FIRST DRIVE: SKODA YETI UP­GRADE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

IT’S been said VW em­ploys a bloke to loom over the Skoda de­signer’s easel as he draws the lat­est model. If the form on the pad be­fore him be­gins to look too en­tic­ing, the VW op­er­a­tive jerks it away. An­other ver­sion of this yarn has him blunt­ing all the pen­cils be­fore use.

Cor­po­rate phi­los­o­phy dic­tates that Skoda must be vis­ually dis­tinc­tive and it’s a tes­ta­ment to the brand’s unique look that the Yeti stands out boldly among rows of iden­tikit ri­val com­pact SUVs. Not that this has en­deared it to any but a com­par­a­tive hand­ful of buy­ers.

There’s a rea­son why all com­pact SUVs look more or less alike. In this most con­formist mar­ket seg­ment, unique looks — much less “quirky” as they’re in­evitably de­scribed — are as de­sir­able as a car­bun­cle on your nose.

VW has al­ways let Skoda do its own thing on the in­side, how­ever, which is smart given how clever its Czech mates are with use of space.

Even the lit­tle Skoda Fabia has the as­pect of a Tardis, with eye-widen­ing vol­ume within what ap­pears to be a nor­mal city car.

The tall Yeti takes this still fur­ther with its in­ge­nious Var­i­oflex seat­ing that al­lows the mov­ing, flat­ten­ing or com­plete re­moval of the back seats. Not for noth­ing is the Yeti called the “Karma Seater”.

Still, sin­gu­lar ex­te­rior looks might help in a crowded car park. In the show­room stakes? Not so much.

Re­leased this week, the re­newed Yeti loses its bugeyed lights for a more con­ven­tional, chis­elled look. The new vi­su­als are telling, re­flect­ing its new place in the scheme of the re­lent­lessly grow­ing SUV mar­ket.

There are now es­sen­tially two types of Yeti: the el­e­vated hatches for ur­ban war­fare and the all-wheel-drive diesel for those ven­tur­ing off the bi­tu­men.

Start­ing from $23,490 for the to­ken man­ual in the range (auto adds $2300), the Yeti 77 TSI Ac­tive is no bare-bones strip­per. it comes with seven airbags, stan­dard rear-view cam­era, 17-inch al­loys and key­less en­try. It’s more snail than hare — the tiny 1.2-litre turbo en­gine is more com­monly found in city cars like the Fabia and VW’s Polo.

This makes the next one up — the 90 TSI Ac­tive — pretty much the de­fault choice. It shares its 1.4 turbo en­gine with the reign­ing Car of the Year Golf and comes stan­dard with seven-speed DSG auto and a few more vis­ual re­fine­ments than the en­try car.

On a free­way haul be­tween Coolan­gatta and By­ron Bay this week, the Yeti is ev­ery bit as ca­pa­ble as its Golf cousin. As is of­ten so with Skoda, it is not so re­fined as the VW. It also rides on an older plat­form than the lat­est in the re­spec­tive ranges.

You might think about the Tech Pack, which for $2900 adds sat­nav and lit­er­ally bril­liant bi-xenon head­lights.

That ex­tra spend brings you in sight of the top model. At $33,590 the off-road ca­pa­ble 103 TDI 4x4 Out­door (never re­cite Skoda vari­ant names with a mouth­ful of mashed potato) packs a turbo diesel and new­est Haldex all-wheel-drive.

If it’s hard to see that ver­sion hav­ing much ap­peal to those who do not dwell in the coun­try, the Yeti’s new look might com­pel more to look twice at one of the best poorselling mod­els on the mar­ket.

Paul Pot­tinger

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