traffic lights or when crossing a busy road.
Unable to be the subject of a quick fix, these moments of indecision must be compensated for by the driver. Get used to its foibles, bask in the economy and fruity nature of the effervescent engine, and it may be a small price to pay.
Otherwise, buy the manual.
The automatic Yeti claims 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres but needs 95RON petrol.
The manual transmission version is listed at 6.0L/100km.
Ride and handling
Styling and dimensions of a hatchback, SUV and city delivery van may give the impression that the Yeti is built for hauling rather than commuting.
Certainly it’s durable but in ride comfort and quietness, it’s impressive and at least on par with some quality hatchbacks.
There’s nothing extraordinary about the suspension or the platform. This Skoda is yet to receive the rigid yet lightweight platform called MQB that is storming through the Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda range.
Instead it relies on a cobbled blend of Golf and Polo components, using common MacPherson struts at the front and a four-link arrangement with coil springs at the back.
Most rivals have a simple beam axle at the rear which offers less wheel travel and restricts wheel camber. It can make the car more susceptible to road irregularities and less sure-footed through corners.
The Yeti’s handling is well above most of its front-drive rivals, not only with confident cornering and a well-weighted feel to the steering wheel but also in solidity of the wagon on the road when cruising.
Cabin comfort is equally as impressive and only coarse bitumen produces tyre noise. The Yeti Active gets the low-rolling resistant Pirelli Cinturato tyres with a low 50 per cent aspect.
The spare is a full-size tyre on a steel rim but its lightweight construction means it’s rated at a maximum of only 80km/h. Country owners should swap this for a proper wheel.
Safety and servicing
The Yeti has a five-star ANCAP crash rating and backs that up with seven airbags, the full electronic brake aid package and helpful items such as a hill holder and brake emergency display.
It has a reversing camera and rear park sensors, LED daytime running lights and heated mirrors but would be preferable with a full-size spare wheel, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. Isofix child restraints and lap-sash seatbelts for five occupants are standard.
The passive safety of the Yeti starts with its nimble road manners and items such as the four-wheel disc brakes. Many rivals use rear drum brakes.
Skoda’s attachment to Volkswagen lends the latter’s comprehensive capped-price service program. The annual service requirement will cost $1137 for three years, plus additional items including brake fluid and replacement of the air-conditioner’s pollen filter.
Skoda also offers three years of roadside assistance.
Glass’s Guide forecasts that the Yeti Active will hold 43 per cent of its purchase price after three years. By comparison, the Honda HR-V and Nissan Qashqai are at 50 per cent and the Mitsubishi ASX at 46 per cent.
The durable build quality, impressive engine performance with excellent fuel economy and especially the flexibility of the cabin are the big selling points.
Possibly working against it is its boxy looks, something GoAuto quizzed people about and found a high percentage of women thought the style was a bit “too basic” and “too square’’.
But practical people who may be on a leisure mission simply love them. It’s a personality thing.
MITSUBISHI ASX LS automatic from $26,990, plus on-road costs
The small SUV has been around for a few years but still does well on the sales charts thanks to a strong name for reliability. Has one of the biggest engines here at 110kW/197Nm 2.0-litres and mates that to a CVT automatic. It’s a very traditional SUV and, in terms of its equipment and versatility, more akin to a hatchback. Mitsubishi claims economy at 7.4L/100km.
NISSAN QASHQAI ST automatic $28,490, plus on-road costs
One of the prettiest SUVs in this category and also one of the more expensive. It also uses a big 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine and a CVT automatic for 6.9L/100km. Again, it is similar in concept to a hatchback and lacks the impressive cabin flexibility of the Yeti and the Honda HR-V.
MAZDA CX-3 MAXX automatic $24,390, plus on-road costs
Freshly picked Mazda copies the bigger CX-5’s style and will likewise impress a large audience. Has a bigger 109kW/193Nm 2.0-litre engine, six-speed automatic and claims 6.1L/100km. Not as roomy or versatile as the Yeti but is much more of a looker.
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