The new Skoda Yeti.
The new Skoda Yeti. Mark Bean

2014 Skoda Yeti road test review of the beastly SUV

SURELY it's time for the Skoda Yeti to take a trip to births, deaths and marriages registry.

People change their name all the time, whether it follows nuptials, a new life, or for promotional purposes like when Geelong AFL star Gary Hocking briefly swapped to "Whiskas".

And the time has come for the Skoda Yeti.

The compact SUV has just been upgraded, and it's lost its Yeti-ness. Hardly ape-like, or abominable, the new Yeti is actually quite a handsome beast.

It wears two distinctive looks, with the two-wheel drive petrol models featuring a smoother, more city-friendly appearance, while the 4x4 Outdoor with a diesel engine has more robust looks.

But anyone expecting a cut-price bargain might be disappointed. The new model starts from $23,490, although previous models have been selling from $21,990 drive-away in recent times.

Still, this new range has retail prices significantly lower than when the previous generation was launched.

Yet it's now up against a bevy of new sub-compact SUVs which have hit the market starting at less than $25K, including the Ford EcoSport, Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke and the Holden Trax.

Comfort

There is a utilitarian feel about the dash design. Large buttons with stretched fonts and a heavy use of plastics point to its market positioning below the prized Tiguan from parent company Volkswagen.

Interior feel maintains some European flair, and the driver has crisp and clear instruments along with a good clear look at the road.

The seats are cushy enough, although lumbar support is only available on the up-spec models.

One new feature is the Amundsen audio unit with 14.7cm touch-screen, which raises the cabin ambience.

Four adults is the best fit within the cabin, although three could fit across the back - but the footwell space is impeded for anyone sitting in the middle.

On the road

For those who have no need to step off the bitumen, there are two turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine options. The 1.2-litre 77TSI Active is available with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The flagship 4x4 Outdoor variant has a much meatier 2.0-litre diesel powerplant, paired exclusively with a six-speed automatic.

New to the range, the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol is an honest little unit.

Maintain modest expectations and it won't let you down. It's no firecracker under acceleration, although give it some time and it will respond with surprising strength.

The six-speed manual is great for those who enjoy the driving experience, but the automatic will no doubt be the most popular for township dwellers.

For those wanting some more punch for overtaking prowess there is the 90kW petrol. It delivers more urgency under acceleration.

Both the petrol units are a breeze to handle, and are surprisingly nimble. Especially impressive is the flat cornering ability for a tall car.

Diesel all-wheel drive models are heavier and tend to feel their weight if pushed but that burly oil-burner is still more than capable and is the perfect choice for those who like to step onto rough trails, tow a camper trailer or small boat.

The ride can be upset by poor surfaces and like the just-released Skoda Rapid hatch feels edgy under duress. It's not a deal-breaker, it's just not as accomplished as the latest Volkswagens.

What do you get?

The new gear includes Amundsen touch-screen audio unit, rear parking sensors and camera, keyless entry with push button start. That is added to 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, multifunction trip computer, daytime running lights, tinted windows, height adjustable front seats, air-con and cruise control.

Ambition models get better looking alloys, dual zone air con, eight speakers, silver roof rails, chromed inner door handles and front parking sensors. The 4x4 models get the wide range of tougher external features.

There is the $2900 Tech Pack available which offers bi-xenon headlights, automatic parking, larger touch-screen with sat nav and premium sound system and rear LED lights. The $500 Off-road Pack has driving aids like hill descent assist, privacy glass, double-sided luggage compartment mat and "Matterhorn" alloys.

Practicality

Internal flexibility of the Yeti is brilliant. There are 22 different configurations available in the back, with the rear seats folding 40-20-40. Not only can they fold to produce a flat load space but also roll forward, or be completely removed by flicking two latches simply and fast.

There are two cup holders up front, and the front doors can handle one-litre bottles but the back is restricted to 500ml.

Running costs

No matter which Yeti you choose, none will have you cursing fuel consumption. Real-world driving should see them all average less than seven litres for every 100km, although the petrol models run on premium unleaded.

There is also capped price servicing and a three-year warranty.

Funky factor

All new Yetis have different front and rear ends, including new radiator grilles, bumpers, front headlights and fog lights (Ambition and Outdoor models), chiselled bonnets and the updated Skoda logo.

Two-wheel drive models appear sleeker with more colour coding, while the 4x4 variants have much tougher looks with additional black and silver features. The latter would be our choice.

The lowdown

Little was wrong with the previous Yeti, Skoda has simply made a good car better.

The addition of the new base model petrol will appeal to those people who like to get around without much fanfare, and sip small amounts of fuel in the process.

But the greatest ace up the Yeti's sleeve is flexibility. It's seating system is the best in the genre for people who love active lifestyles, making easy work of sporting equipment and bulky items.

What matters most

What we liked: Flat cornering for a tall vehicle, brilliant seating flexibility, honest new petrol engine option.

What we'd like to see: Smoother ride on rough surfaces,

Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty (option to extend for two years for $1760), capped price servicing is available for six years. Servicing intervals are 15,000km or annual, average price for petrol engines is $402 and $461 for diesel.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Skoda Yeti.

Details: Two-wheel drive compact sports utility vehicle.

Engines: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 77kW @ 5000rpm and peak torque of 175Nm @ 1550-4100rpm; 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 90kW @ 5000rpm and 200Nm 1500-4000rpm.

Transmissions: Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic.

Consumption: 77TSI - 6.0 litres/100km (manual, combined average), 6.7L/100km (a); 90TSI - 6.8L/100km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 11.4 seconds (m) and 11.7 (a); 90TSI - 10.6 seconds.

Bottom line plus on roads: Active 77TSI (m) $23,490, Active 77TSI (a) $25,790, Ambition 90TSI (a) $28,290. Tech Pack (on Ambition) $2900.

Model: Skoda Yeti 4x4 Outdoor.

Details: Four-wheel drive compact sports utility vehicle.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 103kW @ 4200rpm and 350Nm @ 1750-2500rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed DSG automatic.

Consumption: 6.7 litres/100km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 10.2 seconds.

Bottom line plus on roads: Yeti 4x4 Outdoor 103TDI (a) $33,590. Off-Road Pack $500. Tech pack $2900.



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