The launch of the Skoda Yeti 112TSI is an important event for the fledgling Skoda brand in Australia. Not only is it the third member of the Yeti model range, but it also fills what has been an undesirable price gap between the $26,290 Yeti 77TSI and the $35,690 Yeti 103TDI.
Skoda is on a roll in Australia and is fast outgrowing its niche status as more and more customers buy into the brand’s offering of ‘Euro allure at a value-for-money price’.
Skoda Australia found homes for 3501 new cars in 2011 – an increase of 112 per cent over the previous year. Sales for 2012 are already on track for similar growth with further sales expected with the launch of several new variants of the Skoda Fabia including a dual-clutch DSG, sporty RS and practical wagon, later this year.
The addition of the Skoda Yeti 112TSI makes a lot of sense given the highest volumes in the small SUV segment are 4x4 petrol models, although diesel take-up is growing steadily.
With the 112TSI joining the Yeti family, Skoda has effectively covered all bases with a model that includes 2WD and 4WD, manual and DSG and petrol and diesel variants.
As its 112TSI nameplate suggests, under the bonnet of the newest Yeti is a 1.8-litre four-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine developing 112kW and 250Nm of torque. But, that’s only with the optional DSG transmission, and here’s where it gets a tad confusing.
Choose the standard six-speed manual transmission and the power output increases to 118kW. (Volkswagen says the power differential is a result of unique engine tunes for the different transmissions.)
They’re hardly scintillating numbers especially for an SUV weighing close to 1600kg, but the Yeti’s on-road performance will surprise you.
The 1.8-litre engine revs keenly and is happy to wind out to 5000rpm where maximum power is achieved, at least with the manual. The DSG version needs 6000rpm and makes slightly less power. It’s not something that’s really noticeable though, as both versions get going with a fair amount of gusto.
Initial acceleration in the lower gear ratios isn’t particularly urgent, so you’ll need to keep your right foot planted for quicker getaways. The power delivery is linear, however, and the engine itself feels exceptionally refined, even under load.
We also reacquainted ourselves with a back-to-back drive in the Yeti 103TDI, which develops a healthy 320Nm between 1750-2500rpm. In DSG form, the diesel feels less nimble than the 112TSI due to the additional weight (15kg) over the front end. It’s also not as eager to get moving, despite the substantial torque advantage it has over its petrol sibling.
The Yeti 112TSI isn't as fuel efficient as its petrol and diesel siblings, with fuel consumption rated at 8.4 litres per 100km for the six-speed manual and 8.2L/100km for the DSG version.
Clearly, the Yeti's engineers have worked hard on reducing engine noise inside the cabin, as even when you’re cruising at the maximum legal speed there’s very little engine noise to be heard. It’s surprisingly good for a relatively small-displacement powertrain.
The Yeti 112TSI manual shifts with consummate ease and is clearly more fun to drive than the DSG version, which, although is equipped with a ‘Sport’ mode, misses out on Volkswagen’s steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, so it’s less engaging than the manual.
The Yeti’s handling and grip are especially adept. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard you push the vehicle, there’s always maximum grip at both ends. That’s also aided by the Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres that the Skoda Yeti 112TSI is shod with, as well as the vehicle’s proven 4x4 system.
The launch program also included several sections of gravel roads on which the Yeti felt almost as stable as it did on the tarmac. That’s also very reassuring for families and individuals wishing to exploit the Yeti’s off-road capabilities during weekend or holiday getaways.
With the exception of the two-wheel drive 77TSI, all other Yetis are equipped with the fourth-generation Haldex clutch system as used by several other manufacturers including Volvo. On dry roads, the Skoda Yeti operates in what is essentially front-wheel drive, but the instant its army of sensors detects slippage or a different speed between the front and rear axles, the Haldex clutch is able to divert up to 90 per cent of torque to the rear axle.
Despite its SUV standing, the Skoda Yeti 112TSI handles more like a nimble hatch, with flat cornering through the bends and little or no body roll on turn in.
The variable-assist electro-mechanical power steering provides a decent level of weight through the steering wheel for highway cruising and lightens up, as it should, during low speed parking manoeuvres around town. There’s also a good level of communication through the steering wheel, which inspires driver confidence on twistier roads.
Overall, ride quality on board the Skoda Yeti 112TSI is pretty good, although somewhat of a mixed bag. On reasonably well maintained roads with the usual pock-marked blemishes the ride can be a little fidgety, but hit some decent potholes or speed bumps and the Yeti irons them out with no discomfort whatsoever inside the cabin.
It’s a similar scenario on dirt roads and gravel tracks, too, with even the largest potholes being effectively cushioned for those inside the cabin for excellent passenger comfort.
Inside the Skoda Yeti 112TSI is identical to the similarly priced Yeti 103TDI. There’s a nice thick-rimmed sports leather steering wheel that feels especially good, and the seats are both supportive and comfortable, even after hours behind the wheel.
Centre-billing goes to the 6.5-inch touchscreen display, but if you want Satellite Navigation, you’ll need to tick the option box for the $2890 ‘Columbus’ system, which also includes a 30GB hard drive, voice control and eight speakers.
There are no standard front or rear-parking sensors either (they’re an option) with the latest Yeti, and being an SUV, you might have thought rear sensors at least would have been included as a standard item.
Safety kit is well covered on board the Yeti 112TSI, with seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee) and a full suite of active and passive safety systems.
From a driver’s perspective, the Skoda Yeti 112TSI, in either manual or automatic guise, is clearly the pick of the Yeti family, combining sporty characteristics with all the important cargo space and 4x4 attributes a small SUV.