It’s no snowjob
Never mind the daft name, this is the compact diesel SUV to own
SKODA’S Yeti compact SUV may not be the prettiest thing on the road, but still makes a statement: ‘‘ Look at me— not the Tiguan or the Audi Q3.’’
The range kicks off with a front-wheel drive version at just over $26,000. This upperspec 103TDI with six-speed DSG auto (a $2300 option) starts from $37,990.
Standard fare includes Bluetooth, cruise, storage under passenger seat, climate control aircon, eight-speaker audio (but no USB input), auto headlights, fully adjustable four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel (with all the audio and phone buttons) and 17-inch alloy wheels. Our test car had $2890 worth of satnav.
The turbo diesel engine is, of course, from VW. Fitted with a particle filter, it uses
high-pressure direct-injection fuel injection to help produce 103kW and a useful 320Nm from 1750rpm.
The drivetrain is a Haldex clutch system that runs predominantly front-wheel drive in normal driving conditions.
On detecting a change in road speeds between the front and rear wheels, it sends up to 90 per cent of the drive aft where a limited-slip differential keeps things tidy.
If you want a pretty compact SUV, stump up the extra cash for Ford’s Kuga or go to a German showroom. The Yeti’s boxy big-windowed design is not overly easy on the eye yet it works without bringing gales of wind noise.
Inside is not cavernous but there’s an airy feel to the cabin thanks to the high roofline and decent room front and rear. The rear bench has reclining backrests (great for snoozing rugrats) and can also be slid fore and aft as loads dictate— boot space ranges from 310 to 415 litres.
The rear seats can be centralised a little as well (after the centre armrest piece is removed) or the whole lot folded forward, tilted up or removed as required, which at its most useful gives load space of 1665L. This is excellent versatility— the myriad seating positions and useful hooks and nooks in the boot mean carting kids and chattels is, well, child’s play.
Five stars from NCAP adorn a safety features list that includes seven airbags, front foglights, active head restraints, pretensioners on the front seat belts and lap-sash belts for the three rear seats.
Having just switched from something far more sporty, I was expecting to recalibrate my driving style big time. Not so.
Despite the tall-box design theme, the Yeti feels anything but unwieldy. The turbo diesel’s useful spread of torque teams well with the slickshifting twin-clutch automated manual, slipping through traffic on part-throttle in a relaxed and easy manner.
The easy demands on the throttle translate to good fuel economy— the claim for the combined cycle is 6.7L/100km and after our stint the trip computer showed 7.3L/100km (at an average of 32km/h).
The cabin is reasonably quiet and the powerplant doesn’t intrude greatly either; negotiating second-rate metropolitan roads is also done with reasonable aplomb.
The view is good through the tall glasshouse and the slightly higher than normal driving position gives a little extra forward vision in the traffic. But the loftier ride doesn’t greatly harm the Yeti’s appeal when the roads become twisty and deserted, with the suspension keeping the body under reasonable control.
Unsealed surfaces bring the Skoda back to a position of authority, as it acquits itself well on dirt roads. Despite the front bias, the Haldex4WD set-up feels better than most, responding in a timely manner to changes in traction.
There’s only 180mm of ground clearance yet it is less likely to belly than some larger off-roaders when clambering over lumps and bumps. And there’s little in the way of complaint from the electronics working to maintain traction.
That said, it’s no rockhopper and you’d want momentum on your side in the sand. Its prowess in the dirt is better than some rivals.
The Czech has a bit of charisma and plenty of flexibility, living up to the brand’s ‘‘ Simply Clever’’ mantra. I really like this Yeti, looks and all.
Tallish story: The boxy styling sets the Yeti apart but gives plenty of space and flexibility