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Car reviews - Skoda - Yeti - range

Our Opinion

We like
Value, space, safety, visibility, seat comfort, rear-seat versatility, addition of new 90TSI base variant
Room for improvement
Firm ride, switch from 16-inch to 17-inch wheels on 77TSI, more mundane front-end styling, loss of 112TSI model

Skoda logo6 May 2014

By DANIEL GARDNER

WAS it the offbeat styling, comical name, high launch pricing or its maker’s obscurity that kept the Yeti from selling up a storm in Australia?Since first being sighted on local roads in late 2011, the Czech-built five-seat compact-SUV has struggled to hit the heights it has savoured back in Europe, where hundreds of thousands have found happy homes on the back of strong critical reviews.

The latter actually did happen Down Under as well, for the most part, but buyer indifference ultimately prevailed.

Now there’s the Yeti Series II, or MY15 as the Volkswagen-owned brand likes to call it.

Along with less divisive front-end styling (the four-eyed headlight treatment gave the outgoing Skoda real road presence) and a sizeable upgrade in standard equipment, the recommended retail pricing has fallen between $2800 and $4400m, depending on the variant.

Now at this juncture we ought to point out that RRP and special driveaway pricing are two very different things.

For most of last year (until stocks ran out at Christmas) the best selling Yeti – the 77TSI – exchanged hands from $21,990 driveaway instead of the official $26,290 price. Bargain!Understandably that’s when Yeti sightings became far more frequent.

Now, with the old stocks depleted and Skoda determined to establish itself as a credible alternative to Mazda, Ford, Hyundai and co., the newly rechristened 77TSI Active kicks off from $23,490 plus on-road costs, or $25,790 if you’d rather a seven-speed DSG auto over the standard six-speed manual.

That’s $2800 cheaper than the old official RRP, and buyers gain keyless entry and start, larger 17-inch alloys, a reverse camera and multimedia system now with touchscreen and Bluetooth – on top of the carryover seven airbags, cruise control and other niceties.

With the extra kit, it raises the base Yeti’s desirability considerably, particularly considering how spacious and comfortable the versatile interior is. Along with room to move, the Varioflex rear seats slide and recline for extra practicality, while the cabin’s ambience is a step up from most rival compact-SUVs such as the Ford EcoSport.

Sure, with 77kW of power and 175Nm of torque from just 1.2-litres, a determined right foot is required with either gearbox to get things going, so you’ll never win the traffic-light GP.

But the slick-shifting six-speed manual is no hardship and the seven-speed DSG is eager to respond. Once on the move, the turbocharged 77TSI goes from sluggish starter to swift and spirited performer.

Plus, the Skoda’s steering and handling balance remain one the model’s strongest assets.

However, the extra inch added to the wheel and tyre package detract from the already firm ride, and generate added road noise into the bargain. We’d ask for the previous version’s smaller alloys, quite frankly.

The company says it expects the 77TSI Active to remain the most popular Yeti, and we can see why. It deserves to sell its fur off.

But our money is on the new dark horse of the range - the 90TSI Ambition DSG.

At $28,290 plus on-road costs, it is not cheap but auto is included, as is a higher spec level that adds climate control air-conditioning, lumbar support for both front seats, front parking sensors, auto on/off wipers and lights, fog lights and fancier trimmings.

Yet these pale against the palpably stronger performance on offer courtesy of a 90kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbo.

Stronger from the get-go, and considerably more eager in the mid-ranges, the extra capacity – combined with a slightly more laid-back nature of an engine that doesn’t have to work as hard – results in a faster yet more relaxing and refined driving experience.

The dynamics are still spot on, the ride still just as firm and the road noise just as obvious on certain coarse surfaces, but there is no doubt that the 90TSI Ambition sits in the Yeti sweet spot as far as value, features and performance goes.

Lastly we tried the newly upgraded 103TDI Outdoor 4x4 with its latest-generation Haldex 5.0 all-wheel drive system and considerable $4400 price drop.

Like the front-drive Yetis, this one takes on gravel roads with natural poise and control, keeping connected to the ground for safe and secure progress. The difference is that you can push harder – and go faster – thanks to that extra grip afforded by the rear-wheel traction.

The 103kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine itself feels sufficiently quiet for this type of unit, and never fails to deliver the necessary wave of torquey acceleration at just a tickle of your right foot.

As a surprisingly quick and alert contraption, the 103TDI Outdoor may be the overachiever of the range, coming in at a considerable saving against its (slightly larger though no more roomier in most cases) medium-SUV diesel rivals. And we enjoy how chuckable it is on a winding road. We approve.

Indeed, the Yeti Series II range as a whole is now a very compelling and far-reaching package.

If you want a bargain the 77TSI with its newly acquired reversing camera and five-star ANCAP safety rating makes every other similarly priced compact-SUV feel cheap, lifeless and pokey.

Conversely, a 90TSI with the $2900 optional Tech Pack (GPS, Bi-Xenon headlights, Park Assist and audio upgrade among other goodies) is the proper not-so-little luxury crossover with ample performance and driver appeal to boot.

Aside from the unnecessarily firm ride, our only reservations are the blander front-end styling, loss of gutsy 1.8-litre turbo-petrol/AWD combo and a necessary 95 RON premium-unleaded appetite.

So if you’re in the market for a roomier-than-normal compact-SUV with very real versatility and value, we suggest your first port of call is the local Skoda dealer.

Newly facelifted and smarter than ever, the Yeti now deserves to be seen and appreciated far more widely than ever before.

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