Saturday, 28 April 2012

2012 Skoda Yeti FULL ROAD TEST

Skoda have for many years been a brand shunned by many purely based on the negative connotations associated with their well-known badge. As anyone with an ounce of car knowledge will know todays Skodas are based heavily on mechanicals from parent company Volkswagen who enjoy a faultless image based on a reputation of reliability and first rate build quality. Therefore to the logically minded there is no reason to criticise any product bearing the Skoda name especially as they are usually so keenly priced  but sadly this is not the case. As we have experienced recently from our time with the superb Fabia vRS Skodas are as competitive as anything else on the market and should appeal to anyone looking for simple, good value transport. Here we are testing Skoda’s latest and most rugged model the interestingly named Yeti which promises to offer buyers the benefits of a large SUV in a package similar in size to a Ford Focus. We find out if it can deliver.

What is it?

2005 Yeti Concept (library image)
The Yeti is Skoda’s answer to the popular Nissan Qashqai and is based upon the same platform as parent-company Volkswagen’s Tiguan and the Audi Q3. Its aim is to offer buyers all of the benefits of a full-on 4x4 in a smaller package with affordable running costs more akin with small family hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus. Initially shown in concept form at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show it was so well received that the production Yeti stayed true to the concept when unveiled at the end of 2009. Since then the Yeti has won a number of awards including Family Car of The Year (Top Gear), Car of the Year (Autoexpress) and Best Crossover Car (Autoexpress). The Yeti fits into Skoda’s range alongside the Octavia Estate above the Roomster MPV below the Superb family car. Prices kick off at £14,945 in E trim rising to £24,210 for top spec Elegance trim. 

Rivals: Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and Hyundai  Tucson

 Key Features
  • 17" inch alloy wheels
  • Automatic lights
  • Dual zone climate control
  • Cruise control 
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Park assist (self park)
  • Varioflex (individual) rear seats
  • 9 airbags(including drivers' knee)

Skoda’s have never been the pinnacle of style and the Yeti doesn’t try to change this. Instead it looks suitable chunky and assertive helped by its relatively boxy shape and generously sized wheel arches filled with big wheels and tyres. It also has the same “floating roof” that you will find on the smaller Fabia which adds character. That’s not to say it doesn’t turn heads as its unusually large round driving lamps at the front and wrap around windows at the rear certainly make it unlike anything else on the road. We really liked the styling but we know plenty who didn’t.

There are a wide range of engines on offer in the Yeti, the majority of which are diesels with varying power outputs. We are testing the most potent petrol unit the 1.8 TSi (direct injection and turbocharged) with 157 bhp mated to a slick shifting 6 speed gearbox. You can specify either two or four wheel drive but this TSi engine is only available with the latter. We found the performance on offer more than adequate, the 0-60mph sprint taking just 8.4 seconds, with impressively linear power delivery.
Simple, chunky styling suits the car well as do large wheels and squared off wheelarches.

Rivalling the likes of the Ford Kuga and Volkswagen’s own Tiguan the Yeti is much smaller on the outside at only 4223mm in length but its squared off shape results in no loss of space inside. Leg and headroom up front are generous as is rear accommodation with individually sliding seats (Varioflex) that tumble or can be removed altogether, however a narrow middle seat with high transmission tunnel mean that carrying three won’t be easy. The cabin is littered with clever storage spaces; we found the parcel shelf with a net on one side and elasticated fabric on the other particularly useful. There are also handy hooks on rails in the well-shaped 416 litre boot for securing bags.

Everything inside the Yeti feels built to last with most of the upper dashboard trimmed in quality soft touch plastic and everything else in a harder, tactile material. The design is simple and easy to use with all of the major controls logically laid out but the masses of dark plastic makes the cabin feel rather sombre and the is a lack of in any real design flair that you will find in some of its rivals. Another niggle we experienced was the location of the gear stick which felt too low causing the driver to reach down uncomfortably when changing gear. Luckily there is plenty of adjustment in the driving position with wonderfully comfortable seats and a commanding view out thanks to the raised ride height, large windows and small pillars all-round.
Interior is well screwed together and ergonomically sound but could look more exciting.
Refinement was much better than we expected considering the large 17 inch 225 width tyres. Road noise is minimal as is wind buffeting only really noticeable around the top of the windscreen and around the roof rails at higher speeds. We also found the engine impressively smooth and quiet at all speeds throughout the rev range making it easy to hold conversations with those in the rear. Ride comfort is a real strong point taking the sting out of the UK’s broken road surfaces never losing composure and always feeling supple and controlled.

When buying a compact 4x4 with a higher ride height than a conventional hatchback great handling isn’t really high on the agenda but strangely the Yeti manages to deliver. Having 4 wheel drive and massive tyres results in shed loads of grip in corners coupled with minimal body roll and a sharp turn in making this car great fun to drive. We also found the steering pleasingly light around town weighting up nicely at higher speeds and when cornering with plenty of feel so you always know what the wheels are doing. The brakes are powerful with good pedal feel and the clutch has a really light action making the Yeti a doddle to drive.

Rear space is good and Varioflex seats can be individually folded/tumbled or removed.
Although the most challenging terrain most Yetis will encounter is likely to be on the school run its comforting to know that if you do venture off road you won’t be disappointed. Our car is equipped with the latest fourth generation Haldex clutch which is able to juggle power between the front and rear axles whichever has the most grip. On the muddy ground we encountered the Yeti proved unstoppable able to get out of any situation with ease. For buyers who will regularly go off-road there is an optional package available to further enhance the cars abilities in the form of an off-road button that activates various electronic trickery including Downhill Assist and Uphill Start Assist

Tumble the seats & space is even more impressive
Value for money has long been a Skoda trait and the Yeti’s starting price of just £14,945 is very attractive. Our SE Plus model sits near the top of the range and comes with plenty of standard equipment including cruise control, dual zone air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors with park assist, satellite navigation and a 6 CD auto-changer tipping the scales at £20,665. Once you have added the panoramic sunroof, automatic Bi-Xenon headlights and auto-dimming rear view mirror found on our test car the price rises to £22,640 which puts the Yeti in the territory of larger and more accommodating rivals including Volkswagen’s own Tiguan making this model seem expensive. 

We praised the 1.8 TSi engines performance but sadly we cannot say the same about its running costs which are disappointing to say the least. During its time with us we averaged 30mpg on a mix of country and a-roads; at times we even saw 25mpg which meant that we emptied the 60 litre fuel tank much quicker than we had anticipated. This engine also isn’t great for those with an eye on emissions as it produces 189g/km of CO2 falling into VED band J resulting in an annual tax bill of £460.

Words and Photos by Rob McSorley 

Technical Data

Price as tested: £22,640
Engine: 1.8 16v 157bhp - 0-62mph: 8.4 secs - Maximum Speed: 125mph -
Economy: 28mpg (urban) –40.9mpg (extra-urban), 35.3mpg (combined) - Emissions: 189g/km (Band J) - VED (12 months): £460
Dimensions: Length: 4223mm - Width: 1793mm - Height: 1691mm - Wheelbase: 2578mm

*data from Skoda UK

The Verdict 

We didn’t know what to make of the Yeti at first , its rugged looks appealed to us but tended to divide opinion and all too often on road manners suffer at the expense of off-road ability but to our surprise this was not the case. We found it incredibly comfortable and refined at all times with excellent handling making the Yeti enjoyable to drive.
Accommodation was also another area of praise with plenty of interior space, versatile individual rear seats and a well-designed quality interior that makes the Yeti perfect for ferrying the family around with their luggage. The weak link in an otherwise perfect package in our eyes was the engine in our test car. We found the 1.8TSi petrol engine usefully powerful and refined but fuel economy was very poor for a car of this size. Although well-equipped we also found the £20,665 asking price of our SE Plus model rather hard to swallow especially as Skoda is a brand synonymous with great value. Despite these shortcomings the Yeti really is a great car that will suit most families perfectly, if our car came with one of Volkswagens excellent diesel engines and was in a lower trim level there would be little to complain about.

You will like
  • Generous interior space
  • Well-built cabin
  • Great handling
  • Genuine off-road ability
You won’t like
  • Poor fuel economy of 1.8 TSi engine
  • High price of top trim levels 
Special Thanks to; Skoda UK, Delaware Drive, Blakelands, Milton Keynes, MK14 5AN

1 comment:

  1. Good review Rob. I've owned a 2 litre diesel for 25 months now, 25k miles and problem free. Interestingly it's advertised as 108bhpby Skoda, but the rolling road puts it at 121bhp, so The VW sorced engine is more powerful then first thought (and feels it too).
    During the warmer months I am averaging 54mpg (FWD) and in the lower 40's over the winter months. What's more suprising is that these figures are acheived with 2 adults, 3 kids and 2 large dogs on board. We needed a car with some decent ground clearance as we need to drive up a rough farm track about 4 times a week where the oldest girl has a horse, the Yeti manages this with ease. The only downside to this car is Skoda supplies it with summer tyres which were utterly useless in the snow. I had to buy some winter tyres and this enabled me to get around through some very icy conditions despite having only 2WD.
    I think a lot of owners therefore opt for the diesel models as long as it gets a good blast on the motorway every so often so no DPF problems occur.


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