Skoda’s versatile little crossover has what it takes to put an Abominable Snowman-sized footprint on the compact SUV segment.
The name Skoda Yeti probably means very little to most Australians in the market for a new compact SUV.
But Skoda Australia has high hopes for its latest active family machine, which is based on the same underpinnings as the rugged Skoda Octavia Scout 4x4.
After spending close to 10 hours in the Yeti taking on the bitumen and riverbeds between Alice Springs and the delightfully named Boggy Hole, it’s clear Skoda’s versatile little crossover has what it takes to put an Abominable Snowman-sized footprint on the compact SUV segment.
At $26,290 for the six-speed manual and $28,590 for the seven speed dual-clutch automatic DSG (before on-roads), the Yeti 77TSI is priced to take on the likes of the Nissan Dualis, Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35.
The standard safety package includes seven airbags and electronic stability control with ABS, EBD, traction control and Hill Hold Control.
Outside, the top-spec model adds 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, silver roof rails and underbody protection (and trust me, it works).
Skoda Australia also plans to launch the Yeti 118TSI all-wheel drive petrol model in the first half of 2012 to fill the gap with a low-$30,000 price tag.
Skoda didn’t have any of the Yeti 77TSI models at the launch, so we can’t give you drive impressions of this model just yet. Given that it’s powered by a proven drivetrain from the Volkswagen Polo and Volkswagen Golf however, we’re confident it will be smooth and satisfying for everyday use.
Then there’s the 103TDI, which despite weighing an extra 185-190kg, is around 10 per cent more fuel efficient than the petrol. The 103kW/320Nm 2.0-litre diesel powerplant (again familiar from a number of other Volkswagen Group vehicles) sips just 6.2 litres/100km on the combined cycle, and 6.7 litres/100km with the six-speed DSG. Acceleration is sharper at 9.9 and 10.2 seconds respectively, while the 103TDI also has an additional 800kg braked towing capacity (2000kg vs 1200kg).
The view from the driver’s seat is commanding – and can be made more so by pumping the standard height-adjustable seat. Despite the height, it’s not an effort to get into the Yeti – you still walk in, rather than climb up into it. With glass all around the visibility is excellent, especially to the rear thanks to the Yeti’s squared-off design.
The interior practicality extends to the myriad stowage bins, cup holders and hooks. One of the few disappointments is the centre cup holders, which are slightly too skinny to fit standard 600ml water bottles, and might be a stretch for regular coffee cups (so best go for the macchiato instead).
Before you jump in the cabin, however, you’re probably going to look at the outside. Certainly, the Yeti is one of the most distinctive designs in the compact SUV class, if not the entire market. Crawling through the red desert in central Australia, the boxy dimensions, rugged black plastic bumpers and skirting panels and the gaping wheel arches look right at home. Those city-based shoppers after a more conservative design might find the Yeti a little too in your face.
The urban side of it is one thing, but Boggy Hole is about as far from urban as it gets in Australia. Other than the $290 off-road technology package – which adds Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Assist, and sharpens the electronics of the ABS, traction control and electronic differential lock – our cars were completely standard. That meant low profile 17-inch wheels and the standard 180mm ground clearance. Short front and rear overhangs make it a handy hill climber when you run out of flat stuff.