FIRST DRIVE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - NEIL DOWL­ING neil.dowl­ing@cars­guide.com.au

Enough with the te­diously in­evitable abom­inable snow­man quips about Skoda’s Yeti. The com­pact SUV is de­cid­edly clever.

IT’S ANout­stand­ing sales suc­cess in Europe; now Skoda’s Yeti SUV is headed for Aus­tralia, with fam­ily-friendly fea­tures and sin­gu­lar styling.

Neat and dis­tinc­tive enough so you won’t miss it in the street, the yeti has an en­tirely prac­ti­cal de­sign— and should be in show­rooms by Oc­to­ber.

Skoda is keep­ing mum on pric­ing but ex­pect about $28,000 for the in­ter­est­ing two-wheel drive 77kW petrol man­ual and about $33,000 for the all-wheel drive 103kW tur­bod­iesel with DSG auto.

That’s in the ball­park with its Ja­panese and Korean ri­vals. Skoda Aus­tralia boss Matthew Wies­ner says other en­gine

vari­ants,

VALUE

A bril­liant VW-sourced fam­ily con­cept car­ries a strange name . . . and an affordable price in­clud­ing a 118kW turbo petrol with a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion and all-wheel drive, will fol­low.

Yeti has been a huge suc­cess in Europe. The Czech plant has been work­ing mul­ti­ple shifts to pump out 50,000 a year and soon there will be a sec­ond plant to dou­ble vol­ume and ease cus­tomer wait­ing times.

Part of Yeti’s ap­peal is its flex­i­bil­ity. It has Skoda’s Var­i­oFlex seat­ing ar­range­ment so in­di­vid­ual seats can be moved on run­ners, split and folded, re­clined and re­moved.

The rear seats are 20mm higher than the front and this theatre seat­ing gives chil­dren a bet­ter view.

An­other bonus is Yeti’s re­li­a­bil­ity. Skoda says Yeti has the high­est cus­tom­er­sa­t­is­fac­tion rat­ing in its range.

It is based on Volk­swa­gen’s Tiguan but is ef­fec­tively a Skoda cre­ation. And un­like Tiguan, it will be sold in twowheel drive. It will also be more keenly priced— a re­sult of the Czech Repub­lic’s lower wages and the patriotic nation’s in­trin­sic abil­ity to work with­out nec­es­sar­ily de­mand­ing ad­di­tional pay­ment. Skoda plans to un­veil the Yeti at the Mel­bourne mo­tor show along with a new Su­perb model and the Fabia range. It should be show­rooms by Oc­to­ber.

At an es­ti­mated $28,000 for the front-drive petrol, it is priced to com­pete with the Nis­san Dualis 2WD Ti at $29,690, Toy­ota RAV4 2.4 CV ($28,990), Kia Sportage Si 2WD ($26,490), Mit­subishi ASX 2WD ($25,990) and Hyundai ix35 Ac­tive ($26,990). A lot of value lies in its safety fea­tures, dura­bil­ity and func­tion­al­ity. But cus­tomers may baulk at the en­try-level model’s man­ual gear­box and sin­gu­lar styling.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Un­der­pin­nings are all Tiguan but, like the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Polo GTI and the Skoda Fabia RS, there’s a lot of de­tail in how the sus­pen­sion has been tuned and the steer­ing set up.

The base en­gine is the ex­cel­lent 1.2-litre 77kW turbo petrol en­gine also found in the Polo and Fabia. The 103kW tur­bod­iesel has been around a long time and needs no change. It is mated to the all-wheel drive sys­tem and DSG box.

The drive sys­tem is a Haldex ar­range­ment that, on dry roads, puts 96 per cent of torque through the front wheels. Sen­sors de­tect speed vari­a­tions be­tween front and rear wheels and can di­vert up to 90 per cent of torque to the rear.

There is also a lim­ited-slip rear dif­fer­en­tial to en­sure that torque goes evenly be­tween the two wheels.

DE­SIGN

The Yeti is the same length as a Volk­swa­gen Golf but has con­sid­er­ably more cabin room — mainly in height— so can af­ford to have the rear theatre seat­ing and carry tall cargo.

Sub­jec­tively, it’s a Room­ster with­out the quirky bits.

In fact, de­spite its un­usual round driv­ing lights up front, its pro­file and rear views show it as a neat, func­tional fam­ily wagon. Much thought has gone into the likes of a ver­sa­tile cargo space, stor­age for per­sonal items, big win­dows for vis­i­bil­ity and so on. It just feels func­tional.

SAFETY

It gets a five-star crash rat­ing, all the nec­es­sary chas­sis aids in­clud­ing the full suite of airbags and Volk­swa­gen’s elec­tronic safety gear such as sta­bil­ity and roll con­trol. It also has a full-size spare wheel.

DRIV­ING

The Yeti’s height makes it look

like a peo­ple mover and that may in­di­cate it has sim­i­lar de­grees of body­roll and vague han­dling of such a van. But in fact, the Yeti is beau­ti­fully taut and con­trol­lable. It sits flat on the road and is al­ways com­posed.

It can be flung into a cor­ner and the steer­ing wheel rolled on with­out any dra­mas.

The 103kW tested is a lazy en­gine and that masks the fact the per­for­mance is pretty spe­cial. With the DSG it will slip quickly up through the six gears and cruise qui­etly and fru­gally at 120km/h. Yet it has plenty in re­serve for over­tak­ing.

The dash­board is sim­ple and ef­fec­tive but it may take more than a few at­tempts to get com­fort­able be­hind the wheel.

The high seat­ing po­si­tion, an­gle of the steer­ing wheel and lo­ca­tion of the ped­als cre­ate a sit-up-and-beg pos­ture for the driver that takes some time to get used to. In its favour, the high seats make it very easy to get in and out of the ve­hi­cle— a bonus for some— and re­duces the need to lean into the car to ex­tract ba­bies from cap­sules and gro­cery bags from the boot.

VER­DICT Change your mind about what you want your car to do and Yeti might fit all pa­ram­e­ters. Over­all, it’s a sur­pris­ingly prac­ti­cal and efficient car.

Snow big deal: The Yeti is at home when the go­ing gets tough but com­bines enough street cred and crea­ture com­fort to make it the real deal as a fam­ily car

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